If you’ve ever seen the victim of an acid bath, the image never leaves you; the grotesque head, now shiny from loss of hair and layers of skin eaten up by the hot liquid; deep calluses on the hands, (probably raised by the victim to protect herself when the acid was poured) the burnt out upper lip that now exposes the teeth to flies and dust and a lower lip that can no longer hold spittle but lets it drool on the side because that part now merges with the neck, giving the victim an expanded neckline.
You can’t but notice that the eyebrows are long gone, same with the lashes and eyelids leaving the world to stare at two red eyeballs rolling around this scary head, constantly pelted by the heat of the sun. It’s all in one look, one look that takes no less than three seconds but once you shut your eyes, the image never leaves you.
This is a love story. The story we all weave around ourselves every day; boy meets girl, they fall in love, make big plans and though girl sees boy struggling, she agrees to move in with him until he gets enough money to pay her bride price. Like every woman who wants to bear the Mrs. tag, she wants her man to do the proper thing, pay the bride price; present the 40 tubers of yam, the 6 kegs of palm oil, bring the two sacks of 1kg sugar, the 12 bottles of 35cl honey, don’t forget the alligator pepper seed, that should be one leaf and yes, the six yards of textiles of different materials, say, just four will do and the Holy Bible, bring all and prostrate before your in laws. That’s the, ‘proper’ way to marry a wife.
He made lots of promises and she agreed to wait but meanwhile since they are living together, he was chopping her yam ceaselessly.
“I’ll marry you, na, in fact, you are already my wife sef”.
So, she never denied him, morning, mid-mornings, afternoons, mid-afternoons and the nights, he just never stopped eating yam in all its different forms; yam balls, yamarita, yam porridge, dundun, pounded yam, boiled yam, he ate it all. Even the neighbours could testify of their constant humping.
“That’s how people who are in love behave,” they whispered as they walked past their window every time they were at it.
But then, Lagos life got the better of him; he couldn’t seem to fulfil his dreams. Suddenly there was never enough money to pay rent for their one-room boy’s quarter apartment within the estate, he couldn’t seem to put down enough money for their upkeep. The landlord, a shylock, had just increased the rent by 75%. NEPA bills were mounting, in fact, and their room was cut off from the main house supply.
That was when fights began.
First, it was just silly things like; all you do is sleep while I slave for our upkeep. Then it became serious, verbal abuses; you stink, didn’t you take a bath today? Your food always has too much salt. My bucket of warm water is not warm enough. Your phone always seems to have credit, where do you get the money to buy credit? Are you sleeping around? I will dump you, he threatened, not once, not twice but every time they quarrelled.
Then the abuse became physical because she dared to answer his verbal abuse with her own accusations of lack of care. She had become fed up with his constant taunts. His jibes were hitting too hard and his accusations were leaving her raw with pain. Then he hit her and she fought back, angry that he would dare hit her. He beat her black and blue because, of course, she was no match for him.
She stayed with him, telling herself she provoked the attack. So it became their story. Neighbours grew tired of mediating in their fights and often let them go at it for as long as they wished.
Then one day, she had had enough. She packed her stuff and made up her mind to leave but not before a final attempt at reconciliation.
He came home, he had known she wanted to leave but didn’t know about her final attempt at reconciliation. He felt cheated. She had used him, he felt. She had eaten him almost out of Lagos. He would teach her a lesson. So he came home prepared. He had a bottle of acid, which he got from his mechanic friend by telling a lie about wanting to kill rats in his compound.
His heart filled with bile as he saw her Ghana-must-go-bag. As she rose to welcome him home and tell him she would like to have a talk with him, he took her action for another confrontation and spilled the content of the coke bottle in her face.
He hasn’t stopped hearing her screams since that night and even though, it’s been six long years, he will never forget that night. Two years on the run and four years in jail have not purged him of his guilt.
-This is a true story. Names, places and identities of victims not published to protect the survivor.