He calls me Woman because that’s the way some men refer to their wives in this part of the world. He calls me Woman! But I have a name.
Ngozi is alone in her house. She sits all alone in her well-furnished parlor, on a love sofa, reading a magazine. Beside her on a side table is a glass of red wine from which she sips. Her feet rests comfortably on a beautifully decorated ottoman. Her toenails are not painted, but are well-manicured, so are her fingernails. In front of her, a wide screen television shows a soap opera. The sound is tuned low so she can hear the dialogue as well as hear what is happening around her. Calm and peace surround her, but not for long.
She hears a car pulling stealthily into her open garage. She knows who it is. Her moments of peace and reprieve are over. With haste, she quietly puts everything away; her glass of wine, the wine bottle, her magazine, and she wipes and cleans away the telltale signs like the reclining sofa that shows she was resting. She turns off the television and hurries into the inner room of her house.
Emeka walks stealthily into the house with his briefcase, without making any sound, as if to catch the wife in some mischief. He sniffs around and scans the house with his eyes looking for her. Everything is spick and span clean, and there are no signs of any mischief in his house. Finding nothing to hold against his wife, he tosses his briefcase onto one of the sofas. He walks to the switch board and puts on the fan, picks up the newspaper, flops down on the sofa, and pulls at his tie to loosen it. He crosses his leg and reads his newspaper.
Ngozi returns to the parlor with a tray.
“You are back!” She smiles and offers Emeka a glass of water. “Your food is ready,” she says, walking away toward the dining area.
“You are back, you say. What do you think, that I won’t be back?” He sucks his teeth and goes to the dining table to eat.
She serves him his food.
He finishes eating and withdraws to his room ... mind you, they sleep in separate rooms—he changes into something comfortable; khaki shorts and a white tee. He returns to the parlor, sits down again, and reads his newspaper.
Ngozi finishes tidying up the dining room and the kitchen and returns to the parlor, sits and picks up her magazine to read.
“Have you nothing to do, Woman?” Emeka frowns at her.
“Is there anything you want me to do for you?” she fires back without looking up from her magazine. Emeka looks at her with a frown on his face.
“What is this new thing about sitting around doing nothing?”
“I have finished my work, and I am resting!”
“Resting from what? Have you mended the button that fell off my shirt this morning? Have you fixed it?”
“And my socks?”
Emeka tries to think of something else to say, some job she must have missed, and not coming up with anything, he shrugs. “Well, if you have nothing else to do, find yourself something to do.” He returns to his reading and, at the same time, waits for her to leave.
Ngozi doesn’t move. He wants me to leave?! He doesn’t even think of me as his wife. He calls me Woman. As if calling me his wife will give me the respect he isn’t willing to give me; the respect he has always denied me all through this marriage.
I know why he calls me Woman. To put me down, way below him, so that he can continue trampling on me. He knows that as a wife, he will owe me the respect which will allow me to sit here with him, relax and read, if I want. But, as Woman, I will always remain his thing, his toy, his property to be bullied into subjection. I will not leave. Let him do his worse!
She sits tight, but alert. She doesn’t know what her stubbornness this time will trigger, but she sits nervously, waiting for his next move. She fixes her eyes on the magazine, but lowers it enough for her to see Emeka’s movements. She has been on the receiving end before for less than this, with him throwing objects at her or whipping her with his belt.
Not anymore! This time, I will fight him if he tries to lay a finger on me.
Emeka is also jittery. He is used to being obeyed. He doesn’t understand this new attitude from Woman. After many years and four kids, she should know his likes and dislikes. Why is she being so stubborn? For much less than this, he would have taught her a good lesson. Where is she getting this courage from, enough to challenge him? Our people say that if you come out in the morning and your chicken begins to chase you, you better run because you don’t know whether the chicken grew teeth the night before. Woman has grown more than just teeth, she has grown wings!
“Did you hear me Woman?” he growls at her.
Woman stands up, slaps her magazine on the small center table, and huffs and puffs as she walks away.
Emeka tenses up with a level voice. “What do you think you are doing, Woman?” She doesn’t respond and continues to walk away.
“Stop!” Emeka shouts. She stops, turns, her expression questioning.
He fumes. “Can’t you understand that when I come home, I want to rest! I work myself to death from morning till night to provide for you, and when I come home, you will not allow me to rest.”
“What have I done? What did I say?”
“You are disturbing me. Do you hear that? You are disturbing me!” he shouts.
“What do you want me to do?” Ngozi asks, feigning remorse.
Emeka glares at her and holds her gaze for as long as it suits him; then he shrugs and resumes his reading.
Ngozi returns to her seat, picks up her magazine, and flips noisily through the pages. Emeka looks at her with a twisted upper lip. He realizes that Woman is looking for a show down.
Woman on her part is thinking that after so many years of marriage and four kids, she has earned respect for herself. She deserves, no, she demands to be respected. This house is her house, too. She has every right to enjoy it as much as he does. She works herself too hard cleaning, cooking, and making the house comfortable, for her not to enjoy it, as well.
The days are gone when she squirmed at the sound of his car, his voice, his threats. Now, with her children grown, and in position to defend her from their father, she sure has grown wings. Her kids have warned their father of the repercussions of beating their mother ever again. She smiles to herself.
He cannot touch me anymore. I have arrived. Is he even sure that he can defeat me in a fight? I know I can beat him! After all, I’m bigger than him. Why should I find something to do when I have nothing to do? What is wrong with sitting down and relaxing? Why should he relax and not me? He doesn’t work more than I do.
Emeka stares at Woman some more, and then he gathers his things and walks off. Ngozi does not even raise her head from her magazine.
After casually turning another page in the magazine, she says, "My name is Ngozi."