This is how a woman dies.

She is born to a father who rejoices in hospital corridors because he has become a man, a child has been born of his loins. Her mother is tall, buxom, with skin like newly ripened pawpaw. Three months later she is presented to the world in an ankara dress that matches her parents’ and is cooed over by aunties and uncles and relatives and friends and neighbours. She will be married to this one’s son; no, not this one, that one. They have a boy who is about five years old and will be perfect for her.

This is how a woman dies.

She wakes up to a pregnant mother crying and pleading with her father. The scan could be wrong, she says. Let us wait till the baby is born. Another girl would bring the children to four girls, welcomed with the same pomp as she was. Her father is a progressive man after all, with a Master’s degree in the Industrial Chemistry and a job with a top pharmaceutical company. But a man needs a son to continue his name.

This is how a woman dies.

Several slaps that will not leave bruises as her mother tells her to get into the house to help her cut vegetables. Didn’t she know she was a girl? No man wants a woman who cannot cook and clean house. And, oh, when she was done, she should make get her father’s clothes from the line and iron them. Why can’t he iron them himself? She asks risking another slap because she has been told several times: a woman does not talk back, she does as she is told. Her mother sighs and shakes her head. Because men do not do housework, she replies.

This is how a woman dies.

Not telling her parents that Uncle Rosco fondled her breasts and pressed himself against, telling her all the while that he loved her and wanted to do it to her. She had reported him once before, before her breasts needed bras and he had pinched her nipples just after she had her bath and came out to meet him waiting for her. Her shout had brought her father running and her report had earned her a stern talking to about lying and going around the house naked. Girls should cover themselves up else what she had lied about would happen to her for real.

This is how a woman dies.

She cannot graduate university without bringing home a husband. And so she says yes to the first man who tells her he loves her. He is a banker with a car. He promises to take care of her, she would not need to work or stress herself with the worries of life. He performs the marriage rites and she is pregnant before within a month. Of what use is a university degree to a fulfilled woman? Those undergraduate friends would corrupt. Her father agrees. She drops out.

This is how a woman dies.

Ten years. Trotted out for family weddings and funerals and thanksgivings where everyone can comment on how well her husband is taking care of her. Exiled from friends, ignored by family, worth little to a man who uses as a receptacle for his emotional bile. In a lone assertive moment she forgets, a woman does not talk back. Not even when her husband decides to take a new wife. A branch manager cannot be married to a school dropout. She spends two days in a hospital for injuries she gets from ‘falling down the stairs’.

This is NOT how this woman dies.

Afraid and alone. She counts her bruises before a mirror, counts her confidence in the palm of one hand, uses a wet finger to pick the shards of her confidence.

She takes nothing from the house. Her children are at the house of their father’s sister for a weekend visit. She leaves with the dust of dreams long forgotten. Of the girl she was before the folding began. There is no note to say where she has gone, just the silence of a house behind her.
This woman will not die, not like this. Not at the hands of a man who had first told her he loved her. This woman will choose her appointment with death.

Let them say what they will.