Silent victims of domestic violence…

On Wednesday, I was called to separate a fight between my neighbour and her house girl. Every time I tell the story, people are shocked. “How can house girl be fighting madame?”. I understand their surprise, but they don’t know this madame like I do. If I was her house girl, I would pee in her morning coffee.

We are next door neighbours, our rooms share a wall, so I heard everything. It grew from madame yelling her daily morning yell, to an exchange of words, then raised voices then blows and finally, flying furniture. I heard it, but I stayed in bed, watching Crime and Investigation.

A security man came to my door and knocked frantically. He said, “Aunty abeg come help this small girl abeg. This woman fit kill am!”

“Don’t worry Yesuf, nobody go die,” I told him, but he didn’t look convinced. I suggested that he go in and separate the fight, but he turned his face away shyly and said, “Aunty… hmm. I no fit o. Na woman you you be.”

I thanked him for the kind reminder, then went over to the fighting room. I opened the door and, as he suspected, their clothes were already torn. There were sweaty A-cups everywhere! The A-cup owners paid me no mind as they continued to exchange blows. It should’ve been an unfair fight but the house girl wasn’t backing down. Madame’s five year old son cowered in a corner of the room, watching the fight. His school uniform was laid out neatly on the bed.

The house girl was bleeding down one arm and the side of her face. In my mind, I covered myself with the blood of Jesus (against HIV) before throwing myself between them. It stopped the exchange of blows, but they held on tight to whatever shreds were left of each other’s clothes. We stayed that way for a moment, till they calmed down just a bit without loosening their grip. The room was silent, except for their heavy breathing. Their eyes were wide like crazed animals.

Madame broke the silence with a comment, something about picking the house girl from a gutter and the house help made a wise crack about salary. This infuriated madame. With lightening speed, madame reached behind me and slapped the house girl hard. I felt that slap in my spirit. House girl then threw an aimless punch that was meant for madame, but it hit me just above my right eye.

I stepped away, slightly dazed, with my hand over my eye. At that point, I got so angry! I wanted to give them knives and lock them in the room so that they would kill each other. Honestly, I was more upset with myself for going there in the first place.

You see, it wasn’t the first time I was ‘domestically violated’ in that same room. Last month, late at night, I heard raised voices. A man’s voice and my neighbour madame. Then I heard screaming, scuffling and “You will kill me today!” and I jumped out of bed.

I put on my wig (because I cannot be caught dead without it), tied two corners of my wrapper round my neck to form a make-shift cape and headed out the door. I thought, This is for all domestic violence victims whose neighbours stay silent and pretend to not hear! I started to bang on their door and call out my neighbour’s name. I banged louder till the noise in the room suddenly stopped and I realised then I didn’t even have a plan. What was I going to do do? Fight him? Ask him nicely to not beat her? What if he opened the door and dragged me in and KO-ed the both of us with one fist?!

She opened the door, looking deranged and out of breath, but visibly unhurt. I was taken aback by just how unhurt she was. She said, “Aunty Ngozi good evening.”

“Uhm… are you… is everything ok?”

“DON’T MIND THIS USELESS MAN! IF HE DO ANYHOW HERE EHN… IM WAN SHOW INSEF.”

I looked past her into the room and saw an elderly man pick his hat from the floor and place it over his head. He looked at me with a nasty scowl and asked, “What do you want?” His yellow sleeveless shirt was ripped down the middle to reveal his chest and his large belly. I was so confused, because I’d never seen a Twitter thread on what to do when the domestic violence victim is an old man.

I felt very foolish. “Uhh… nothing. I just wanted to make sure she was fine.”

“She’s fine! Mind your business! Do you know I pay for everything in this house? I bring the money for food, I pay the rent! Do you know?!” He carried on with his rant and I stood there in my nightie and my wasted cape. Thank God I didn’t use my good sheets. She was screaming, “AND SO?! SO?! NA ONLY YOU GET MONEY??”

