The sobs from Moji come from one end of the room where she sits; the sobs are so loud that the man at the other end hears them without straining his ears. Ayobami, the man at the other end of the lavishly furnished living room is lost in thought as he makes frantic efforts to drown his pains or drown himself in alcohol. The couple has gone into two separate worlds with none talking to the other since he brought the result this morning. The result did all the talking there was to do. There seems to be a wide gulf between them, so real yet invisible.
The man makes a loud gurgle as he empties the fifth drink from the can into his throat. ‘It’s funny that I am here drinking in the presence of my wife, but she doesn’t even give a damn about what I do at the moment,’ he says within himself. She has been his conscience in the past fifteen years of his life, until this morning, helping him drop bad habits, as does every doting and caring wife. It’s funny how things change so fast. Now, she no longer has the right to question his binge drinking. She doesn’t even bother to look in his direction to see what he drinks, but he is certain she knows it is alcohol. He had bought two six-packs of beer from the store on his way coming home; he knew there was going to be a need for it.
In all of their marriage of fifteen years, this is her third time of this sort of profuse sobs. The first was ten years ago and the second, a month ago.
A month ago, he returned from work and informed his wife that he wanted to carry out a paternity test on their three kids. For a very long while after he had made his statement she stood motionless like a sigidi . She doubted what she just heard; she believed her ears were playing a dirty trick on her. By God, it came to her as a rude shock and she needed a confirmation. After summoning courage, she was able to speak up,
‘Ayo, what did you just say?’
‘I… am sure you heard me right… the first time,’ he said amidst stutters.
‘Repeating what you said earlier won’t hurt you, either.’
‘I …said I wanted… a pat…er…nity test for the kids.’ He had planned his speech for a long time and had repeatedly gone over this particular line several times but still couldn’t pull it through without stammering. After managing to speak those words, there was a long interlude of silence.
‘Are you saying you don’t trust me?’ Moji managed to say. Those were her first words after a prolonged silence and it was one uttered in anger.
‘Erm…, no…, erm…, it’s not…, it’s not that,’ he managed to say with fear. Yes, fear, because he couldn’t fathom what came over him and suggested the idea of a DNA test for their kids. The fear made him stutter.
‘So, what is it?’
‘What is what?’ he asked back in confusion.
‘You said it’s not lack of trust, so what is it?’
‘I …just wanted to be sure…, you know…, I am thinking of writing my will and…,’ He finally went blank after several struggles for words. Seriously, no man in Ayobami’s shoes would have been bold enough to face Moji and tell her why he wanted a paternity test carried out on the kids, for she was a wife one could trust with his life.
‘So, after fifteen years of faithfulness to you, this is what you come up with – the slap of infidelity in the name of a paternity test!’
‘It’s not…,’ he was cut short by Moji before he could summon courage to find words that would convey his thought. The interruption was helpful though, because he couldn’t even think of anything logical to say.
‘Not once have you caught me in any …,’ the Amazon went short of words and you could hear the tears welling up in her voice. Then she continued, ‘Omogoriola Ayobami James, please go ahead with the DNA,’ she managed to conclude with elegance in her voice and then burst out in tears. She had called out her husband’s full names, something she did only when extremely happy. There was no mistaking the fact that happiness wasn’t lurking in the corner, so Ayobami knew it must be an extreme feeling on the negative side. Neither Moji nor Ayobami could sleep that night because of her profuse sobs. She couldn’t believe Ayobami could ever slam her with infidelity, for as far as she was concerned a paternity test was a slap of infidelity on her. She was hurt deeply and cried deeply.
Ayo went to bed but not to sleep; he was as one who had murdered sleep. He felt the guilt of bringing a cloud of mistrust to settle over their happy home, he felt guilty for shattering Moji’s heart in pieces. In his restlessness he began going over how he conceived the silly idea for the DNA test.
The idea was actually birthed after he read a newspaper article, Paternity and lies. The article chronicled horrible revelations that trailed paternity tests. The article had mentioned one business mogul who had a penchant for women and fathered more than hundred children in his lifetime. After his death, DNA tests were carried out on his children and twenty-five were the products of other men. There was also the story of a popular musician who confessed that, paternity tests revealed that of the two children his first marriage produced, only one was his; only one of the two children of his second marriage was also his. The musician then stated that he wouldn’t bother carrying out any paternity test on the children of his present wife; he had encountered shocking revelations sufficient to last a lifetime.
