The Bible says to everyman his own…let me add, to everywoman her own too. I am a widow. I lost my husband a few years back. He was a businessman. He would often get or buy contracts, execute them and get paid for it. That’s how we got by.
As for me, I was a petty trader because my husband did not allow me get involved in heavy business.
This is a mistake most men make which becomes a big problem to women when these men suddenly pass on. I wish I had gone against his wishes to establish a bigger business. I wanted to go into commercial laundry business but my husband was against it.
He said I would be meeting all kinds of men who would be coming to me ‘anyhow.’ I said, so what will be my staff be doing? They will be the ones to deal with customers; I won’t have to be there but he was just against it. He said it would be like a beer parlour where men of every kind would be.
I would have been in big business by now because at the time I wanted to start it, commercial laundry at that scale wasn’t even popular in our area; Arepo side.
We have five children, three were in secondary schools and two in primary. They are good children. They were young when their father passed on.
What killed him?
He was diabetic and we didn’t even know. He had a sore near his scrotum that wouldn’t heal. He attributed it to juju from his village. We treated it for almost two years, instead of it healing, it festered and my husband refused to go to the hospital.
He relied on herbs and some leaves sent to him from the village by his mother.
Unfortunately, by the time he agreed to finally go to the hospital, it was too late, too late to save him. He died at the general hospital one week after admission. That was how we knew it wasn’t juju but because he was diabetic, the sore never healed.
Then my real wahala started. Yes, I am a graduate of a Polytechnic but I hadn’t worked in a corporate environment for more than 30 years. Where would I start? Where is the job sef?
If I had started that laundry business years back, I would have been able to meet my children’s immediate needs but I was into petty trading…plastics, minerals, Ice block…in my shop. Is that what will send five children to school to university level and put a roof over their heads?
I cut off so many things I thought was taking money off us; I rationed food, we rationed light, we rationed soap, we rationed many things. I taught my children to manage food, we lived on a very tight budget.
Of course, there was still the burial to take care of. My husband’s people were just dragging the process. They said they didn’t have money for burial, I didn’t either, what I had, I knew would be useful for the children- school fees, food, rent and all.
Now, we also live in a three-bedroom apartment which I wanted to keep. I have three boys and two girls and as much as possible, I wanted to separate their living quarters as they were growing up so fast.
Three months after my husband’s death, our rent was due. I begged the landlord, my husband hadn’t even been buried at that time. I asked that he gave us a few months to bury him then I would be able to focus on going out to make money.
Anyway, after six months, the landlord called me again for his rent, again I begged for more days…the days turned to months, before I knew it, we had done almost one full year. Of course in all of these, my husband had just been buried and I was as broke as anything. I was struggling to put food on the table for my children. I was selling all kinds of things, pepper, cooking to deliver to offices, name it, I was doing it but it was never enough.
The landlord came with a quit notice, he said he wanted to use his flat. I broke down, I cried like I had never cried before. I was crying for my children, the first two were going to the university that year. I cried because there was no help from anybody around me.
Then he said to me, that he would allow us stay on one condition, that I begin to have sex with him!
Me? Have sex with a sixty something year old man? Me? A new widow whose husband was still fresh in the grave? I was 47 years at that time; but sex…!
I said no. I said I would rather move out of the house.
He said, ok, and left, he gave me one week to move.
In that one week, I moved from pillar to post, looking for help, where to move my five children to, who will help us with rent money for a two room apartment. I did not get any help. Then I moved my option to one room apartment, my sister, even that did not surface because the prices landlords were calling was out of my reach.
Time was running out with only option staring me in the face.
On that final day, I called the Landlord, I told him my people will know, it will shame him and me even more. I begged him to give me another alternative.
He just put off the phone. Five minutes later, he called back, he said, then I should agree to have sex with his friend.
See my life?
Who is this friend? Well, let me cut the long story short, I began to have sex with his friend. We would meet at a certain house, which I think belongs to the landlord and we would have sex. I would tie my wrapper when we are done, put on my slippers and tell myself I just secured a roof over my children’s head. That’s the only way to cope with my emotions, my guilt, my sanity.
As time went on, it became a regular thing, and of course, the landlord too joined. He would call me over and we would have sex. That’s what I choose to call it… this has kept the roof over our heads in the last three years. What I earn, I use as school fees and food for my children who also do odd jobs to augment what I bring home.
Today, three are in the uni and the remaining two in secondary school.
So, if you haven’t walked a mile in my shoes, you don’t qualify to judge me!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)