Roses and Angels III

roses and angels

…continued from here

Mama died on the second week of her mourning, and the villagers shouted hosanna. The gods had again shown their inestimable strength and had done justice to Papa.

Three weeks passed, and you joined Uncle Ofodili and his family to their house – a house which few weeks ago you shared with your parents alone. Your cousins took over your little fancy room, and you slept in the kitchen.  You hated the hardness of the floor, and the cold which could not be absorbed by the faded wrapper that had become your bed. But you were grateful for the privacy it afforded you. So, you spent the nights praying, dwelling on the life you had with your parents, and studying your old books with the hope that Uncle Ofodili will one day ask you to resume school again.

But even that was short-lived. Your privacy was cut short by Uncle Ofodili who sneaked in every night and persuaded you in his baritone voice to ‘open your legs’. You were not sure what he wanted with your open legs, but your instincts and that leer in his eyes told you that what he desired of you was bad, very bad.

A week passed, and Uncle Ofodili did not stop coming. He was even more forceful with every passing day. The last time, he struck you, and when Aunty offhandedly enquired the cause of your black-eye, you lied to her that you fell. You feared that the worse will happen if Aunty found out herself, so one morning, after Uncle left for work, and after you had bathed Chika and Ikem and made breakfast, and done the dishes and scrubbed the house and dropped the children off at school, you braced up, and confided in Aunty. 

At first, she was shocked. She struck you with the china ware in her hands, and further pummeled you with every item within her reach. You pleaded with her, you told her you were sorry, and you will not err again, but her beating and curses drowned your pleas. That night, she called you a cursed child, and sent you out of the house, wearing nothing but your open wounds and a broken spirit.

It was Madam Janet, your new neighbour who took you in for the night. You recounted your ordeals to her and she let you spend the night in her apartment. She cleaned your wounds and offered you her guest room. Though you could still feel the pains running through your body, though you were still shivering in fright, you saw a glimmer of hope in Madam Janet. Maybe she would take you in, you thought.

But the next day, she asked you to leave. She feared for her young marriage. You pleaded gently, tears flowing like a spring, she said no. So you left, dazed, weary and craving for death.

Years passed and something happened within you, strengthening you, and  drowning your past. Until today, you have not given a serious thought to your parent, home, poetry or music. But today, history has not only resurrected in your mind. Today, history has taken a bold step towards you, and Uncle Ofodili, who was only a figment of that history, had journeyed out of the past, and found his way to your bedside.

You are shaking. The lights are still off when Johnny walks in. He is seething with fury and with his eyes as red as palm oil. He has obviously drowned himself in Cocaine again. Chief must have told him, but you do not care.

“You,” he spits, “you’re such a pig”

You give him reasons, but he doesn’t hear. “He’s a dick,” Johnny retorts, “just as the rest. Uncle or not, since you had fucked him, you shudda got me my fucking balance”.

He is holding your neck with such force you think it might as well snap. You scream, desperately flailing your hands on his stoic face. Vexed, he lets go of you, but before that, strikes his heavy fists on your face. He has hit you many times before, but this time, your screams are louder and your thoughts are still hung on the past, refusing like your shadow, to let go of you.

That evening, you resolve to leave Johnny, and your wrecked existence.

You park your few decent cloths and tips you hid away in your old shoes, and you leave town. The taxi driver is running at dangerous speed like an angry cheetah. But you do not even notice, so you do not complain. Your thoughts wander again.

The very next morning, Madam Janet true to her decision, sent you packing. You were stranded, lonely, shivering and hopeless. You walked the streets until dusk came and you panicked, while hunger gnawed at the ligaments of your belly. Slowly, night drew its dark curtains over the firmaments, and full blown anxiety sank into your heart. You were a solitary figure, a poignant image under a rotting electric pole, watching the people walking back and forth to their waiting destinations. No one spoke to you. Their faces were straight, and their feet, eager with motion.

 Then it pulled over, a small gulf with tinted glasses.

to be continued next week

by Uche Anichebe

THIS THING CALLED…WEDDING.

I attended the early morning mass today; it’s Ascension Thursday. I was early (for an early morning mass, can you imagine?!) so I sat just outside the door and smoked a joint while I waited. LOL…ok, goofs stop here.

I sat and watched people shuffle past me to sit in different pews. There was quite a handful of people but one couple caught my attention; the man was in a suit and the lady wore a simple black dress so it wasn’t their dressing. What drew and kept my attention was the thing they had going for them. They giggled, laughed, never stopped touching – they were clearly in love. I was seated a few seats behind them so I just looked on with this silly half-smile on my face, crying and wailing “Lawwd, see ME!!!!”

When altar activity indicated that the priest would soon be out, the lady picked up a black polythene bag I hadn’t noticed before then, and stepped outside. Moments later as she passed by me enroute her seat, I did a double take. She had changed into a white wedding gown with a train and veil to boot, jewelry winked from her arm, neck and in her hair. A little murmur swept through the sparsely-occupied church and she smiled this small demure J and took her seat. I was dumbstruck and enraged – Cinderella came to church and nobody saw it fit to pre-inform me?!

