“The plight of a woman,” I repeated. I began to pace.
Adeyinka opened her mouth to speak but she hesitated, locking her fingers together.
“When I first agreed to marry Orayan,” I said, stopping to look at her, “my father called me to his room. I sat on his mat. Baba picked up an old aso from a corner of the room. It was a pale-white cloth that belonged to my mother,” I shook my head, “It was a present from a man named Laolu, mama’s close friend.
Baba had gone to Mama in her room just after they got married. He offered to help her tie the aso around her chest. As his fingers touched her skin, she laughed softly, almost shyly. He turned her to him, and she looked down. He asked her a question, and in her response, he absent-mindedly called my father by Laolu’s name.
He froze. He said he could feel his pride run up and down his body in painful currents, until he hit her. Mama fell to the ground faster than Baba could retrieve his hand. Then she got up and left.
From then on, it was one day of silence after the last.
On the next market day, my father dragged himself to my mother’s room. He said, ‘like a real man,’ he begged her to forgive him. Yes—like a real man, he cried to the woman he loved—because he loved her. And like a real man, he accepted her decision to go back to her father’s house that night.
He told me, ‘Moremi, first and foremost, my love was harsh—but your love has to be patient. Moremi, your love must be kind.’
He said, ‘omo mi, you will thrive where your man struggles, but your love must not boast. You will suffer where he thrives, but your love must not be jealous. You will have what he lacks, but your love must not be proud. And Moremi, you will be right where he is wrong. You will be strong where he is weak. At times, you will be wary. At times, you will be down. Your first instinct will be to attack him but as you love him, you must not be rude to him.’
Baba was right—I was everything Orayan was not. I saw everything my husband could not. I loved everything he could not, and I got tired. I got angry. But in my anger, I loved Orayan.
The most beautiful—but the most painful part of my love for that man, is its stubborn permanence. And that is my plight.
Adeyinka, my pain is that I listened to my father. It is that I can love—I can love you no matter how often you criticize me; and Iya ‘Beji when she breaks my combs, and the Ooni and his wives, no matter how much trouble they cause. It is that I love the maids and the guards and their friends and families. It is that I love Orayan, and his child, and his people—even as they are current reminders of his shortcomings.”
“If you love him,” Adeyinka started, “forgive him.”
“I have,” I smiled.
She looked at me blankly
“But I don’t love what he’s doing. I can’t love what he did,” I chuckled, and pressed my lips together, “Ko buru,” I said, “Ṣebi love is the plight of the woman,” I shrugged, “but it is also the plight of the man, and the child, and the elder. It is the plight of every person who has breath in their lungs; to love those who hurt them and love those who love them—each with the same stubborn selflessness,” I shook my head, “kindness and permanence.”
“But first, they must love what is righteous.” I added.