The first thing you should know is fiction is logical. No matter how bizarre, to keep disbelief suspended it should make sense. The second thing to know is with reality, there is no such defining of perimeter.
At Agege Market, past the railway, I stop at a spice stall, standing behind a buxom middle-aged woman who is finishing a sentence while her purchase is bagged:
“…young woman like you, how you go talk say you no dey born again? If na me be your husband I go dey rape you.”
The spice seller to whom these words are directed flashes a nervous smile. Her countenance is a saleswoman’s, polite and deferential because “the customer is always right,” but what’s startling is there’s genuinely nothing in her demeanour to indicate she knows this customer is oh so greatly wrong. The spice seller is uncomfortable but not appalled. I know something she doesn’t.
As though celibacy is the most obvious family-planning choice in 2017, the allusion to rape is casual and matter-of-fact. The immediate equation of the spice seller’s decision on how many children she wants with holding out on her husband is illogical. But this isn’t fiction.
In the buxom middle-aged woman’s reality, the spice seller’s assertion of her right to her body, her power to determine in some small way the course of her destiny, was an affront to a husband’s right of ownership. How could she say she didn’t want any more children? How dare she assume that decision was hers? Such arrogance could only, naturally, be met with violence. Penis as weapon. Sex as ownership. Rape as a reminder who has the freehold.
The middle-aged woman leaves with her purchase and her fantasies of owning a penis, never mind that she’ll be her own victim.
At the butcher’s, the ele eran is theatrically recounting a story in Yoruba to the man selling shaki, liver and tozo on the table next to his. He’s talking about some man who slapped some woman the day before, and how he screamed -“Ah!” -in shock, tackled the man, and asked if he was crazy slapping a woman who wasn’t his wife.
The problem wasn’t that this man slapped a woman.
A few hours later, I’ll watch a man playfully threaten to slap a young lady a full head shorter than he is. She’ll laugh the threat off -a little too forcefully -and take three steps backwards.
Fiction has to be logical, but reality knows no such restriction.