This Psychiatric Hospital for the Violently Insane will be knocked down next week Maryam, because they are widening the expressway. Now we have to decide which patients to release and which patients to transfer to the medium security prison. That’s why we are doing this Patients Assessment. So you see this could be a bonanza for you. Or it could be a jail sentence. Just talk to me honestly, eh? Talk about yourself, what you did, why you are here, what you have learnt… just talk…

All my troubles started when my husband died, sir. People thought it was ordinary sadness that made me shave my head, but me myself I know what I know. We quarrelled that morning you see. I cursed him. It was just an ordinary mouth curse, you understand, the ‘you-nor-go-die-well’ type of curse that I have been cursing every time we quarrel for the ten years we married ourselves. Anyway in the afternoon they phoned me that he has die. Drop and quench. That’s what they said. So I punished myself. Maryam, I said to myself, you see your tongue now? From now to the day you quench, there’s no man again for you. So I continued like that, like that, wearing black for months and years. So it came to the day that that Magnus tried to romance me. He has been chancing me for long, you understand, from the very day that my husband died when he started buying orange juice for me, but as for me whose husband drop from the molue door and quenched, did I not have more to think about than who and who was pressing my body all over the place? Anyway, by the day I did the three years’ remembrance of the day the trailer crushed my husband after he fell from the molue, I was still very, very sad, but at least my eyes have cleared small, so he was talking about the football pools and about the premier league and the pension league and all whatnot, but I saw what he was doing straightaway! So he hugged me, he really hugged me… and when you want to hug a person you will hug her small and leave her, not so? But no. Magnus hugged and gummed to me as if he was drowning in River Niger and I‘m his lifeguard, and all I can think was: heuw! my poor husband has rottened very well inside his grave (because three years has passed by then) but look at this stupid man’s stick pressing against me! And some people have said that there’s nothing wrong with hugging a man who was so very, very sorry for you that he was coming two or three times a week with his packet of orange juice… (in fact, if you see the diarrhoea I was suffering that time. As if there’s nothing else that somebody can buy in supermarket than orange juice. And that’s the other thing: somebody will come to your house with one packet of orange juice and drink two bottles of beer before he goes…) I should concentrate on what happened after the hug? I slapped him, that’s what happened. Just a ordinary one-hand slap. What happened after that was also his fault, sir. Should a man who has been slapped by a woman he was pressing without permission not just say sorry and go? And if it was bad like that, should he not have gone to baf? But no, he was still hugging me and saying, it’s all right or something like that, when my body was telling me that no, it was not alright at all, that this was a big stick pressing against my stomach. So I head-butted him. You’re asking me where I learned to head-butt like that? Do I need to learn it? When he had pinned my hands to my side what am I to do again except to head-butt him? And I kneed him too, I can‘t lie to you sir. Me, I don’t know about the stick, but I broke his nose, that’s all I know. (I will say only what I saw with my two eyes.) So they called police and all whatnot, but my husband was a police sergeant and you know how they like to do espirit-the-crops for police widows? So the police refused to charge me to court. They said it was a domestic matter and all whatnot. So Magus called his brother – the one who retired last year as your medical director here. And they did their mago-mago long-leg and locked me up. That’s what they did. Fifteen years I’ve been living here… if me myself I think I’m crazy? Do you mean fifteen years ago or today? Well… you know me I’m Christian so I will tell the truth and let the Devil be ashamed. Yes I used to naked myself before-before, but that was because they didn’t let me wear black for my husband, when I have swear that it is black that I will be wearing till my dying day. They have now agreed – look at me now, is this not me wearing nice dress? I am not crazy anymore, I swear to God. Just because I’m scratching myself a little does not matter anything. If is you that has been drinking crazy-medicine and living with crazy people for fifteen years you will be scratching more than this, I’m telling you. If I will head-butt Magnus again? You mean if he brings orange juice tomorrow and tries to hug me again? God forbid, sir… you’re trying to catch me! Heh heh. Don’t worry, the mad-medicine has not crazed me like that! I can never head-butt him again, never! If you see the headache that pained me that day! I suffered it for more than one month! And if you see all the wahala I have suffered here for the last fifteen years because of common head-butt!
No, if he hugs me again I will just machete his stick for him.

9 Replies to “Maryam, on Magnus”

  1. Isaac says:

    hehehehe… Please release the woman jare, she is saner than most scums on the streets. At least she’s made progress from head-butting to chopping off sticks.

    Nice one Mr Nwokolo, well done Sir

    Reply
  2. Amanda Dee says:

    This a good story Chuma. You captured the guilt, remorse, self-loath of the narrator so perfectly that there’s even no room to feel sorry for her; rather I admire her, not for her self-inflicting punishment but for her resolute stance in thwarting unwanted advances from a male who seems to lack common sense. And even her sense of humour is infectious…especially when she remembered the headache she’d suffered as a result of the head butt she gave to Magnus… Lol!

    But, I could not really ascertain in the end if Maryam was truly insane. Cos her answer to the final Question is really a typical reaction can be expected from most women whether they live in a civilised world or not…

    When pushed, particularly in the case of sexual molestation, some strong-willed women can and are capable of causing bodily harm to their molesters.

    Reply
  3. Chuma Nwokolo says:

    @Amanda, Despite the intro, this piece is actually written as a monologue for performance, and when you picture Maryam scratching herself as she delivers her piece you’d probably put it together with her last statement and reach your conclusions, but yes, the various manifestations of sexual harassment can inspire stark responses from the most level headed of people…

    Reply
  4. Iduh Odiaka says:

    The greatest tin about Mariyam no matter what u tin of her is her sincererity. If u ask me, Magnus should be d 1 in d psychatric home. She isnt mad ’cause mad people dnt remember their actions, but she might hav bin afected by her environment as she noted

    Reply
  5. Ovo says:

    It started well, Chuma, but it ran away from you towards the end. All that talk about prison seemed as if it was tacked on.

    Reply
  6. Chuma Nwokolo says:

    Can win them all, Ovo… 😉
    (though the prison thing was at the beginning. The 15-year-
    internment at the end refers to her compulsory stint in the asylum.)

    Reply
  7. Ginger says:

    lolsob Poor Maryam! That head butt must have been special…hope amorous Magnus got a misshapen nose in memorial.

    Reply
  8. Assia Shidane says:

    Your mastery of narration is impeccable (I am wrestling my envious sentiments to the ground…) I heard this piece as i read it. Reminds me of Somali narrators and bards in the village.

    Its strange, how laws that are fashioned to ‘protect’ eventually oppress victims of especially gender based violence. It is sadly so in Kenya as echoed in your tale. Cops in Kenya will not grant you an ear let alone the paperwork required to file a complaint or seek medical attention if necessary. Domestic squabbles are just so; domestic. At least Maryam was married to a police sergeant and was protected for a short while. I agree with her, after hitting rock bottom, she can only go up. Upgrade from head butting to stick slicing! Progress.

    Shukran for this masterpiece. May Maryam be freed and may you soar.

    Reply
  9. Chuma Nwokolo says:

    @ Assia, thanks. The most well-intentioned laws can become a nightmare when the operators of the system are compromised, and that is mostly out experience, isn’t it? – Power expands, in the direction of the weak… our solution is to build stronger systems.

    Reply

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