Celebrating East African Writing!
I blinked at her. Why was she telling me this? I had walked in single-mindedly that morning seeking help with killing Ola. Or maybe I just wanted someone to convince me that I didn’t really want to do it. Now here I was reversing roles with my therapist.
Mrs. Akintola had resumed her blank staring at the wall behind me; I shifted uncomfortably. I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to act like the outburst and confession hadn’t happened.
There was a thin film of sweat on her forehead; the only evidence of the just-ended passionate speech she had given. Her hand still held her pen poised over the page with a few scribbles. She remained silent and kept staring.
I had at no time been to therapy so I wasn’t sure how it was meant to go. I was pretty certain the therapist was meant to be the level-headed one. I pulled my cloth close to me again and began to think on Ola’s sins: He had hit me, he made my daughter lose her faith in marriage and in me, and he only ate my food when he pleased but at least he did not come home smelling like other women’s perfume. Yes, he drank a lot but at least he slept at home. Besides, he had only hit me once, maybe it would never happen again; maybe it was his one slip and he was back on his feet again.
At that point, I started to feel bad for Mrs. Akintola. Here she was; an accomplished marriage counsellor, and a seemingly strong woman with a marriage that appeared to make a mockery of her career.
My eyes pooled as I reached for her still stationary hands. She didn’t flinch when I touched her. Her palms were sweaty and the pen was slipping out of her grip. I pulled it gently out of her hand and lay it on the ground by my feet.
“I had no idea marriage could be bad for a marriage counselor, I’m so sorry for everything you’re going through.” She finally moved, she angled herself to face me, and smiled a sad smile. “It’s a small price to pay for my success.”
“Is it really? How do you feel fixing other people’s lives and going home to yours as it is?”
“I feel like I’m giving back to society, that’s what matters right?”
“You’re either a saint or very confused, forgive my bluntness.” I said it without hesitation.
Mrs. Akintola smiled again. She sat back and seemed to be recollecting something. I was afraid we were about to switch places; the counsellor was going to become the counselled.
“I was a plain girl growing up, it didn’t help that I read a lot and dressed like my grandmother. Boys were not easily attracted to me and I didn’t care. It wasn’t until I was 29 and still single that I started to worry. My mother thought I was gay and just afraid to say. It was so distressing receiving phone calls from old classmates sharing news of their upcoming weddings. I told myself I didn’t care, I studied more and tried to become the best in my field but it didn’t feel fulfilling yet. The first time I met my husband he was standing at the junction near my house waiting for a taxi, it seemed. I almost drove past but I thought he was handsome so I stopped and offered him a lift. He smiled, looked surprised and said ‘Thank you ma, my friend is picking me up.’ What hurt more was that he had called me ‘Ma’. Before I drove off, he said ‘Do you live around? Maybe we can have lunch sometime.’ That was the first time in 5 years that a man had looked interested in me so I jumped at it. A year after that first lunch and many meals later, he asked me to marry him. Maybe I accepted too eagerly, but he changed soon after. I’ve wanted to leave him, confront him, even kill him –”
She paused and caught her breath. “Mrs. Obiagwu, you’re not alone. I chose instead to help others’ fix what seems irreparable in my marriage, I’m no saint. In fact, I’m selfish; I feel like if I can fix them then maybe eventually mine will fix itself.”
I sat quietly listening to the therapist, watching her unravel before me. I felt stupid for thinking she was perfect.
She spoke again, “Have you thought about killing Ola or leaving him in the last 10 minutes?” I smiled, I hadn’t. Mrs. Akintola stood up and clasped her hands over mine, causing me to stand as well.
“That ends today’s session.”
She was smiling as she led me to the door. I wondered whether that story had been a therapy tactic or it was the truth.
“See you at your next appointment, please try not to commit any crimes till then.” We laughed and shook hands as I stepped out.
I was still confused about the session I’d just had.
By: Nana Adwoa Amponsah Mensah
Nana Adwoa Amponsah Mensah is an African, woman, Christian, thinker, writer, patriot and all round happy child from Ghana. You can read more of her work on her blog https://msaajay.wordpress.com/about/ and follow her on Twitter @Ms_AAjay .
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