“I need to work on myself Oziemi,” Taffy pierced his heart with a sugar-coated arrow. “I am not sure I want this anymore; see Oziemi, you are such a nice person every woman would want to go to the end of the world with, but,.. but,” she stammered. On the other end of the phone, Oziemi grew impatient on the next words she would say. The next three seconds of silence that ensued were long. His heart pounded heavily, it was at the finish line of a disappointing race. He raised his head to the wall up ahead. Markings of red x symbols blurred on a wide paper. It was like a calendar battered by a barren woman expecting a baby. He gazed steadily to identify where to mark out her name. On the paper was the list of women he never found the joy of a happily ever after with. While he was eager to mark out some, there were others he left unmarked for weeks. When he finally found the courage to let go, he crossed it with the heart of a man who hoped to find in the ashes, what he had lost in the fire.
Oziemi walked grudgingly to the wall. With the phone glued to his ear, his right hand threatened mutiny. And then came the brief beep from the phone. It became apparent that he had slipped back to where he started. The only supporting poles on this slippery path would be the courage to hold on. He gave it all up, until a certain day when his phone’s vibration sent it falling from the table.
The fall: it came at the ninth time his Uncle had called in the same day. Oziemi wore a boldness of disrespect when the phone rang ceaselessly. Being a rooted African, such an attitude is just a face off, you don’t really wear it from deep within. His arrogance died down to a solemn sigh. His feelings, entangled, pushed his attention to the quivering phone. He felt great respect and sympathy for his uncle. On the other hand, his heart swelled to firmness for whatever choice they’ve made for him back at home. “She is a wife material,” the voice at the other end rushed without courtesy for pleasantries. “Oziemi, she is gentle and very respectful,” the voice added. Seeing the futility in any refutation, he rushed out a trembling acceptance on the account of his uncle’s testimony.
Oziemi was closing in on his mid-thirties. A dark fellow, strongly built on every tendon; he was the yearning of every woman. At that age, he had his life cladded with what you would call a fulfilled man. He paid his tithes and had a good rapport with the catchiest. He earned his money legitimately and cooked his meals. As a half-baked seminarian, his grandeur and knowledge always left his feet some inches above the ground. “I have it all Dielo,” he would brag to his friend, who cared to listen about his contentment in life.
Quite disturbing for his people back home was that, at that age, Ozieme was not in the league for any matrimony. He had sworn not to soil his life into the mire called marriage; so much stickiness to deal with, he always thought. Chastity was not the thing; of course he lost that courage when he absconded from the seminary. From his youthful exuberance, Oziemi only developed a kind of admiration for ladies that would last around the beauty. He never felt any more passion. For most of them, nothing ever proved otherwise to him. The falsity in the beauty is to say the least. They all had a disposition for ambivalence. One minute they want castles in the air and the next, they want it built on the sinking waters. They never lasted long to build anything. This was a cowardice that irritated him the most.
The courage he gathered to accept his uncle’s recommendation was concretely choked by his will to understand every situation. Not in meekness but a practical application of his knowledge and experience of life. He will certainly be an understanding father and husband. After all, understanding widens the tiniest passage into the hallway of happy marriages. So he thought.
Three thoughtful days passed and the water round his feet was swelling. He was like Jack, trapped to some metal bar in a sinking Titanic. The biggest challenge as one would have thought could have been choosing from an array of western oriented ladies in New York. But here, he is stricken by the mystery of being with a woman from his village.
He opened his eyes halfway to the mild light that was becoming obvious of a new day. He glared continually at the ceiling with the thought on his mind. It pulled its heavy weight on him, so that, he could not find the strength to get off the bed. Until his uncle called, Oziemi had no blueprint with which to map out the successes of any marriage beguiled to his heart. The challenge now dares at him in the face. “I will do it” he muttered. “No! I won’t, if she is replicated by western thoughts. “Yes I will tell uncle to his face that I cannot cope with falsity all through my life. God, she better be a real woman,” he hoped.
Oziemi arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe international Airport at 7:00am- just early enough to meet the city in her sleep. As the plane descended in its bowing majesty, he could see the perfectly-designed city of Abuja, painted still, like it appeared on its initial sketch pad. The roads, each perfectly lined to their junctions did not show any sign of life on them. Just flashes of red, yellow and green lights to show the traffic lights still worked. The nation’s capital still slumbered. However, the airport, as you would imagine, was in full expectations of her passengers arriving. As he observed, he also thought about the hectiness of the journey he will undertake from Abuja to Kogi State and further to Okene, where his ancestral abode laid flat its vastness on the west of the Niger River.
The rites were all performed rather smoothly than Oziemi had expected. The blind fold fell off by the light of a new day. His biting expectations, somehow yawned to an accommodating sense of the whole awkwardness. As he hoped for the best, he still recalled flashes of his uncle’s call, a conversation that would redesign his life. Whether it works for better or worse, he has on his palm, the narrative of his follies with vanity. He has seen it all, the end of beauty; it is arbitrary.
Alpha E. Y.