Literature: Frowny Smile

Literature: Frowny Smile

Hadiza has been smiling since early morning - a smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes. Monday - her husband - has done it again, declared with an unfazed shrug, that he does not have any money for her today - or any love when it comes down to it.

They are sitting side by side in his old Corolla, driving, Monday, to work and Hadiza, to her mother's. and occasionally when he has to halt for traffic, he turns to her and stares. She wonders what he thinks of her smiling in spite of his insufferable attitude towards her. She wonders: does he think it epitomizes our marriage where we smile in anguish? .

"When is it enough?" Hadiza asks suddenly, already hating herself for speaking to him.

"What?" he asks back, not because he hasn't heard her clearly, but because he wants her to explain what she means - to talk some more.

And so she doesn't because: I will not, for the life of me, oblige him this morning. She turns away instead to the fleeting scene of two market women fighting. This early morning, she thinks.

He makes a humph sound as he eyes their nakedness; wrappers and torn brassiere sprawled carelessly in the heat of the ensuing brawl, a crowd encircling the pair into a ring.

"You are doing this thing again," Monday begins to say. They have driven in silence for a considerable length of time, and within that time, he had toyed with the dial of the car radio which now broadcast muffled voices from a morning show.

When she does not respond, he continues: "you act like it's my fault I don't have any money today, when you told me you needed the money for your store today, did I not tell you that I will try my best, why are you so carried on not understanding? Ehn? You women,,, "

"And you men," she says in a half-shout, clearly unable to remain silent, "is it today I've been talking about opening a store? How about when Junior was born? Or Angel? Why is there always something convenient for you to say when I ask for money to start a business? Why are you such a wicked person? "

Monday does not say anything for a while, just looks from the dashboard to the side mirror and she wonders, not for the first time, why the distance from their home to her mother's is such a journey.

Then he says: "things are hard now, I want you to start the business, come off it that I don't, When Junior was born, yes I know I told you to nurse him first and after that, you know that's when I lost that job with Strabag."

"And all the many years after? " she cuts him off, very tired of his rather unoriginal pity-for-me speech, "you got another job, got a car, two or three promotions but anytime I bring up the business issue, you have one excuse or the other, what have you achieved in life? Do you think about that; we are still in rent, we have nothing of our own, ah... "

"I don't even want you doing that small business with low-life customers, let's plan big, you know, open a supermarket or something." he says after a while, assuming his sweet-mouthed nature.

Hadiza laughs a bitter laugh, an old, well worn anger beginning to rise in her chest.

"Eh," he continues, "you know all that dirty market life is not what I want for you,  trust me, I'll surprise you."

She smiles at the irony, a hmm escaping with her breath, "you have surprised me enough," she says slowly, almost sadly, "to think you have the guts to mention supermarket... You think I don't know."

"Know what?" he asks, looking at her strangely.

"You think I'm stupid - Precious Monday Supermarket at Odobo street"

Hadiza looks at him again, fishing, wondering if he really thinks she's stupid or naive,  and for the first time, her smile slips off her lips, "you bastard, you think I don't know you opened that supermarket for that ashawo?"

Some time while they had been talking, he had rolled up the windows because as she screams at him now, the words bounces about the car, perhaps desperate for a way out. The voices from the radio have stopped talking altogether: replaced by a faint static sound.

"I have not seen her since that time," he stutters, referring to that time she had caught them leaving a hotel together, "you must not believe everything your friends tell you, most of them are jealous of you and want to spoil your marriage, I mean, where will I get the money to open a supermarket on my salary, you still be reasoning now. "

And she had and had written it off as silly hearsay until she had seen the loan approval document in his drawer as well as a title deed to a land. Now that she thinks about it, she had not really looked at the documents but the coincidence had been too much. His ashawo had opened a supermarket - or at least that was what the sign called it

It had not hurt her so much that he had opened a business for his darling Precious, but that he had obtained a loan to do it, such risk meant absolute trust.

She looks at him, her eyes filled with irritating tears; her lips twitching with disbelief; pain, regret and anger crawling gleefully on her skin, all her emotions tightening to a choke level, then suddenly she heaves and says, "I saw the documents, you took a loan just to please your girlfriend, how stupid can you be? "

But Monday just looks at her, not exactly smiling or frowning, more like putting on a frowny smile, then he says: "I was going to surprise you, but that's our land, I'm building a house for us."


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