There was a woman in our small town who did not have much luck with men. The older people who knew her as a child in swaddling bands and as a little girl running around naked in the rain, often gossiped that she inherited her ill-luck from her mother. Her mother had lost her mind and died of heartbreak when her husband left. It was one night, a long time ago, the man had simply said to his wife, "I want to buy something outside", and he never returned home. News came to her much later that he had been cudgeled in a brothel by a notorious woman whom he had refused to pay for services she rendered him.
It was easy to believe that this woman's ill luck was hereditary since there was nothing tangible to lay blames on. She was very easy on the eye: not too big, not too small. She was always kempt and her house was never in disarray.
This woman in our town often had men in her life but they were mostly our town loafers who paraded as young men with prospects, but these prospects never saw the light of day. These young men were only skilled in beguiling desperate women whom loneliness had made credulous and in performing acrobatics for these women in bed. These idlers sniffed out her loneliness as she walked past them under the mango tree where they assembled to smoke wee-wee. They sensed the neediness in her gait and they took turns to pursue her.
She often lent them huge sums of money to start up imaginary businesses or to send to an ailing mother in the village who, unbeknownst to her, was long dead. They never paid her back. And to this end, she was never able to save up money to expand her salon business. Some of those young men repented of their evils and went on to become pastors, annexing churches on our streets. But when they needed a woman to start a life with, they never chose her. They sought younger girls from distant towns and left this woman wilting.
The good men with honest income tried to love her too, but they could not be made to stay. One time it was the school teacher. Even though our mothers nodded in approval when they walked past hand in hand, smiling gaily at the sun, we did not like the idea of their union, seeing that the school teacher was too eager to lay his whip on our buttocks when we misbehaved in school. We surmised that when they start a family together, there would be an endless chorus of crying children emanating from their home. We were happy when, months later, his mother sent him a bride from the village and came to supervise the union from time to time in order to wade off anything untoward. At another time it was the town's designer. He was a handsome man with plenty of connections; he made the governor 's clothes and all the commissioners tipped him heavily for his services. Yet amidst all her efforts, he left. Why did they not love her enough to stay?we often asked. Perhaps, who knows, when these good men kissed her and tasted the fruit of her lips, it was too sweet or too sour for them. When they touched her, felt her body lovingly, the heat from it singed them away.
She had a lot of friends but once they got married, their friendship withered because she always felt intimidated in their presence, such that you would often hear her mutter, "They treat me thus or they speak to me thus because they are now married."
Her salon teemed on weekends. The women in our small town congregated their to gossip while ostensibly getting their hair and nails done. And there, even though it was a very strange occurrence, she constantly offered marriage counselling. More often than not, her counsel worked. A woman for instance would ask, ''My husband does not look at me like that again, what do I do?" Or another would ask, "I suspect my husband is keeping a mistress, how do I lure him back to my side?" Then the woman, whom the younger people like myself called Aunty, would say, "Apply rosewater to the hidden crevasses of your body," (here she would spread her legs to demonstrate); "wash your navel at all times, the smell can turn a man off you know. Don't worry this next hair style I would give you would keep him so glued to you that you would need a crowbar to pry him away from your side. He will he forget what his mistress looked like...." and in this manner she offered sundry other procedures.