She looked at me with a mixture of wariness and defiance; it was interesting to watch the slideshow of emotions on her face—hate, disgust, fear, desperation. Each emotion was distinct and was threatening to burst through the veneer of her calm disposition. What was more interesting was that I noticed that she fought very hard to conceal and contain her pantheon of conflicting feelings. This was not what I normally saw with women in my experience.
She was a handsome woman in her late thirties at least. I wouldn’t say she was particularly stunning, but she was the kind of person people never forgot easily once they’ve met her. She had thick eye lashes that were like a canopy over her hazel-coloured eyes. Her nose was small, and her mouth was thin yet sensual.
“Are you not going to ask me why I came?” she finally spoke.
I smiled. “No. I was waiting for you to tell me when you’re ready.”
She gave a low chuckle. “You’re different from other shrinks I’ve met with in the past.”
“How many of my mind-picking compadres have you visited?” I asked with genuine curiosity.
“Four now. You’re the fifth one I’m seeing this week,” she replied stoically.
I was surprised. What kind of problem did she have? and why didn’t the others solve it? As I looked at her, she struck me as someone who was searching for something, or somene who had found something but did not know what it was she had found.
“That’s quite a number,” I said. “Tell me, what can I do for you?”
“I need your advice.”
“Advice on what?”
I deftly scrutinized her. She did not look like the textbook abused women, but then again, people are different. “What is wrong with your marriage… uh… Charity?—can I call that?”
“Sure, you can. Well about my marriage… I am pregnant for someone who is not my husband,” she confessed and hung her head. Was it in shame or something else?
“Why?” I said.
“Why are you pregnant for someone who is not your husband?”
She looked at me as if she was doubtful that I had a brain. “It’s obvious, isn’t it? I had sex with another man who—”
I cut her short. “I know that. My question is: why did you cheat on your husband?”
Her eyes became wary instantly. She shifted uncomfortably and picked her nails. Then she said, “Well, I guess it’s because I don’t love him. I never did.”
“Why did you marry him then?” I prodded.
“It’s a long story.”
I looked at my watch: 3.45pm. I’d promised my wife I’d be home before dinner. And even if I left right now, I wouldn’t be home before 7pm because of the traffic. I looked at her, she was waiting for my reply. I couldn’t disappoint my wife, yet—
“I still have an hour before closing. Tell me your long story,” I finally said.
She cleared her throat dramatically and began. As she talked, she was transported to somewhere into the past; she looked at me, but did not see me. It was as if she was watching a movie on my forehead as her lips moved mechanically.
According to her, she was the last child of strict Catholic parents, who raised her and her siblings to do two things: fear God and become medical doctors. She had not been good with the sciences, and that earned her scorn from the rest of her family, except her immediate elder brother. Their attitude made her become rebellious and by the time she was seventeen, she had gotten pregnant out of wedlock.
That was a huge blow to her, and especially to her parents who had nearly disowned her when the boy denied her. She was in a huge fix and had planned to run away. Then her husband came along.
“He was a widower who was two years older than my father,” she said with anger. “My father was a knight in the church, so it would be a huge dent in his image to have a daughter who got pregnant out of wedlock.”
So without her consent, she was ‘bundled and shipped’ off to the man. They had been married for twenty years and she had been unable to give him any child.
“Then I met Olisa, my boyfriend, and everything changed. That was when I finally accepted that I did not love my husband and never did. We made love many times and last month, I found out that I was pregnant for him,” she said with a sudden light in her eyes.
She had told her husband about her affair, and also telling him that she wanted a divorce.
“But do you know what the old fool said to me?” I shook my head and she continued, “He had said: ‘I’m sorry dear. But everybody makes mistakes. Your affair was a mistake and I am happy that you told me about it. We can never go against God by getting a divorce. Moreover our love is strong.’ The old fool believes my pregnancy is a mistake when my marriage to him has been the worst mistake of my life. And what love was he talking about? I don’t love him and I don’t want him to love me. I just want him to sign the divorce papers.”
When her husband refused to sign the papers, she had been confused about what next to do. She decided to talk to her parents about it, although there was no love lost between them. Her father had sent her out of his house once she was done with telling them why she came. He had threatened to disown her if she ever divorced her husband.
“What of your… eh… boyfriend? Does he want to marry you?” I asked.
“Of course! He has even asked me to elope with him. But I refused. I don’t run away with the knowledge that there is something that still bound me to that fat old man.”
“This is really complicated,” I commented. I did not have any other meaningful thing to say. I stole a glance at her and she was staring at me expectantly, waiting for the advice she came for. I decided to play for more time.
“Why did you decide to come to a shrink? why not go to a priest or pastor?”
She laughed derisively. “It’s obvious. They would all tell me that divorce is a sin and that I should continue living with a man I loath with all my being.”
I sighed. I knew that that was true. But then again, I did not know what to tell her. Since her husband had refused to sign the papers, she was stuck in the marriage. And there’s no way she can leave her boyfriend. Even if she did leave him, I had the impression that she would soon find another man than to patch things up with her husband.
“Look, I came here for advice. I would have gone to a lawyer, but I decided to talk to someone who would not be looking at the possibility of having me wash my dirty linen in public. So what do you advise me to do?”
“Truthfully, this is a tough situation. But I know that something can be done. I just need you to give me till next tomorrow to come up with something. As it is now, my brain is tired and I have to go home. I’ll call you next tomorrow with a solution. Okay?”
She agreed and left. I stood up, arranged my desk and left my office. As I drove home, I knew that I had no way of getting a solution so soon. I just told her that so she could go. But I did not also want to destroy my image.
That’s the fix I am in right now. What do you suggest I do, Dear Reader?