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Man and wife stand at the doorway, shoulder to shoulder, hands raised in goodbyes as they watch their son scamper off to school.
They make their way back into the house. Plates shatter, doors bang, feet shuffle, words chase each other like bullets from a machine gun and crash against unveiled emotions. Terms of endearment—honey, sweets, sugar—are dropped for old names: Tade, Bimpe; Alakori, Alagidi. Smoke from bubbling stew forgotten in the ensuing battle mixes with bitterness and spreads, filling every corner with an acrid stench, chasing rats and cockroaches out of their holes.
Secrets are flung out of the window. Neighbours pause, with hands frozen over whistling kettles, and crane their heads to pick captivating details. These will be cleaned and polished, to be bartered with friends and chewed in whispers on the street. Or they will be tucked in deep pockets and saved for the day when neighbourly camaraderie dissolves and painful details will be loaded, aimed and fired to achieve utmost pain.
At school, on the playground, the son nibbles his carefully layered sandwich as he talks with his friend.
“My parents are always fighting” the friend says. “Daddy and mummy are always kissing” the son replies. “I wish they would stop.”
In the house, wife mops tears mixed with water from an upturned bowl. She gathers every drop and pours them down the drain while man picks broken plates and cups and furniture and finger-nails and egos. Wife brings out her make-up kit and covers the black eye and busted lip. Husband changes the ripped shirt for a starched, scented one.
Man and wife stand, shoulder to shoulder, arms stretched in welcome. They wave to the neighbours and wrap their arms around the boy. They kiss. Tomorrow the hostilities will continue.