He was a teacher when we met. Not a professional teacher. He taught in a private senior high school closer to where he lived. He always told me he was going to leave the teaching field and start his own business. When I asked him what business he had in mind, he said, “I haven’t thought of anything yet. When the time comes, I’ll decide.”
I had a job very early. I was only twenty when I started working. I rented a two-bedroom apartment and moved in when I was only twenty-two. Since then, I’ve always been on my own, planning my future and saving money towards it. And then he came along with a definite intention for us to get married. He was my kind of guy so I said yes to him. We dated for only eight months.
We started buying all the things we needed to get married. But something wasn’t right. Whenever it got to money, he gave me excuses. Whenever we had to decide on things pertaining to the wedding, he’ll usually say, “That’s too expensive. Can’t we do without it?” If I said no, he’ll say, “Then you’ll have to pay for it because I don’t have money for that.” I paid for my wedding gown, paid for food, paid for the venue, paid for photography. He showed me the shoe he wanted to wear for the wedding and I said, “No you can’t wear that. It’s too old.” Because I objected, I ended up buying him a new shoe.
We had a beautiful wedding and a day after the honeymoon, he brought his things and moved in with me. When I say “his things,” I think I should name those things before you begin to think highly of them. He came with a bag that contains his clothes and another bag that contains his books. There was a backpack that housed his laptop. That was all he brought. The next Monday when we had to go to work, he said, “Sorry I didn’t tell you, but I’ve resigned from that teaching work. If I stay there one more month, I would find it hard to feed us.” I asked, “Since when? Why didn’t you tell me?” He said, “No need to argue about this. I’ve already done that. Now that we live together, I’ll consult you in everything.”
He resigned from work to do his own business but for about six months, he was living in my house, watching movies and sleeping while I wake up at dawn each day and prepare for work. I asked him, “How far with the business you said you were going to start?” He said, “I’m done with the business plan. I can even start today if I had the resources.” I asked, “How do you intend to get the resources?” He said, “I need something small, a soft loan which I know you can give me. I should be able to pay back in three months’ time.” I gave him the money.
Three months later, he came back asking for more money. I told him, “I don’t know what happened to the first loan I gave you so I can’t give you more.” From then on, he was always in the house, watching movies and sleeping. I was paying for food, paying utility bills, and was still the one cooking and serving him.
Four years later, we have two children; a boy and a girl. He was still going up and down, pretending he was doing something. Sometimes he would leave the house with me in the morning, all dressed up for work but immediately we part ways, he would return home and sleep. I started feeling tired. Little things got me upset. My performance at work dropped drastically. After each quarterly review, I got asked the same question, “Matilda, what has happened to you?” I kept giving them the same answer; “I’m alright. There’s nothing to worry about.”
There was everything to worry about. I lived with a man who contributed zero to the life we were living. For over five years, all he brought to the table were his own clothes, books, and a backpack. Something had to be done. Our rent was due. The landlord had increased the rent by 15% that year. I couldn’t afford to pay so I told him, “The rent is due but I don’t have money to pay. You’ve been going up and down recently. You should be able to bring something to pay for the rent. He asked how much. I told him. He said, “Maybe we should get a new place. The rent is too expensive.” I said, “No problem. Where do you suggest?” He said, “Anywhere. As far as the amount you have can get us accommodation there.” I asked him, “You won’t add anything?” He said, “Where am I going to get that money from?”
One day the landlord came to meet us. She said, “I want to know if you guys want to continue living here or I should bring in a new tenant.” He was the one who answered the question; “We’re getting ready to leave but give us some time.” The landlord gave us one month to leave. Three weeks into the one month, I asked him again, “What are we doing now?” He said, “I should be asking you that question.” I told him, “I will start packing my things to my parent’s house. When you get a place for us, come for us. We’ll be waiting.”
What I said didn’t excite him. He asked me, “What do you mean? Where should I go? We are a family and ought to do things together. Why would you go to your parents?” I told him calmly, “I can’t pay rent and still cater for the four of us. Do you even know your kids’ school fees? Do you know their shoe size? Do you know how much food we consume here in a month? When was the last time you bought electricity prepaid? And when have you ever paid loans you take from me? It’s been six years. Weight as heavy as this can bring anyone down especially when the person is carrying all the load alone.”
He was in the house when a truck came to load my things. He sat and watched as though he couldn’t believe what was happening. When all was packed and we were ready to leave, I told him, “You know where to find us. You can come to visit when you can.” He didn’t need a truck to pack his things. I don’t know how he left the house but I can imagine him going just as he came; with two bags in his hand and a backpack strapped behind his back.
When I went back home with the kids, my dad said, “If you listened to me three years ago, you wouldn’t have been here. I’m a man and I know his kind. He is not a man who’s ready to take up responsibility. He’s a boy.” Mom was sympathetic. She kept telling me all was not lost. Two weeks later he came to visit. When food was served to him, he ate as if he hadn’t eaten for days. When I took him inside the room where I lived, he tried to have sex with me. “Boy, you have no shame. You want to sleep with me in my parent’s house?” Somedays he came to visit and didn’t want to leave. Six months of living apart gave me the strength I’d always needed to ask for a divorce.
“Don’t listen to your dad and destroy our future. The kids need their father and I need them too. Please don’t do this.”
“The kids need a father who is a father. Not a father who wants to be looked after just as his kids. I’ve done that work for almost six years and I can’t continue.”
I woke up one day and the first thing my eyes caught was my ringless finger. I said in my heart, “The burden is gone. I can now learn to fly again without any load holding me back.” The divorce was complete and I could go out there and take charge of my own life again. We’ve been divorced for over three years now. He has never called to ask about his kids. I learned he went back to being a teacher. He earns something now but he had never paid child support or anything. I’m not angry. I’m happy I’m in a situation where I can take care of my children, give them the best education and be there for them whenever they needed me.
I haven’t recovered fully but I have strength. I have my smiles back. I have my job and I have the support of my parents. What else can I ask for?