‘What if Seyi, Seye and Seni are not mine?’ Ayobami had asked himself. He succeeded in discarding the first thought with a wave of the left hand, but after a while when the thoughts refused to abate, he decided that he wanted to know the truth, ‘I will shame the devil, once and for all,’ he mused. ‘At, least, the truth won’t hurt anyone,’ He thought. His conviction to go ahead was further boosted when his good mother’s favourite line, wa idi oun gbogbo daju came running through his mind like the wave of the ocean being splashed on a wayfarer.
As he rolled aimlessly on the bed, despite the finality of his decision to carry out the test, he still couldn’t forgive himself for causing Moji such a great pain, because she was the embodiment of a perfect wife. ‘I am not doing it to hurt her, I just want to be sure,’ he said with a comforting smile as he drifted to dreamland. He couldn’t understand why she took the matter the way she did but was sure he would make it up to her after the tests have been carried out.
Indeed, if anyone was to be doubted, it wasn’t Moji. Ayobami was the one who made Moji a woman and it was on the night of their wedding and on their matrimonial bed; Ayobami met Moji as a virgin. He, on the other hand, was not. He had already fathered a child when he was seventeen! It wasn’t that Ayobami had several sexcapades. In fact, Moji was the second person he had sex with in his life, and that was thirteen years after his first. The one and only other time before then was with Carol, their housemaid when he was a teenager. Carol lured him to it, anyway. They did it just once and she got pregnant, just like that! He wanted to deny it, but his good mother will not hear of it. Carol gave birth and his mother took the baby, Enitan. His mother also helped Carol to further her education and she is today a nurse and happily married with children. Enitan is twenty-eight and is preparing for her wedding. That fear that a woman could become pregnant for him at just one touch scared the daylight out of Ayobami, it scared him away from girls; he couldn’t stand the imagination of how many Enitans he would father before reaching full maturity.
Ayobami didn’t hide his past from Moji. He told her Enitan was his daughter right from when they were dating and she accepted him as he was. Enitan was a delight of a child. He loved her like a sister; she was more of a sister because she came just two years after Feyi, his youngest sibling. Moji trusted him with all her being and it’s sad that this is the way he wanted to repay her trust. For many days, her words came re-echoing with great tempo in his ear, ‘So, after fifteen years of faithfulness to you, this is what you come up with – the slap of infidelity in the name of a DNA test,’ but every time it did, it didn’t come in the same quiet and innocent way Moji had uttered it but rather in a gravely accusing form.
He had also been the unfaithful one in marriage! He had fathered another child, Ella with their last female house help. That was five years into their marriage, and before they had any child. It wasn’t that he wanted to betray Moji, but the loneliness in the house handicapped him and made him succumb to Jane’s incessant seductions in the absence of the madam of the house. He couldn’t explain what happened because up till that time Jane had been an easy going person. They did it just once too! Moji didn’t scold him, she only wept out loud, her first time since they got married. And after the tears, she only struck an agreement with him that they would no longer employ female workers in their home, part of the agreement reached also included that his secretary and Personal Assistant in the office would also be men, he couldn’t resist the bargain. He understood that Moji was only trying to be safe. Those were the only things she required to atone his sin of desecrating their matrimonial bed and breaking their wedding vows. He was sure he would never cheat on her again (and he never did), but at that time he couldn’t say it, he didn’t have the guts to!