We all learnt eventually that it was their wedding day, Cinderella and her prince. They wanted a really really small wedding with – the Monsignor made sure to add – “no noise”. I slept through most of the homily – blame it on the sexy-chilly morning – but I was wide awake through the wedding parts where they exchanged vows, rings and kisses.

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What is the deal on This Thing Called Wedding?

Why do people spend so much money and time planning a wedding only to suffer through the day worrying over who received a souvenir and who did not, or who ate the goat meat reserved for the Umunna? When did weddings stop being about a man and a woman, excited as toddlers at the park, committing their lives to a union of love in the presence of God and man? And become a (townspeople) + (friends)*(ex-friends + people-you-never-met-before) reunion? When did it become about having THE wedding of the year and because you never could have afforded it, spending your honeymoon cooped up with your partner eating Pringles and playing ludo?

Some days ago, I met up with friends from my university days for a mini-reunion. Because the rest of us hadn’t been at her wedding about a month back, Jane regaled us with tales of her new life with her ‘my baby’ – she kept calling him that…all dis freshly-married people can know how to make somebori jealous shaa. Anyhow, we got talking about weddings and she mentioned that all she had wanted was a traditional marriage and a wedding blessing. She had eventually agreed to a church wedding one day after her traditional marriage and it had been a small one; a small, happy and classy church wedding (see here if you can’t remember the details).

I asked Ifeanyi what kind of wedding he envisioned when he imagined his; he wants his traditional marriage and white wedding to hold within the same week witnessed by only close friends and family. He thinks it foolhardy to have “the whole wide world at my wedding on top my own pocket!”

Ekene is a friend whose personality is the exact opposite of Ifeanyi’s. Surprisingly, he wanted the same type of wedding as Ifeanyi – “small and classy with very close friends, cousins, uncles and aunts who have actually spoken to me before,” Ekene said. He went further to place a limit on the number of guests he would have at his wedding – “100 and not half a baby more.”

I asked another friend, a female. Your guess is as bewilderedly true as mine – Kaka also wants “a small and classy wedding with just family and a few close friends”.

My poll on ‘This Thing Called…Wedding’ was targeted at young men and women, 20-30 years old who were unmarried, about to be married or less than a year old in marriage. The ‘small and classy wedding with close friends and family’ party won by a landslide over the ‘big wedding with paparazzi and screaming crowds’ party.

Who then wants the big weddings? Who wants the noise, the crowd and the paparazzi? We have them every weekend, in those town halls, school auditoriums and even out in the open to accommodate as many people as are interested. If nobody starts out wanting them, how then do people end up with these weddings?

My research fingered society as the major culprit. My sources will remain anonymous for those of you looking for who to carry wedding-akpo for, but according to them, society in this context means those people you know or have met who will get offended because they didn’t receive invitations to your wedding, THEN show up anyway. They are those people who you sent invitations just so you don’t hurt their feelings, only for them to show up with an entourage. They are also those ones who because they want to do something nice for you – either for genuine or selfish reasons – reproduce your wedding invitation cards and disperse them unto the biblical fertile soil.

We all want our weddings to be about us – that special day where you smile, laugh and dance the best and most you ever have, and then get to treasure the memory forever with the one you love. By virtue of its nature, big weddings rarely ever deliver that yet many a couple find themselves having one.

So if you want a small wedding and you already feel the choice slipping through your fingers with calls and mails from old colleagues and acquaintances who just assume they are invited and “can’t wait to see you at the wedding”, here’s a tip from my wedding-savvy source: HAVE IT SOMEWHERE FAR FAR FAR AWAY. Have your traditional marriage at home – one, it’s tradition; two, ‘they’ always elect to attend the white wedding. If you can afford it, stage it abroad. If you can’t afford it or if like me, it doesn’t sit right with you to wed outside Nigeria, hit google.ng. Search out little places far away from the region where you have spent most of your life. That way, only family and friends who care enough to go through the trouble of travel will be at your wedding. Also, you save some money to have yourselves some good ol’ delicious honeymoon.

Maybe I’m being overly sentimental or hurried in my judgment, but I daresay everybody likes a small, happy wedding. Yours doesn’t have to be without family like the couple whose story I shared at the start of this piece, and you definitely can choose to wear your gown to church rather than bring it in a bag. But if it’s small and classy and filled with joy and laughter, everybody likes it. You best.

That said; I will add that there is nothing wrong with having a big, loud and classy wedding, so far as it is the wedding you and your partner want. That is really all that matters – your choice. Your happiness.

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So what do you think of ‘This Thing Called Wedding’? Have you had any relevant experiences or do you know any secrets or tips for having the dream wedding – big or small? Don’t be shellfish, SHARE IT!

Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twirra