I turned to her and said, “I’m here if you need me” but God knows I didn’t really mean it, then I went back to my room feeling very embarrassed. At least the fighting had stopped. It was just more shouting for a while, then door-slamming, then quiet. He had gone home to his wife and kids and grandkids.

Fast forward to today where I’m nursing a bump on my head. To me, it’s a huge bump, big enough to have it’s own shadow but my friends say they can’t see it and that I may be exaggerating the punch. Maybe they can’t see it because they are too busy laughing at me.

I saw the house girl later that day. By that time, the pain had spread down to my right jaw. She apologised profusely for her behaviour. She didn’t even know she hit me, and I didn’t bother telling her. As for madame, I ran into her the next day and she told me about her birthday coming up the following week and then described the huge pink cake that “baba” had ordered for her.

Anti-robbery squad

I also thought of calling this post ‘How My Earphones Saved My Life’.

For weeks, like a pregnant woman, I’d been craving food from a particular place. First time I went there, it was with a friend. It was unplanned and I wasn’t sure how much money he had so I ordered food like an anorexic bird. This time though, I was returning with a vengeance. The plan was to annihilate the menu.

Google Maps estimated it to be a 58 minutes walk so on Saturday evening, I wore my trainers, stuck my earphones in my ears and set off on my journey. First mistake I made was not leaving early enough. It got dark quickly, but I wasn’t worried. I stuck to major roads which were still very busy and very well lit.

Fast forward almost two hours later, on the walk back home. That’s when the robbery attempt happened…

As usual, I had my earphones in my ears, deaf to the rest of the world [because I would rather be crushed by a speeding trailer than listen to catcalls and stupid lewd comments from construction workers, okada riders, cab drivers and other disrespectful men on the street].

I held my wallet in one hand, and my bag of food in the other. An okada slowed down beside me and I ignored him. At first I thought he was just a regular okada looking for a passenger, but then he continued to trail me. I stopped, turned to him with a scowl and asked, “Wetin? I call you?”

I wasn’t looking for an answer. I saw his lips move but I couldn’t hear him. He was very dark and skinny, his eyes were glassy and droopy. He looked higher than a very high kite. I hissed, turned and walked away.

He rode up just behind me and from the corner of my eye, I saw him signalling to me. I kept my head down, but then lowered the volume of the music and that’s when I heard him shout, “I say will you stop deer!”

Dread filled me. I immediately increased my pace. My heart was beating hard and my mind was racing…

Shit! Is this dude going to rob me for real? With a million people on the other side of the road?

If I run, he will catch up with me. He’s on a bike. 

Shit! This side of the road is totally empty. No one will see me being robbed or whisked away on a bike.

Dear God, is this because I didn’t forward that Whatsapp broadcast about Ember months??

Please God! Let him take my wallet. Take my phone. But he should not TOUCH.  MY. FOOD!!

I was still brisk walking like an un-robbed diva. I didn’t want to show any signs of fear, if not, I should’ve flung my shoes off my feet and gotten the hell out of there. Suddenly, he stopped his bike, jumped off, and started towards me. Brethren, that was when I RAAAAN! I went from deaf-potential-robbery-victim to Usain real quick. At some point, he gave up chasing me on foot because I glanced over my shoulder and saw him jogging back towards his bike. Seconds later, I could hear the bike’s engine revving behind me so I knew he was close.

I ran till I saw a young man and a girl. The man had huge muscles with tattoos all over his arms. I stopped them and told them what happened. The bike rider was still heading my way, but he had slowed down considerably when he saw me with people.

As I spoke, muscular tattoo guy lit a cigarette and nodded as he puffed and listened intently. He was calm, but the girl with him was freaking out. Turns out that the same bike rider had tried to grab her handbag just minutes ago. She kept saying, “I tok am! I tok am! This man is on a mission!!” She showed me her handbag with one handle ripped off.

