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City of Banjul
Saturday, May 18, 2024

The abuser

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By Alagie Saidy-Barrow

She came home with wonderful news. Or, what’s supposed to be wonderful news. News I should ordinarily be happy about, but what I felt was far from joy. Simply put, the news meant she would be making more money than she does now. It means she would be making more money than me. And that would only increase her independence from me; her sense of freedom. She’ll see herself as my equal; or even above me.

And so when she came running home and happily announced the news of her promotion again, I smiled and managed to mutter an impotent “congratulations” under my breath.

My watery elan at her joyful announcement didn’t go unnoticed. A thousand thoughts competed in my head, ideas on how to subdue her, make her realize I’m the man of the house. I’m the king in this castle and there can’t be too kings here. I must ensure she remains in her place.

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She sat beside me and immediately noticed rather placid demeanor. My frustration and anger was palpable enough. She asked me what’s wrong; asked if I had an issue with someone else. And that’s the problem, I thought to myself, it’s never about her. She never sees that she herself is the problem. She’s always thinking my unhappiness has to do with outsiders or outside forces. How can she fail to see that her progress and advancement emasculates my very manhood? How can she miss that my pride and dignity are at stake? More importantly, how can I be happy about anything that will make me lose control of her? What is my role in her life if I cannot even control her? I’m the captain of this ship, and I’ll be damned if I’ll allow a woman to rule over me.

I sat there saying nothing as she kept asking me what’s wrong. I looked at her and felt struck by her beauty. She’s still so beautiful, I thought to myself. Her advancement means she’ll be in a different circle and will be exposed to other men of status. What if she falls for another man? What if she thinks she’s too good for me and goes with another man who’s of higher status than me? What if she stops listening to me? What if I cannot control her anymore? These were questions I pondered, but never dared to ask out loud because then I’ll be reduced to a backward man and my feelings chalked to insecurity. I must make sure she always needs me. She has to know that she’ll never find a man like me! Tired of not getting any answers, she got up to go to the bedroom.

I heard her on the phone, joyously sharing her good news with her sister. Every giggle inflamed me. Every laugh of hers lit a fire within me. I felt a surge of anger rising to an inferno within me. I felt fear. Fear of losing control. I felt anger. The anger of losing control. And as someone once wrote, it was far easier to express my rage than to acknowledge my fear. It was far easier to express my manhood than to acknowledge my weakness. It was far easier to maintain control than to simply let go.

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I rushed to the bedroom where she was lying on her stomach playing with her hair and still talking to her sister. The sound of her elevated voice angered me even more. I glared at her and when she saw me, I abruptly banged the door shut and walked back to the living room. I got dressed quickly and was at the door leaving when she came out wondering what she did wrong. I’ll ignore her calls and refuse to communicate to her. I’ll give her the silent treatment. Silent treatment is part of the purgatory for those who offend me. I got on my phone and called my friend Sawagibi who claimed he can’t talk because he’s at a naming ceremony! He’s the type of friend you only hear from when he needs something!

When I called my friend Sawajibi and he said he was at a naming ceremony and could not talk, I decided to call my other friend Mass. Mass used to be an important man in our country. He had a very good job and so did his wife. But then Mass lost his job when he was convicted of stealing public funds and now he spends a lot of his time preaching morality to anyone that would listen. Mass insists he did nothing wrong because he wasn’t the only one that was stealing those funds. Everyone was stealing and it’s a miscarriage of justice to only prosecute him. It seems Mass is on an eternal crusade to convince anyone who would listen that he’s in fact a saint. Word has it that he is also running for parliament in Yahata province.

When I called Mass, he picked up the phone before it even rang proper. He must have sensed the rage in my voice when I said hello for he quickly asked me what’s wrong and I went straight to the point and told him:

Mass, I think my wife is trying to dominate me. You know these women nowadays; you give them one inch and they try to take a mile. Everything she does is geared towards taking my place in the house. Today she came home all excited about news that she’s going to be getting a promotion. I heard her bragging to her sister about all the plans she has for our family. But those are my plans and I never asked her for any help in implementing them. I am a man and I don’t need her help taking care of my family. Besides, she’ll talk about the promotion but conveniently leaves out the fact that she’s going to be around all these men and interacting with them. And as a Muslim woman….

Before I could finish, Mass interjected:

Sammy, never allow a woman to even try to think she’s on equal footing with you. You see, you should have been more active in her career choices. Her role is to complement you; not to dominate you. And in this day and age, these women think they are men. You have all these feminists running around telling other women that they should not accept this or accept that from us men. Is that how our mothers were raised? Is that what Islam asks of us? Is that what Christianity teaches us? What happened to our traditions? Give your wife an ultimatum; tell her either she leaves the job or her marriage is over! There are many more single and desperate women looking for a husband. Let me tell you…

I purposely ended the phone call to rush home. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of what Mass was telling me but it’s a wonderful idea. I’ll go home and demand that she quits her job. She will probably argue with me, but then I’ll make lesser demands that will give me complete control. May be I’ll settle for her not accepting the promotion. The art of control dictates that you ask for the sky when you know all you need is a hill. I know her vulnerabilities and I will use them against her. I know her fears and I will exploit them against her. I know she’ll yield to those demands because she wants us to remain married. The eureka moment added a pep in my step and I walked home smiling… I opened the door with a smile and found her in the living room crying…

I could see she was on the phone. I asked her what’s wrong but she only looked at me through teary eyes and said nothing. I didn’t know how to react to that. I came in the house to demand that she stop working. I wanted to be the one in charge of all her money, to hire a driver to let me know of her movements, to give her a monthly allowance. I wanted to control our affairs. And she’s part of my affairs. But I can’t make those demands while she’s crying and I don’t know what she’s crying about. I can’t comfort her because I’m supposed to still be angry. I must remain angry until I get what I wanted.

Unbeknown to me, when I hung up on Mass, he had called my wife because he couldn’t get in touch with me. Mass being Mass, decided to tell her that I had called him about the issues we were having and that I had agreed that she must quit her job or our marriage is over.

After what seemed like an eternity, my wife looked up and through teary eyes asked me:

So it’s either I quit my job or our marriage is over?

The choice is yours, I blurted out…. Given our history, I have reason not to want you around all these men….

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