…masters, no trades…

I felt painted into a corner with a colour of oil paint that made my eyes water and my head hurt. Lin was my friend, mine. Ever since we met as budding reporters at the radio station I always valued her straight-forward level-headed opinion on things. I was sure that she would have agreed with me on this. Especially since she was pursuing her Master’s Degree as well. But he will always be a better salesman than me, even when it involved the direction of my life and career.

Getting my second degree was hot button topic of discussion since our daughter shot out of me and bumped his chest nearly three years prior. I would approach it from all angles and the desired response was always delayed. Today it felt closer to a ‘no’ as he got Lin to present the argument that getting my Master’s isn’t necessary if the intent is to leave my government job and become an entrepreneur. She was right, I don’t need it to run a business, it’s surely irrelevant in the business of mixing oils, butters and waxes. He smiled smugly, confident that I’d drop the topic finally and concede to his superior knowledge once and for all, while we stood in Lin’s spacious new townhouse we pretended we didn’t envy.

I couldn’t drop it. It was more than getting my Master’s. It was about getting back myself.

We were always partners in everything we did. All decisions were made after long discussions and a consensus was agreed upon. Communication made us work, that and the fact that I felt like he respected and truly valued my opinion. Then, I got pregnant. The anxiety of becoming a mother made me question and second guess my own shadow. I conceded everything to his seemingly better judgement. A decision which yielded mixed results. When we decided to turn our kitchen hustle into a legitimate business, I finally felt like I found my stride out of the post-par-tum fog. By then however, he wasn’t ready or willing to relinquish the reins or even share them.

Everything was what he said as he said. A sliver of dissent meant I didn’t respect him as the man of the house. The business, an idea born out of my struggle and love of mad science experimentation since the age of 8 years old was taken over by him the minute we grew in social media popularity. I became a mere workhorse employee, though he was excellent at selling a different version of events. I felt lost in my own life. I wanted to retreat to the version of myself that I knew best. The Academic. He wanted no part of it.

As we drove home, I sat in the front seat of of his gold Kia. Another bone of contention with us. A purchase he made with no consultation but the cost of every broken part was known all too well by my dwindling savings. I thought hard about the conversation that broke my heart. Is getting my Master’s Degree really a waste of time if my goal is to become an Entrepreneur. Is becoming solely an entrepreneur truly my goal?

I was silent when we got inside. He barely noticed. Probably preoccupied with the glow of his victory. I sat on the edge of the bed. I waited until I heard the click of the closed door behind him. Then, the tears flowed. I didn’t wail, scream or even sob. Partly because I didn’t want to wake our sleeping toddler in the next room. Also partly because my tears felt more like a mourning of someone passing. Someone you knew was sick, has been sick for some time and their death felt like an act of kindness given by the universe.

Like a drop of adrenaline, the idea dawned on me. Ms. Red. She has her Masters. She has her own business. She is a woman I admired. She’d have an insight that neither I, him or Lin can provide. Would getting that second degree really make a difference to your life trajectory?

Ms. Red and I were friends in the loosest sense of the word but we were more than just associates. I loved what she was about and showed my support. She provided an avenue through fashion for women of a particular size to learn to love themselves and the skin they’re in. She in turn gave me the opportunity to show my love of fashion and strutting in beautiful clothing without spending a cent. We didn’t run in the same circle but there was a mutual respect and admiration there that grew over time. I found her number.

I struggled to express my perspective as the phlegm and tears bubbled in my throat. I all but expressed how I felt lost in my own life. How getting my degree was more than just the piece of paper. It was an opportunity to find out beneath the labels of mother, wife, employee, businesswoman… who am I really?

She calmly listened to my blubbering, a disposition that seemed foreign on me as I was always quiet and smiling around her. Then, she spoke, “The fact that you are asking this question means you know in your heart what you want to do. I cannot tell you that getting your Master’s would be beneficial or not to your dreams to be an entrepreneur. Getting mine helped me in some ways but it wasn’t really essential. But if you feel like you need to take that step to really be effective as a business woman and become comfortable in your career and your life then do it. It’s knowledge. I can never speak against a woman seeking more knowledge. If that’s what you need to do. Find a way to do it. Pray about it. Ask God to make a way for it and do it.”

I applied in an MSc. Management Studies programme the following June.

… a broken promise…

The validation of months of suspicions swelled in my chest. Then came the hubris: how dare you Cheat On ME?!!! I flipped back and forth through the three pictures scrutinizing her face, her body, her features. She laid on the floor of her livingroom with her skirt hiked up showing a generous amount of leg. She stuck her tongue out in assumed jest. In each frame her back was more arched than the previous shot. Seemingly innocent, obviously not. She wasn’t even that pretty, I thought. What a slut?! She looked like a horsefly. A cross-eyed horsefly.

It would be months before I noticed that in the right corner of each frame next to the yellow bowl of gold fish crackers was the bent knee and stubby toes of my four-year-old. This had to be a joke. But if it were, why would he delete the photos from his phone gallery. If it weren’t for the automatic upload feature of Google Photos, the evidence of his transgression would have gone unnoticed.

I didn’t give myself an opportunity to second guess it. Something had changed. He had changed. He got promoted. A bigger salary. Twice what he made before. His clothes improved, better shoes. He worked hard. He deserved it. That wasn’t all. He went out more. Honestly he was always a social butterfly, a prevalent point in our list of incompatibilities.

Then there were the strange questions and anecdotes. Once he asked me if I believed in emotional cheating. He insisted the question stemmed from a conversation he and his colleagues were having at work that day. He said the topic was raised by the new girl in the office. According to him, his colleagues believed she had a crush on him. I even played along at home whenever he raised the topic. “How could she not, you’re the cute star-boy salesman. She wants you!” I’d tell him. “Why else would she accompany you to go Christmas shopping?” 

Imagine my surprise when I discovered she never worked with him. The conversations with his colleagues were all convoluted creations meant to introduce his new friend. An attempt to acclimatize us to one another perhaps.

I met her once. Barely. He brought her to our home then took our daughter to Gulf City Mall to go Christmas gift shopping. I insisted that year that I wanted a leather jacket as my gift and I saw one one sale on Facebook at a store located in Gulf City Mall. She went for the ride. She sat in the front passenger seat, my seat, smiled and waved at me, “Merry Christmas!”. I half waved back with a sweaty face and cobweb in my hair from cleaning and holey pajamas. I messaged him, apologizing for my rudeness as I really didn’t expect guests.

In February of the following year, while in the pit of my depression, the events of that day came to haunt me in a case of mistaken identity. The mother of one of my exes recognized my daughter and husband with ‘me’ at the mall that day, shopping. She said ‘I’ looked so much slimmer with my braids and baby blue shorts. I got so fat now. I laughed it off insisting it was my sister she saw and not me. “It was my sister”, was a reasonable explanation of why the three of them looked so close and happy together like they were family.

With his phone still in my hand, I leaped at him like a soucouyant seeking blood, demanding answers I truly didn’t care to hear. The thumping of my pulse filled my ear with the opening chords of a song so fitting for the moment.

Who the fuck do you think I am?

You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy!

– Don’t hurt yourself, Beyonce ft Jack White.

“Me! You horn me?! You were a security guard before me! You lived in a rat hole before me!”

There it was again, the hubris that pushed him, emasculated him. A task made easy by the fact that every fibre of his character was riddled with insecurities. He was never confident in himself and what he brought to the table. Frankly, neither was I.