I finished narrating my story and muscular guy remained calm, observing the bike rider who was now parked a short distance away. I felt stupid standing beside him, hugging my white nylon bag full of food, and watching him puff on a cigarette. What exactly am I expecting this guy to do? What if these plenty muscles are just for stunting on 2go?

Finally, he said, “Baby, don’t worry. Nothing will happen.”

I was irritated that he had called me ‘baby’, but that was not the time to address the issue. I would’ve responded with, “Ok boo” if it meant not walking home alone.

The bike rider waited, watching us as we watched him. He probably figured that either way, one girl will be left alone. After giving it some thought, muscular tattoo guy walked up to the bike guy. He said something in Hausa and made to grab the bike guy. Bike guy was sleek. He leaned to the side, out of muscular tattoo guy’s grasp, but he leaned so far back that he almost toppled over with his bike.

There was a very short angry exchange during which they yelled at each other in Hausa. The pavement was high and this allowed muscular guy to tower over skinny bike guy. Meanwhile, the girl beside me had her hands on her head and kept repeating, “Hay God o! Chai!”.  Finally, bike guy gave up, hopped on his bike and sped off.

Muscular guy came back, stood squarely with his hands on his hips and said, “You can go. Don’t worry ehn? Nothing will happen.”

I said thank you, but I didn’t move. The three of us just sort of stood there awkwardly, looking at each other like something more should’ve happened. Maybe something more dramatic.

He asked, “How will you go? I have to escort her.” The poor guy was obviously torn between two damsels in distress, headed in two opposite directions. I had interrupted him mid-rescue. I said, I’ll be fine, I’ll jog home. Besides, I need the exerciseand we all laughed.

So if you saw a girl running home with a white food bag on Saturday night, yeah, that was me.

Pounded yam poem

It’s me again.

I wrote this months ago. I shared it on Twitter and just decided to share it here. It’s not a serious poem…

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You ever do the stupid love?

The kind where you’re trying to out-love the other person?

There are no limits to what you can do… 

You read those pounding yam tweets and lol in your mind. 

Ordinary pounding? Ees nuffin’.

Your belly is filled with the knowing that you put that smile on his face.

What is ordinary pounding?

He said, “I wish I had XYZ”.

The timing is perfect because you just got money. Bills can wait. 

Your belly needs filling.

Your friends don’t know.

They don’t understand. They calculate too much… always wanting to know how much yam he has pounded for you.

Things are tough. Mortar is leaking, pestle is broken. One day, he will pound. 

They don’t understand. 

He’s chatting with Temi.

Their chats are getting hot and heavy. 

He’s using his good spelling. And he’s talking about yam! He’s talking like he can pound.

You’re angry but you can’t help but wonder… were there lumps in your yam?

You set the whole damn barn on fire. 

Nobody will kuku get yam… freshly pounded, boiled or poundo. Nothing.

Then your eyes clear and the fire dies down.

He says, “You see… it’s this typa shit that makes me not pound yam for you.”

My Adjei Experience…

I live a very boring life. I don’t think I’m a boring person o… I just can’t afford to live the jet-setting, champagne-popping life that I think I am destined to live. My life is so uneventful that whenever I open my Uber app, before I type in the destination, only two addresses pop up; my church address and a friend’s office.

When there’s food at home, I can go days holed up in my room. Sometimes, to get fresh air and prove to my neighbours that I’m alive, I take an evening walk to one of the neighbourhood supermarkets where I am mistaken for a shop attendant and people ask me to help them find stuff. I have about four red t-shirts. Two of them are old and a bit worn so I use those for market runs, workouts and these long walks to the supermarket. Coincidentally, the supermarket staff also wear red t-shirts and that’s how I get tapped on the shoulder and asked where the powdered milk is.

