Scarlet

My owl-eyed sin ‘gainst me it’s finger poked

As I asham-ed bowed;

Thundering o’er again at me before all:

‘Thou art the guilty one!’

by SAMUEL O. TAIWO


The incident I’m about to relate happened roughly fifty years ago. I’m sure many of you were not even born then. At the time, I was going through some very challenging problems in my marriage. And yes, I’m not very proud of most of the things I did back then. I guess I was what you’ll call selfish by today’s representation.

But it felt good at the time…real good….The love, compassion, understanding, and attention I received from my neighbour’s husband whose name I’ll rather remain silent about…as I suppose some who judged me back then may still be very much around to judge me again.

We were fourteen girls by my mom. About nine of us are currently divorced.

My “proverbial” downward-slide into my world of trying out new things all started one night after a very bad fight with my husband. Prior to this, we had been married ten years without a child. From the look of things, my husband was clearly no longer interested in me. And on many occasions he had even threatened to throw me out of his house.

Back in the day, it was not uncommon for a man to dispose of his wife like some pathetic piece of rubbish for reasons as little as burning his meal, or, breaking a dish. I personally witnessed my elder sister who was six months pregnant at the time thrown out of her husband’s house.

Her offence?

It was in February two years before. She had been working all day one Thursday afternoon and had gone to the stream just at her backyard to fetch some water for the house. But just as she was at the door of the house with her water pot still on her head, she slipped and fell face down, breaking the water pot in the process. It was a big mess. She ended up bleeding almost to death but for the help of her neighbours who, luckily for her, happened to be home at the time. They heard her screaming for help and rushed over to her aid. She later lost the baby. This was however after she had already been kicked out of her husband’s house for breaking what he called “my money’s worth”.

She had to stay at my mom’s for a while. But my dad who was a fallen soldier in one particularly bloody battle with one of our neighbouring countries didn’t leave much behind before he passed on, except, of course, his house big enough for his three wives and his twenty-one kids, the youngest being three months old at the time of his death. In order to survive, she ended up doing things many of which I’m not very proud to mention here.

I went to live with her shortly after the fight I had with my husband. However, unlike my nine other sisters, my husband for some strange reason refused to give me a divorce. I still can’t figure out what his plan was even to this day. My older sister was staying with two other sisters of mine who had also been divorced by their husbands. It was tough for the three of us.

Very tough.

But I had no choice. Getting a rich man to take good care of me was the easy way out of poverty in a world such as ours, created and lorded by men. Those days, the value of a woman was no greater than the number of sons she bore, and the highest worth of female chastity all came down to a woman’s virginity.

However, I personally knew many girls who would rather lose their virginity, which, as we know, the world of today cares nothing about, than die in abject hunger and hopeless poverty.

And I was no different.

I was determined to get out of the breath choking clutches of poverty and was prepared to fight dirty…if that was the price I had to pay!

You see, back in the day, we had to survive! And anything that sponsored survival was absolutely entertained.

My bittersweet journey out of poverty began in early February. I’d had a crush on this guy whom, until I got to know better, I always thought nothing of. Going by what I knew about him then, he was one of the wealthiest businessmen in his affluent neighbourhood. I saw him as every woman’s dream in a lot of ways, and, in all honesty, I had a lot of respect for him. Needless to say, he was my type. And I my emotions still get the better of me even to this day each time I think about what we both shared all those years…the time we spent alone in his gracefully decorated country style orchard every evening, the funny stories he’d tell me, and even the many nights I’d sneak off just to have sex with him. I’ll say he played on the strings of my naivety and the innocence of my heart like a woman would a golden harp.

My relationship with him continued five months during which time he assisted me in establishing two hair saloons and a multi-million dollar hotel in the heart of the city. And for this I’ll always be grateful to him.

However the incidents that took place in the second week of the sixth month will forever haunt me.

I’d barely approached the door of the house I shared with my three sisters after one long and busy Monday at one of my saloons when my older sister dashed out frantically to meet me with a look in her eyes the like of which I’ve since prayed never to see again. She told me a woman living three houses from ours had been severely bathed in raw acid by who she later discovered was a disgruntled and jealous wife. I was only a child when I last heard about such vicious attacks in my neighbourhood.

And now to think it was happening right at my backyard was far more shocking to me than I could fathom.

Apparently from the story of the incident, the disgruntled woman had accused her unfortunate victim of having an affair with her husband…an accusation which later turned out to be nothing but a big and irreversible mistake. By the next morning, this grotesque incident had become a big news in the whole area.

About a week later, I arrived at one of my saloons only to be told by my secretary that a woman had asked after me earlier in the day, demanding that she needed my attention urgently. I was later told that the woman looked somewhat suspicious and may have even been wanted by the police in connection with the acid bath that took place a week earlier. As you can tell, I was very disturbed by this and immediately contacted the police, giving them whatever detail I could about this crazy woman.

Shortly after this, I began receiving several phone call threats. Whoever was at the other end of the phone did a fairly good job trying to disguise their voice. I also reported this to the police who managed to track the phone number to the same woman. But she was nowhere to be found. It was at this point I knew I was in some big trouble. The police declared her wanted. And I couldn’t stop thinking about what I might have done to warrant her constant harassment. I was even more scared for my life when I later found out that I was her original target for the acid attack a few weeks earlier. For some reason I felt I needed to tell my crush about this. More than ever before, I now needed his protection.

The very next evening, I went over to his place. And just like I had predicted to myself, he embraced me warmly. It was kinda like he knew I’ll be coming.

We spent the evening together during which I told him what had been going on with me. But his reaction completely blew me off. It seemed to me like he’d heard this sought of story before. He kept promising to take care of the whole situation.

Needless to say, we made love that night soon after which we both passed out naked.

It was about 7:00am the next day when I woke up to people violently pounding on the sitting room door! That really scared the ghosts outta me!

“She’s inside!”

It was the growling of a woman. The other voices I heard sounded like thugs high on drugs.

“This isn’t where I want to be”, I thought to myself as I called out to my crush who was no longer beside me.

He was nowhere to be found!

You guessed right. I thought of busting out through the back door and running like a mad woman before calling the cops. But I soon discovered that this mob from hell had surrounded the entire house. I’d barely found where to hide when I heard a very loud gash ripping the door apart like an old piece of rag.

The mob was in!

The ruthless charge was led by a lion-like woman I later learnt had carried out the gruesome acid attack.

I was horrified!

From then on, I can’t really remember much of what happened…how my attackers eluded the police whom I later learnt came to the scene literally hours after the incident. But I do remember staring into the piercing eyes of a man I later learned was famous for performing remarkable miracles, including one in which he brought back to life a four day old cadaver.

He asked me why the angry mob had suddenly decided to leave me alone.

I was mute.

I also couldn’t understand why I’d been spared by a mob which a few moment ago was hell bent on literally wringing me to death.

Then, with tears streaming down his rugged face, I heard the words from him which has kept me sober to this day:

Go and sin no more”.

I’m sure you know me by now as the one famed for that interesting title I’ve painfully borne for almost two millennia: the Woman caught in the act of adultery.

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