RING OF LEMONS


Mama was a strong woman. I helped her every morning as she prepared breakfast and hot water for papa’s bath. I remember tracing my fingers over her scars; marks from burns and cuts in both the kitchen and life. My eyes followed the trail of scars to her face, I met her eyes staring right back. She said “Garmeh you are a woman, kolorpono kappa keh eek eh yeanea- you heal as you go.”

In 2004 I left Pleamu, where I was born and raised; I graduated from the community high school and moved to Monrovia. I went to the city to pursue university and a better life. Monrovia was different, it taught me lessons; a second lesson being I was poor. Some things are best described in relation to other things, I had never known poverty because I never knew what wealth was. Just like many families in Pleamu, I slept, farmed, ate and Papa paid my school fees in cassava when he didn’t have money.

Monrovia was different. Here I discovered real wealth and in contrast, I discovered I was in real poverty. My first lesson came on my first night in Monrovia. Aunty Nehn, the woman I was living with, told me, “Garmeh, I don’t have the money for school now. You will be working with me, and you will save. For now, school has to wait.

Thus, I began my working career. I worked as a maid (or cleaning agent, as they called it) cleaning several houses. It was through this I met Francis. He was a dream: a handsome bank manager who seemed perfect and wanted a REAL woman. He believed that woman to be me! I was enamored and within 9 months, he met my parents, paid my bride price, and married me.

I became his; I belonged to a REAL man.

Francis was a crown- he was my crown. I could see the jealousy in the eyes of the other women in church for many of them still saw me as the girl from the village who took their prize, their Monrovian man. All I thought when I saw them was, “I hope their jealousy chokes and kills them.” I have found my home, I understood my husband and I knew my place, unlike these city girls who did not know their place. I cooked, cleaned, satisfied him, kept quiet and did whatever he asked. These city girls don’t understand men. Men don’t like loose, disobedient girls that argued over everything, always had opinions and spoke their minds.

Francis loved me. Sometimes his anger would get the better of him and he would hit me, but marriage isn’t a bed of roses. When I told mama, she said, “My dear, that’s how marriage is. It’s not easy and he is your husband. Him hitting you actually shows he loves you. Men have different ways of showing love and he is doing it only because he cares and wants you to be better.”

So, I learned to cover up the physical black eyes and bruises with makeup and the mental ones with the comforting remembrance of his love. I wasn’t going to show cracks in this marriage, I wasn’t going to allow these jealous vultures steal my man.

My people say that it’s a woman’s job to keep a relationship and that is how I was keeping mine. Then life came at us. A year into our marriage, the bank fired Francis and he had to get a smaller role with another bank. This meant he had a smaller pay and moved to a smaller house.

I became expectant of him ending his frustrations on me, late nights and beatings became normal.

But tonight was going to be perfect and I knew nothing could go wrong. I couldn’t wait to tell him a baby was coming, we were going to be a full family. My feet finally had taken roots in my home.

At 11:12 he opened the door with his key, “Baby where have you been? I have been worried.” Before the words completely left my mouth, he backhanded me with so much force, my teeth rattled. I felt the bruises forming instantly. “Are you stupid?!?!”, he screamed. “When did you start questioning my movements? Go in the kitchen and serve me my food!” I walked away cursing my naivete. How could I make that foolish error?? I wasn’t new to this. But, I knew I could still turn the evening around so, I brought out his food and put it in front of him at the table. As soon as he saw the food, he asked menacingly “Why is my food cold?” Then it began; his punches rained on me till my mouth tasted of only my blood and the gold of his ring was covered in crimson red.

I stopped screaming for him to stop after the first 5 minutes and became completely numb when I felt liquid rolling down my legs and just knew it was my child. I survived, but my baby didn’t.

I woke up to mama’s face; she and papa wasted no time in scolding me  “Don’t worry, another baby will come. But what did you do to cause this? You must not question or disrespect your husband, don’t ruin your home!” But no amount on advice could bring my baby back. I stayed with Francis and apologized, I needed to keep my home. I got used to the man life had given me; got used to the beatings- they didn’t hurt as much anymore. Months passed like breeze, beatings and scars served as my landmarks.

