He Knows Her Not | Fiction By Nana Sule | The Arts-Muse Fair


Maryam used to like the market. It had colors, and people, and food. Something about the smell of daddawa was all it took sometimes to send her to the market. Other times, she just wanted to find a veil, or a wrapper. Or on some other days when Habeeb was away, when no one would ask why she loved the market so, she would throw a gown over her body, and a veil over her head. And drive to the market. There, she would, in no particular order, wander from shop to shop, haggling prices and eyeing wares she would not purchase. She would then return home, exhausted.

These days, she did not enjoy the market as much. As her stomach expanded with the life Habeeb had put in there, she found the best spot in the world was on her bed. Although Habeeb was not one to encourage her to go to the market on normal days, whenever he did come around, he would start at her.
You should be taking walks, he would say. You shouldn’t spend all your days in bed, go to the market sef, he would add.

In her mind, especially because his body spray that she bought him now smelt like the insides of a gutter, and the mere presence of him somehow irritated her, she would will him to return to Abuja. Sometimes she would pray that the company where he worked would somehow make him stay in Abuja forever. In her somewhat confused mind, this would help her be rid of him.

On this particular dusty day, she was curled in bed as best as she could. Her stomach had by now swallowed whatever shape she prized her body to have. With the blanket over her frame, she resembled a large ball, with a human head attached to it. Habeeb was trying to decide on a shirt to wear, when from the corner of her eyes, she caught him reaching for his body spray.

No way, she shook her head, brows creasing, eyes focused on the spray.

Habeeb let out a frustrated sigh.

You bought this one, he told her. You bought it yourself, with your own hands, your own money.

Ehn, but now it smells like gutter. Or you want to go around smelling like gutter?

He opened his mouth, then closed it, deciding against saying the words he had in his mouth. He threw on a shirt, then picked the veil she had kept by her side on the bed.

Tashi, we are going to the market.

She eyed him for half a minute, then closed her eyes.

Not today, she said, not today.

Wallahi, if you don’t get off that bed and follow me to the market yanzun nan, I will spray this thing and not leave this house for you.

Maryam let out a grunt, quickly followed it with a hiss. Then she began grumbling and grumbling before she picked herself from under the blanket. Slowly, aiming to stretch out his patience as best as she could, she went to wash her face, then apply a considerable amount of lipstick. She looked at her reflection over in the mirror… maybe she was not so fat after all, and maybe she could even say she looked just fine.

By the time she finally sat in the car, she had a smile on her lips in contrast to Habeeb’s expression. He had his lips glued in a frown. As he drove them into the Minna dust, he would at one time hold the stirring wheel too tight, or curse a passer-by on another time.

At the market, he grumbled as he searched for a torn hundred naira note from his wallet. When he handed it over to the haggard looking men at the market gate, he complained about how he was certain the market fees would not reach the government. And how even if it did, it would not be put into developing the market or any other infrastructure at that. If Maryam heard, she did not show, for she had since fixed her gaze on something outside her window, while Habeeb found a spot to park the car.

As soon as the car came to a stop, Maryam jumped out, as though possessed.

Ya Salam! Habeeb exclaimed. What now?

He succeeded in locking the doors in time to still have her in sight. He followed her, calling out her name. Maryam was going after a young boy eating out of his begging bowl. Habeeb wondered what she would want with the boy. He was no more than ten years of age at most. He quickened his pace, who knew she could walk so fast?

By the time he got to Maryam, she was collecting the boys bowl. He froze. He did not want to believe what was playing out in front of him. There was his Maryam, seated on the floor, devouring danwake from an Almajiri’s bowl! He looked around, other people were just as shocked as he was too. A beautiful woman, on the dusty floors of Minna Ultra-Modern Market, eagerly eating from an almajiri while the almajiri looked on with warmth in his eyes; it was not a sight you see every day.

She was done in few minutes. She returned the bowl to the almajiri with a smile, looking even more pleased at herself than ever.

Come, Habeeb pulled her up. It was only then she noticed that there were stares coming her way. She bent her head, a bit embarrassed. Habeeb wrapped an arm around her, drawing her to himself. He found a five hundred naira note from his pocket and handed it to the by. The boy declined politely, going about his business before Habeeb could insist further.

Are you angry with me, Maryam looked up at him, still with his hand around her shoulder?

No, he reassured her with a smile, Let’s find a body spray you like.

She nodded, then slightly turned her head into his chest, breathing in his body scent.

Let’s not, she looked up at him again, I like how you smell.

Habeeb raised his other arm and poked his nose to find out for himself if he somehow was smelling like roses. What greeted him was a slight smell of sweat. He was one to sweat a lot, reason why she bought him body sprays and perfumes in the first place.

Let’s go home, she said to him. You haven’t held me like this for long, let’s go home.

Without another word, he led her back to the car.

Nana Sule is a contributing writer at The Arts-Muse Fair. An Environmental enthusiast, her writings have appeared in blogs. She is the Coordinator of the Minna Book Club and tweets @izesule.