The billboards should have read “Speak to someone wise.”
Kola eventually decided to call Amara. However, the phone would come to ring and ring and ring without answer. And the next day, he would realize that Milani was a bad idea.
He thought about calling someone but there was no one to call, if he were a woman, perhaps he could have written a book, he thought, and made millions of naira off it while being the cover lady for boldness smiling from chin to chin on telecom billboards or even better, health awareness billboards over traffic that read “Speak to Someone now.” But he wasn’t a woman, he didn’t have any endorsements and he hadn’t written a book.
A book about what exactly? Didn’t the term domestic violence resonate with women being beaten by two-horned devilish men? How then was a ‘MAN’ to write about domestic violence?
“From whose point of view?” Dapo had scoffed at him over beer once when he spoke of it, stylishly out of true context. So he laughed back and put a bullet in the thought.
That night he slept in his car, his reality hunting his every dream.
He remembered his early days in secondary school when he wore his white and black check shirt in odd ways and walked with a jaunt that angered Mr. Njoku. Back then, he and the other boys laughed at their friend Seun a bit too loudly when he unfolded the escapades that went on with his twenty-year-old maid while his parents were away. They gave him a standing ovation and offered him money for tutelage in the househelp seduction arts. Seun went on to be named ‘badt guy’ and ‘De Slicer’ for his depressing confession stories. And so, when there was a decline in his academics, no one noticed he had been depressed. Who would have thought that sniffing and penetrating the privates of a woman seven years older would cause Seun such a hard time?
Kola laughed bitterly out loud at the memory again, the lines on his face getting deeper. He stared involuntarily at them from the mirror before heaving a deep sigh and reaching for his phone. Still he couldn’t get himself to call anyone. If only there were a billboard that read “speak to someone now” with a number on it… but there wasn’t and his car was beginning to get cold.
These were the days he feared, the days his cup would get full and run over.
“Run me over!” Amara, his partner-in-suffering, said to him over lunch while she cried, her mascara sending streams of black tears down her cheek. “He threatened to run me over, can you believe that?!”
He and Amara were at Dominoes, face-to-face over a pack of pizza they never ate. Later that day, he took Amara to the biggest cosmetic shop in Lekki and bought her a set of Milani powder and foundation.
He knew deep down that Milani was never a solution to scars beyond the skin, but at the time, words had failed him.
He hated himself now for buying her that powder, for making her feel it was okay to be used and abused. He hated himself more for being in her shoes at the same time, for looking for a way out of exactly the same predicament helplessly even though he was supposed to be strong enough as a man to hold his own. He couldn’t even be strong for himself so how could he be strong for Amara when she came crying to him?
Tonight his cup had indeed run over.
The excuses came naturally to him like lies to a con artist. At first, he had been “attacked by hoodlums along the Oshodi axis”, then he had “woken up a bit to early and fallen on his face in the dark”. Later he had “almost slipped his way to death on a bathroom tile but for the door which he held onto, that however smacked him in the face.” And finally alas he “ran into a pole” on one of his nonexistent morning jogs.
This time, Kola had run out of excuses to give for his scars. He was simply just a victim.
Sighing, he turned off his air conditioner to conserve fuel as he revved his stationary car engine while taking a glance in the sunshield flip mirror at the ghost he had become. He knew his wife would call again and breathe fire and brimstone (if he summoned enough courage to answer the phone). He also knew he would not be going home that night or any other night.
He picked up his phone to call Amara again, but it rang and rang and rang till an automated voice popped up at the end of each ring.
It seemed he was out of options. It was all he could think of: suck it up and paper over the skin cracks and welts. But deep down he knew that Milani was a bad idea.