It was a Saturday, I was weak and slept off while cooking beans. The pungent smell of the burnt beans woke me and I rushed to the kitchen. He stood in the doorway, looking like a messenger of death and reeking of alcohol.  The first slap stung, “You are now wasting food in this house?”, he screamed. Wasting my money. Do you know how hard it is to get money?” At this point, he was coming at me like a jackhammer; one of his punches landed on my stomach, taking my breath away. I could feel my insides turning in on itself in an attempt to shield. I curled up on the floor in pain and he squatted over me landing punches. “He will kill me; I need to live; I must live!” my brain screamed. Before the next punch landed, I grabbed a bottle I saw nearby. It broke as it met his head and he passed out on the floor with blood oozing out of his skull. I ran to the room and took the money from his safe in the bedroom, grabbed my suitcase, and ran. I ran for me. I ran to breathe, to survive. I ran to live.

The thing da na kill you, da na every time ay can make you strong. I will move to Ghana and start a new life. God has given me something to live for, I couldn’t let Francis take my gift away from me. Francis will never know, but God has given me my child again, I must live for her.

I don’t know what you heard, but I couldn’t very well stay to tell my story. People will say he is my husband as if that justified everything, mama and papa will take me back to beg him- after all, it’s an abomination to hit your husband. So, I’m not going back. It will be tough, but the suffering ahead is better than the one behind. I have to do it for my child, she deserves better than that beast. I will run without looking back. After all, “kolorpono kappa keh eek eh yeanea”- you heal as you go. Happiness has run away from me, but for the gift that I carry, her name will be Leesehapah – Peace has come.

Dounard has a B.Sc in international law and diplomacy from Babcock University, Nigeria and a masters of law (LLM) in international maritime law from Swansea University, UK. He has work experience in communications and worked for a couple of NGOs. Dounard is also a writer, poet, and spoken word artist. As a feminist, he believes in making a difference through his love for art.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Ijagila Wajilda says:

    Awesome read, very insightful on d daily struggles of a wman. Keep up with the good work

  2. Anonymous says:

    This story was truly amazing. It capture and maintained my interest from start to finish.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Go Dounard! This is reality. Keep writing.

  4. Tess says:

    Great piece Dounard!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Masterpiece!! Epitomizes the struggles a lot of women in Monrovia and parts adjacent undergo in the name of staying upright to marital vows. Though sadly, some never live to tell the story. Great write up brother.

  6. Wisdom Elijah Tisdell says:

    Great writeup. The sentence, “It will be tough, but the suffering ahead is better than the one behind.”…captured my attention and serve as a wake up call for every other woman going through domestic violence to rise up for freedom. At times, it is just better to walk away from a repeated odd pattern of drama that keeps making your life bitter instead getting better.

  7. Otomiewo Tegorgor says:

    A very eye opening details of the plight of African women who leave in pains under the guise of tradition keep up the good work

  8. Abilio V. Balboa says:

    It’s a good story with several lessons to learn:
    1. Our culture has allowed wives to become negatively subjected to their husbands. While it is true that wives must respect their husbands, husbands must do likewise. They both are human beings and have feelings.
    2. Marriage is not one sided. Both the husband and wife must keep the marriage, not the wife exclusively. No one is doing the other a favor to be married. It’s a 100% input from both the husband and wife. They both are the key stakeholders in that marriage.
    3. Marriage is about building a relationship that is cordial. Investing your lives and worth together. It’s so sad that many are married but do not have a relationship.
    4. The saddest part of this story to me is that these people are both church folks, assuming to be christians. Why is it so difficult to relate. My advice: know who you getting married to. Even the devil attends church.

    Bless you Donard for such an inspiring story. May the Lord give you more insight to write much more. God bless.

  9. Ashiru Iyanuoluwa says:

    I’m sure many people can relate,good ending too, awesome topic, and a great narrative.

  10. Olabisi Ibironke says:

    This is such a captivating story. It is sad but true. May our eyes be open always to see the truth in every situation

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.