I met my husband when I was 16 years old. Perhaps my story would have been different if I hadn’t left my house that morning and queued up along with hundreds of people to collect food items that would barely last me a day, not to talk of my parents and three siblings.
It was pre-election periods when candidates would come to our small town each with sacks and sacks of food and we would line up every year. It never changed. It most likely never will. Alhaji Sa’idu who would later become my husband, was a candidate in one of the bigger parties and had come for a campaign in our town. According to him, he saw me, was captivated, and fell in love with me. He traced me to my house where he made his intentions known. And four months later, I was married to him.
My entire family was overjoyed and quite frankly, so was I. I must admit that I wasn’t particularly attracted to Alhaji. I have always fantasized about meeting someone and falling in love; going on late night dates, but then, for a period – the marriage marked the beginning of better days. No more sleeping with empty stomachs, I only needed to send for a maid and I had food prepared for me in no time. I felt like Cinderella who had found her Prince Charming. Only difference is that my prince charming was more than a few years older than me and had castles built for two other princesses. Or queens. I was the third. Not that I minded, I was living my best life. My family was comfortable. Now, having grown older, I realize that there are many things that are too good to be true. My first year of marriage felt like bliss, I didn’t want it to stop and I truly believed that it wouldn’t.
I got pregnant a year into marriage. I was 17. I told my husband and he was overjoyed. He called his family and told them the good news. I called mine.
“Alhamdulillah Amina. Wallahi mun samu daukaka da girmamawa saboda ke. Allah Ya kara miki albarka.” My father said, smiling from ear to ear.
‘Ameen Baba.” I replied.
I was happy to be his source of joy and pride. My father would always say that I am the source of his blessings. While my siblings did odd jobs like domestic work or hawking, I would remain at home, only going to places I was sure to catch the right attention. I would return home with gifts and he would look at me with pride.
‘You are really my daughter,” he would say.
After telling my husband about my pregnancy, he told me to visit only the family doctor no matter what. He said he was the only doctor he trusts with my health and well-being especially because I was pregnant and needed careful monitoring and medical care. I agreed without hesitation. He had always been nice to me, given me the finest things and provided for my family. There was no reason to suspect him no matter how weird his request seemed.
I saw the family doctor all through my first trimester until I was four months pregnant when I noticed that I was bleeding. Both my husband and the doctor were away. I called Abu, the driver and he drove me to the nearest hospital. It was government hospital and for a while, I felt some part of my old life coming back to me. The wards were all crowded. Patients stood in corners, some crouching and some squatting. Their families standing and crouching beside them, offering them comfort. In retrospect, I see now that it was a sign of things to come.
I was wheeled into a doctor’s office, still bleeding. Several tests and scans were carried out and the final result showed what I had never imagined. I miscarried. I was numb. For minutes, I could not speak, I could not think of what to say or how to react to the loss of a baby I had never seen or held but whose soul and softness I longed and waited for, whose fingers I wanted curled around mine, whose eyes I wanted to gaze into as he suckled on my breast. All these images came to me in a flash and I fell faint. I tried to stand up even though I had no idea where I should go at that moment, but the doctor, after clearing his throat told me to wait.
“Where is your husband?” he asked. It felt strange, but I thought he was probably concerned about me and how I would deal with the loss.
“Out of town” I replied.
He nodded. Once. Twice. Looked at me for a while, looked down at some papers in his desk and looked back up at me again.
“You are HIV positive, Mrs Amina Sa’idu,” and that was when I truly fainted.
It was in this state that my husband met me. Betrayed and empty.
But the most pitiful part of my story is the blame
“Why didn’t you wait for the family doctor?” he asked as soon as I came to, “You promised me you would see no other doctor. You failed me. I am disappointed in you.”
“Disappointed? Disappointed? You infected me with HIV! Do you not feel guilty? Do you feel nothing at all? You married me knowing that you were HIV positive, Alhaji. I am the one who should not only be disappointed in you, but also disgusted by you!” it was the first time I had talked back at him. A man who was more than twice my age, a man whose daughter could pass as my older sister. I was sobbing loudly. My heart felt like it was shattered and for the first time, I experienced pain.
My husband divorced me on the spot when I he realized I had told my family about everything. He threatened me with a lawsuit when people heard about my situation and linked me up with him. He actually took me to court a few months later and I was sentenced to some years for infidelity. Throughout all this, not once did Alhaji Sa’idu agree for a HIV test. He claimed he was HIV negative and no matter the number of times he was asked to provide proof, he refused and dismissed us by using money to shut up any lawyer that agreed to defend us. Until a lawyer, an indigene of our town heard about my case from a colleague and agreed to defend me pro bono. The infidelity charges were eventually dropped, but nothing has really changed because there he is, still guilty, still powerful and still ruining young girls lives’ and here I am, still HIV positive, still battling the loss of a child I never held, the loss of my youth which I never enjoyed and the loss of the life I probably will never fully live.
My name is Amina Hussaini and this is my divorce diary.