The Reverend’s Wife

My mother-in-law stares knives at me as I open the door. I can see her face turning beetroot-red all the way from my doorstep. I hurriedly put my key into the keyhole and turn the lock. I breathe out a heavy sigh after gaining entry. My mother in-law’s stares pierce through me like a laser and I hate it. I hate her. I close my eyes for a full minute and wish we did not live so close to her.

She always has her nose deep in my business. My clothes are too revealing, I’m coming home too late, I’m not feeding her son right and he’s losing weight. When am I going to give her grandkids? It’s all too much. I curse, close my eyes and hope against hope that the promises my husband keeps making about moving will come to fruition. I open my eyes and breathe out another heavy sigh knowing deep down that will never happen.

My husband, I have come to learn, is a contradiction. Saying one thing and doing the complete opposite. “I hate living so close to mother, she is such an annoyance,” he had whined during our honeymoon days yet here we still are, four years into our marriage. Before I can complete my thoughts, remove my shoes and settle down, someone opens and closes the fridge in the kitchen. It’s my husband. Or like his congregation calls him, Reverend Chris.

His mother often boasts that she always knew he would be a man of God, that’s why she gave him the name Christopher, “It’s the closest thing to Christ,” she brags. You should have seen how her face shone when Chris first introduced me. “Grace,” she exclaimed. “This is a match made in heaven.” In earnest, it was a match made by her because she was tired of the whispers made about an unmarried son who was quickly approaching his forties. I smile, plop myself on the sofa and start flipping channels.

Reverend Chris opens and closes the fridge again, sufurias knock against each other and the sound of onions hitting hot oil fills my ears. Thirty minutes later, he plops himself next to me with a plate full of fried spaghetti and pork. I no longer ask how his day was but Reverend Chris tells me anyway. It’s his way of punishing me for refusing to act like the average wife.

“The Holy Spirit was in church today,” he starts after swallowing a spoonful of pork and spaghetti. I have been in that same church when Reverend Chris said pork was dirty meat eaten by unholy people. Pork stew greases his lower lip and he slurps it clean with his tongue and mouths out a loud mmmh. “A lot of youth got saved today,” he continues, his spoon scratching the almost empty plate.

I must have dozed off in-between glib and slurps because when I open my eyes Reverend Chris is not on the couch and the TV is no longer playing a rerun of Real Housewives of Atlanta. Instead, it’s on Family TV with Joyce Meyer on the foreground saying something along the lines of, you reap what you sow. I switch it off together with the lights and head to the kitchen to check the burners. I don’t bother opening the sufurias—I have long made a habit of eating out. After I’m done, I open the door to the bedroom. Reverend Chris is curled in a fetal position, crying loudly in between violent hiccups. I close the door and walk to my bedroom on the opposite side of the house.

On Sundays I dress in my most modest clothes and this one is no different. I wear a long black frock with purple flowers that covers me from neck to Achilles. My skin won’t make anyone sin, not today. I complement the flowery frock with a cream denim jacket, pearl earrings and necklace and white ankle strap heels. I look in the mirror and I cannot recognize the person staring back. She resembles Joyce Meyer. She resembles a reverend’s wife. “It’s only on Sundays.” I rehearse the phrase for the hundredth time and get out, in tow with my husband, who is in a blue tuxedo.

Outside, my mother-in-law is waiting, fully dressed in her church elder garb. A long, blue, pleated skirt, blue shoes with kitten heels and a peep-toe, a white blouse, and blue headgear on which the words, ‘Reverend Chris Apostle Church’ are written on the helm in white. “Give us a minute, Christopher,” she says softly to her son while taking my arm.

“I don’t want to keep repeating myself about those small fabrics you call clothes,” she starts without preamble, tightening the grip on my arm.

“Mother, you’re hurting me,” I whimper.

“What time did you get home yesterday, Shiku?” She has long stopped calling me Grace. I have become of this world and I no longer deserve a Christian name.

“Mama Chris, stop.”

“Is that any time for a housewife to come home?” She pauses and looks at me with disgust. “Is this why I’m not getting grandkids, because your womb is infested with every disease from the sewers?” She loosens her grip on me and let’s go of my arm. “You need to start acting like a reverend’s wife, Shiku.”

Later I know she will summon the both of us. She will give me a lecture on how a good wife ought to behave, which is a loose subliminal to her son that I’m no good and it is a high time he gets himself a new woman, a good woman. She will also recite Genesis 1:28. The Lord says you should have many children and fill the earth. I will sit there quietly, nodding like a programmed robot and Chris will say what he always says, “I’m praying for Grace… We try every night… God will come in his own time.”

After Repeal 162, I know the sermon today will be about homosexuality. There is nothing my husband loves more than riding on current affairs because most of the time he has nothing to tell his congregation. I will watch as Reverend Chris rebukes gay unions, calling them ungodly, unholy and unnatural. Just like the pork he hates so much in public but enjoys in private. Amens, hallelujahs and ‘praise the Lords’ will saturate the room. The demon of homosexuality will be cast from a handful of misguided boys and a small horde of the congregation will get saved.

Later the congregants will surround us to seek favor from the Lord, their faces dripping with admiration and envy. We will bask in the glory, flash smiles and mouth hallelujah, amen and praise the lord. After church is over, the congregation home and my mother-in-law back to minding her own business, we will go back to routine. Sleeping in separate rooms, Reverend Chris crying often in-between violent hiccups and me  back to wearing my tiny fabrics, coming home in the wee hours of the night and wishing we could move already.

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image credit: Oladimeji Odunsi


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