He had taken the kids to the testing laboratory and had gotten the result. Ayobami returned that morning with the DNA test and the three kids were not his! That brought their world crumbling down at their feet. ****************************************************************
Femi, the Omogoriolas’ gardener, walks past Ayobami, and startles him out of his thoughts. Nine cans of beer now litter the side where he is seated. Femi doesn’t make any attempt at greeting his oga because his mood doesn’t indicate that he is ready to greet anyone. There isn’t going to be any discussion of football today. As Femi walks by, a change suddenly appears on Ayobami’s face, he looks on as if he is seeing him for the first time. ‘He seems to have a striking semblance with Seni, our…, erm… no, my wife’s last child,’ he says to himself. A new wave of anger, confusion and worthlessness sweeps over him as he tries to adjust to the new realities on ground. ‘It may just be the dizzying effect of too much alcohol,’ he thinks, trying to re-assure himself and hope against hope that Femi has never had anything to do with his wife. ‘Nooooo, Moji shouldn’t have done this to me,’ he says to himself. ‘Moji shouldn’t have made this huge mockery of me.’ With these thoughts in his mind, he rushes to the place where he puts his car keys; he wants to make an escape from the faces that now seem to haunt and surround him.
He is overwhelmed by the haunting shame that the kids that he has spent many years believing were his are not and wants to run away from that shame. He can no longer stay in the house with the father of his wife’s children mocking his manliness. He thinks of an escape route, somewhere he can run to and save himself from the disgrace. ‘Jane’s place,’ the answer drops in his mind like a clue from Jupiter. He has had nothing to do with Jane since that other night but he had continued to cater for her and Ella, his daughter. He beams with a faint smile as he fantasizes of the one woman he can run to and who will respect him as the father of her child, one who will respect him as a man. He was still basking in the euphoria of his newfound world when he hears the same voice that brought him into this whole problem whisper into his ear quietly, ‘what if Ella is also not yours?’ His face instantly turns red, his mind shattered beyond measure by this thought. He wants to call the bluff of the voice but he doesn’t have the courage to, not with what has just happened in his home, with his faithful wife of fifteen years. He had been beaten out of trust. He says to himself, ‘If Moji could do that, I would be stupid to believe Jane can’t.’
‘I will take Ella to the laboratory for a paternity test too, and then get Enitan to also do hers.’ The thoughts continue to rush at him as he makes his way out of the big house and steps into the open space where his car is parked at a side of the house. It seems his whole world is just coming down. ‘What if Enitan and Ella are also not mine?’ the voice chips in again. ‘What if I have never really fathered any child? How was I able to get two different women pregnant with just one contact while I couldn’t father a child with my wife in the first five years of our marriage?’ At this point his minds starts pouring out a barrage of mind-crashing questions like a brewery just set up and in haste to meet up with the requests of his thirsty customers, only that the thoughts were not refreshing but rather hurting like hails being hurled at a passer-by! Ayobami feels he was wrong to have thought that his world crumbled when he first saw the DNA test result, for now his world just begins tumbling down. He seems to be the victim of a mega empire of paternity lies. Even without DNA tests he seems able to pierce through the thick clouds of lies that he has held as truth for many years, the lies now seem to fall off his eyes like scales falling from the eyes of a delivered man.
He gets into the car and speeds out of the gate just flung open by the gateman. ‘I curse the day a means of unravelling the lies behind paternity was discovered. At least several men went down to their graves without suffering this shame that I now suffer. They were comfortable in taking solace in the fact that iya omo ni kan l’omo baba omo, ’ he says aloud to himself in the car. ‘I curse the day I decided to inflict upon myself this pain of opening up my wounds. I curse this particular Wednesday that I collected the result of this shame,’ he continues and suddenly pauses as if struck by lightning. ‘No, there is no need to curse this day, it is ojoru , it’s been cursed by the ancestors already,’ he concludes. It dawns on him that today is a Wednesday.
Superstitious Yoruba people like Ayobami hate embarking on strategic projects on Wednesdays, and if he had taken note earlier he would have postponed the collection of the DNA result to another day. ‘But would the result have been any different if I had collected it on a Tuesday ?’ he quizzes. The thoughts in his head increases tempo and rushes with great speed and he is also desperate to outpace those wicked thoughts, he is determined to run away from the haunting thoughts, so he also starts running in his mind. He keeps increasing his car speed in a bid to outrun his depressing and agonizing thoughts. He keeps running, both in his mind and with the car, not having any particular place in mind, all in a bid to escape from his thoughts.
As the confusing battle in his mind rages, he collides with an oncoming car trying to avoid a pothole and in that moment Ayobami obtains freedom from his thoughts and goes blank.