Anyway, you know all the major life experiences right? The ones you’re expected to have in the course of your life;

  • Graduate.
  • Fall in love for the first, second or third time.
  • Publish your first book. Start your own company.
  • Get a chloroform-soaked towel, find a (single) man who gets your jokes and drag him down the alter.
  • Have said man’s babies. Celebrate babies’ birthdays, graduation ceremonies, etc

As amazing as these experiences are, they are planned. You only know they are amazing because other people have told you about them.

An adjei experience is one that you don’t plan for. It is unexpected because you’re too cool for shit like that to happen to you. You’re too cool, too careful, living safe with your Uber church address. But the adjei experience… because it is so unexpected you are not prepared for how powerful it is, and this makes it all the more unforgettable.

Happy Birthday Meeee!!!

It’s not even 12:00pm and this is already the bestest birthday ever! If you can’t reach me, I’m sorry… I ran away.

The past two and a half months, I’ve been in Warri. One morning I woke up, looked at my last packet of noodles and said to myself, “Surely, even the lowliest servant in my father’s house has much more to eat than this?”

We don’t have servants and I live in my mother’s house, but you get my drift. I conceded defeat, packed a tiny box and left Lagos back to Warri. Since I lost my job, I have struggled much more than I can publicly admit.

I enjoyed the peace and tranquility of Warri. Also, in my small area, because I haven’t really been home in ages, I’m kinda like a superstar. I walk by and people hail me…

Doctor! Welcome o!”

I nod and wave to them like a celeb.

How ya ozzband?”

E dey. We taink God”

My sister is the doctor. The ozzband is her husband, not mine. I don’t bother to correct them though. I just enjoy the hailing and pray in my heart that no one ever collapses from a stroke during one of my celeb doctor sightings. They’ll drag me to the scene, pushing through the crowd that has gathered round the poor stroke victim lying on the ground, writhing in pain.

Comot for road!! Make way… na doctor she be!”

How then will I explain that the stethoscope I hang round my neck is just a rubber necklace?

I wasn’t totally useless in Warri. One day, while I was eavesdropping on my mother’s conversation minding my business, sound waves from my mother’s conversation reached me and forcefully entered my ears. One of my neighbours was complaining about how hard it is to get good staff these days. So, later, I went over and introduced myself as an HR Professional… I even said it with a straight face and all.

The guy seemed skeptical at first. What do you know about recruitment? I spun some elaborate BS about jobs I’ve done in the past. He said ok, he’ll try me out. So I asked him a tonne of questions regarding the kind of staff he wanted. I think that gave him a bit more confidence. Then we shook hands and that was it.

My former MD used to talk about how he started his empire in a three bedroom flat. So I cleared out the small entrance in our house – a nice space where my mother (the millipede) keeps a gazillion pairs of shoes. There were also several big bags filled with Christian literature.

She’s a pastor millipede.

Anyway, I cleared that space, put a plastic table and two chairs, one standing fan and voila! Ngo Baby’s Recruitment Plc had kicked off. Maybe one day, I’ll write about the adventures of interviewing Warri people. Right now, I’m on a birthday vacation and this is supposed to be a very short post.

I left Warri a few days ago and although I will never admit it in public, I actually miss my mum and her silly Indian soap operas that are all shot in slow motion. I have decided to visit home more often… I’ll try.

I am happy today and I am so grateful for life! I was in such a terrible place this time last year. I thank God for the best siblings in the whole wide world. I don’t even have words… when I try and think of something to say to them, I well up. Thank you Nne, Wooolex!, Chip Chip and Gboo.

I am grateful for friends who cheer me on and applaud even the tiniest baby steps. I don’t know why, but they haven’t given up on me…

I should put up pictures, but I don’t want my enemies locating me via Google pics. Just know, it’s a beautiful place with a lovely beach and lots of seafood. I’m having fun. I took one backpack and my handbag & I regret it because I don’t need three-quarters of the shit I packed.

Sorry for the scatterednessity of this post.

Happy birthday Ngo!

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