Miss stopped doing many things after Master went to prison. For example, she stopped chauffeuring the twins to and from school, which immediately meant a plus-one in my own job description. She’d rather grieve indoors, away from the public eye, where it is safe to be whomever and do whatever one wished. And although I still cannot conclude whether the cause of grief is the loss, if you like, of her spouse or the very fact that it was with her own hands that Miss sent her husband to prison, it remains undisputed that her love for him ran deep and that she wished things had gone a bit more differently. When I’d pick up the twins from school, Feranmi, the more loquacious one of the duo who customarily sat in the front passenger seat in an attempt to capture every expression I wore when I replied his incessant questions, would regale me with tales of Miss’s grief-handling. Today, she’d put down all the pictures of Master and her and Master in the house and after much lachrymation returned them to their places on the wall, on the divider or bedside drawer as the case may be, tomorrow.
I still remember the set of events that preceded this orgy of grieving. It is important to state first, however, that Miss’s job wasn’t exactly the sort that shielded her from the public eye. She was a writer and in addition did a very selective type of activism that is commonly known as feminism and so four out of six times, she was talking at a gathering of women or on television or attending an interview in America. I remember a time very long ago when a reporter, along with his retinue, came to hold an interview with Miss in the house. This day sticks stubbornly to my memory, for, as part of the ‘stuff’ I was also asked a few questions and imagine my delight when later that night, I sat in my room in the boys quarters of the house with a beer and watched myself on TV. It was a most thrilling moment for me; one during which I ignored all the calls that came through on my cell phone and just basked in the light. Later, when I finally answered the calls, it was family and friends that had also seen me on TV and wished to convey their congrats!
So Miss believed that the female sex was just as indispensable as their male antithesis and thus must not in any way be mistreated. She believed that a wife had as much right in decision-making as her husband and that no lady should be abused because of how she was dressed, etc., etc.; and because she abided strongly by her beliefs, she couldn’t just look away when Master, to everyone’s surprise, was charged with mass abduction and rape. The news, to me, was shocking enough, as Master was the most loving man I had met. He was something I like to describe as ‘civil’, and if you’re familiar with the word, you’d know precisely what I mean. He was just too, shall we say, proper! He had lived in London so many years such as the ways of the English had rubbed off on him. I sometimes looked at him and just smiled. I thought he was like an immensely cute lad, dressed in his impeccable suits and black or brown shoes (never any other colour, no; and always shiny). He wore his spectacles the proper way, which was on his nose, when he read; spoke very softly and slowly, taking time to correctly articulate every syllable of his words, and politely too (except you interrupted his reading). In short, he was the sort of man that wanted things to be done the right way.
The first thing to do when the news came was to disbelieve, for how could Perfect Master be ever involved in such iniquity? For many days after his arrest, I still liked to believe that it was a ludicrous mix up and that he’d be released from gaol in no time! I think Miss believed this too. But things started to changed when live evidences were presented; it appeared that Master’s Business Trips to the UK were, in truth, planned visits to his abductees, most of whom were female teen-agers (some a bit above the teenage years) and most of whom he had withdrawn from their serene lives more than a half year ago. Miss was disappointed! She was sad and shamed, no doubt, but I think disappointment was the dominant feeling, for how could it be Master!
And her friends only made matters worse. The sort of person Miss was, her friends weren’t regular people, no. Once in a while, Chimamanda Adichie came to the house. As did Malala Yousafzai and Mo Abudu (even though she was a generation older) and Teju Cole and Funmi Iyanda. These people responded to the development in their own ways, for example, Adichie wrote a series of articles that more reproved of Master than sympathize with her friend; Mo Abudu interviewed Miss a dozen times on her television station. What Malala did, however, was speak at different occasions about the need for Master to be taught a lesson! When asked, Miss said she held absolutely no resentment for anyone, as she was herself appalled by what her husband had done, and in an interview with Abudu, cut ties with him. That day, when she returned home, she locked herself in a room in an orgy of lachrymation, Feranmi said. She had done what was expected of her.
In later months, when Miss spoke about Master, it was with such nonchalance as I had never known before; she seemed utterly convinced that she had made the right decision and could live with it. At first, I chaperoned the twins to the prison, but soon, she banned the visits! Adichie came more often to the house (most times with flowers of some of Miss’s favourite books) and they spoke about Master in such unchecked tones as it was no sin to declare that Miss no longer felt anything. She even wrote a book on grief-handling and had it published on the anniversary of Master’s incarceration. It won her two awards that year.
Then Master was going to die. The sort of man he was, he wasn’t very much accustomed to living behind bars (no, not even in the Nigeria of then) and soon went down with some severe malaise. Miss got a call out of the blue one day at vespertide from the prison and that was when she let herself unleash her grief anew. I shall confess to earlier suspecting that the whole bravado was merely a thick, well-structured façade. What she did, she dropped the receiver and the next minute, we were driving to the prison clinic, Miss practically vibrating in the backseat, engaged in a tight embrace with the twins. It was a pathetic sight, one that made my heart squeeze bloodless. We arrived at the hospital, and even though Miss invited me in to see Master, I declined politely, recognizing that they deserved some family time. It, after all, might be the last time they would be together as a family. I have no idea what transpired inside; all I am aware of is that the twins were returned some thirty minutes later by a uniformed policeman and that when Miss returned, she nodded once, which meant it was time to go. It wasn’t until much later that I learnt that Master had died. His funeral was grand!
Miss wrote a memoir the following year. She picked a very curious title for it, one about which she talked at subsequent interviews. One thing she said at one interview was that she blamed herself terribly for everything. She hated what Master had done as much as the next person, she confessed, but she was wrong to have left him to it. She had loved him in spite of everything and had only renounced her love because she thought it was what was expected of her. “It remains the stupidest mistake I’ve made to this moment, and perhaps forever, because it was enforced upon me by the society. I should never have let the society dictate my reaction to the situation. One thing I’ve learnt: no one but I felt the pain; no one understood it as much; and no one but I could decide on the best course of reaction, and indeed, action.”