HOW WE TIED THE KNOT
Dele, a friend of mine was relocating to Canada and wanted to dispose of his property. This included the remaining portion of his lease. When he informed me of his apartment, I told him with all confidence that I’d take it up. I didn’t have enough money, but I badly needed a place of my own as I was tired of putting up with friends.
Through some stroke of luck or destiny, the last N300,000 in my account and the help of a friend, I was able to raise the rent. I set out with another friend to Dele’s place to make the payment. He was out. There was a lady washing clothes in front of the next house to his and when we got closer to her gate, she said hello and we seized the opportunity to ask her about Dele’s whereabouts. She said he went out not long before we arrived. She asked whether we had any message she could deliver to him. We said no and left.
I was eager to tidy up the house arrangement so I went back the next day. Again, as I was approaching Dele’s house I saw the same lady washing clothes… Again. I cracked a joke about the coincidence. She smiled. I moved in and saw the lady almost every day, many times -washing clothes. Things were tough and I sometimes had to convert being broke to fasting and prayer. Sometimes I was lucky that I got small contracts.
The girl I was dating at the time, Wonnu, was a lovely lady. She had a way of encouraging me to look for the Golden Fleece. She would often say that her dream was for us to live in Banana Island. She was always on my case for money too. Once she got it, she’d throw me a kiss in the air and leave. I began to entertain doubts about her after a while. She said she had an Aunt who was very ill and bedridden and that because she was so fond of her, she had to visit her at least twice a month.
Dele came into town a year after he had left and for the entire week of his visit, it was hangout after hangout. One of those nights we ended up in Ojay’s at the Stadium in Surulere. We placed our order while Dele puffed away on his cigarette. All of a sudden, there was commotion; a couple began to quarrel loudly. The lady stood up from her seat and held one of the empty bottles menacingly in her hand as if she intended to break it and use it to stab the man. The man too was in the loop. Many of us got up to calm them down. When I got close, I stopped dead in my tracks. It was Wonnu! She saw me and looked away as if she didn’t know me. I asked my friends to go back to our seats and didn’t mention that she was supposed to be my woman.
Wonnu never came to apologize or explain. In fact she never even called. The lady next door -Ogechi, lived with her family. We had become friends. When I told her what Wonnu did, she burst out laughing and told me that my relationship with Wonnu was never meant to be. Ogechi and I grew fond of each other, and she started coming over to my place more often. As a Yoruba Guy, I couldn’t see myself even dating an Ibo lady, but here I was slowly falling in love! She gave me so much encouragement. She was everything I wanted. The only problem we had. were her parents. They didn’t want their daughter to end up with “Onyi-Yoruba” -especially one that was not rich.
When her parents knew she was with me, they’d keep calling over the fence for her to come and do chores. If she didn’t go back on time, her Dad would come himself and warn me to leave his daughter alone. On more than 2 occasions he deliberately splashed murky water on me with his car. Her Mother was not much different… she would hiss and start singing Ibo songs that sounded like insults when she passed by me. She said I wanted to rubbish all her suffering by giving her daughter a poor, hard life.
Her parents physically fought me countless times. They said I had gone diabolical and that their Daughter would ordinarily never want someone like me. In all of this, our love for each other waxed stronger. One Sunday, I overheard her mother talking excitedly over the fence, about some guests they were expecting. Some hours later, a black Hummer Jeep and some other luxury cars pulled up in front of their house. They had come to ask for the hand of Ogechi’ s elder sister in marriage. Their Mother was so happy. She kept talking loudly knowing I could hear her. She said things like “see correct people”. She laughed loudly intermittently.
Adanma, the proposed Bride didn’t like her suitor at all but she knew that, being the first daughter it would break her parent’s heart if she didn’t do their bidding. The man she really loved was a Calabar guy. She didn’t want it to be said that she had set a bad example for her siblings to follow by marrying a non-Ibo man. Apart from that, her mother had said it was better to be rich and unhappy than happy and poor! She agreed to marry the man.
After 5 years of being slapped, kicked and embarrassed by her parents in public, I asked for Ogechi’ s hand in marriage. She agreed. She was so excited! When she informed her parents they didn’t respond. One hot afternoon a brand new Ford edge, parked in front of my gate. I came out to see if the person had come to see me. There were 2 men and one lady inside the jeep. They asked me whether “Mummy & Daddy” were home. I laughed and asked which mummy & daddy they were referring to. They mentioned Ogechi’s Parents’ names. I pointed to the next house.
Later on, Ogechi informed me that one of the men had come to ask for her hand in marriage. Again, her Mother was all for it! It was funny that the woman who brought the suitor for Ogechi didn’t even know Ogechi’s Mum, they were from the same village but Ogechi’s Mum had given the contract to find a rich Nigerian American husband for her daughter to one of her cousins, who connected the woman to Ogechi’s mum.
I tried to eavesdrop, but all I could hear were muffled sounds. I didn’t see Ogechi until days later. As she walked in I tried to read her face to see whether she looked apprehensive, like she wanted to tell me that it was over. She came close and sat on my lap and kissed me on the forehead. By the time she was through with her narration about the man who asked for her hand in marriage, we had tears in our eyes from all the laughter! The so- called suitor had come with drinks and gifts for her parents. He had also come with a suitcase with clothing for a lady. As he hadn’t seen her before, the suitcase had 4 dress sizes per item! We laughed some more! She told me that she waited patiently for the visitors to go before she called her Dad and Mum aside. She said that she then went into the kitchen and got a Butcher’s knife and threatened to take her life, if they didn’t allow her to marry me. They begged her to stop and reluctantly accepted.
The verbal abuse from her parents got worse and I was told that I had won the battle and not the war. They said they would “show me pepper”. I had been advised many times never to respond or show annoyance.
My parents and relatives sat around me at the traditional wedding. The list of things to bring for the ceremony were an arm long, but I didn’t care! The ceremony seemed to be deliberately long. It was about to end, when Ogechi’s Dad got up and said he needed to say a few words. We were all quiet. He looked at my parents and said “I cannot let this day go, without telling you how sorry I am for the way my wife and I have treated your Son”. He turned to me, “My Son, you have shown me that truly you love my Daughter. With all we did to you, you never fought back. Please forgive and forget. I see that my Daughter wants no other man, and I am proud to be your new father. This wedding is monumental for me because it is the first time in a very long while in my family, that a wedding has not resulted into commotion and fights”. He shed some tears and sat down. I was stunned and I cried a little too from the pain of all the embarrassment and insults.
The rest is now in the past. I smile now as Ogechi’s mum dotes on me and insists that we visit them frequently. As for my wife, I couldn’t have made a better choice!