I am crazy about Funminiyi but i have said as much before. He writes like me- lol! At least me, when i am not trying to be Aunty Wordsworth. He is someone who knows how to tell a story- many writers don’t understand this. Anyway, let me leave you guys to enjoy his brilliance. You are very welcome…
Life they say begins at forty. Your life began and almost ended ten years after that – on your fiftieth birthday to be exact, the day you met Omokhefe.
Funny how the message icon on your iphone5s had the number 50 sitting precariously on the top right corner when you awoke. The phone whirred continuously in your hand as you blinked at the lit screen, the numbers on the message icons changing like digits on a stop watch. Your had 130 unopened emails on your ipad and 166 Facebook messages.
“Happy birthday sir, happy, happy birthday sir” saluted Ashamu, your uniformed driver, supplied by Secure Towers, the same outfit that supplied your retinue of body guards and other security detail.
You smiled as the five uniformed men jostled with each other to be seen and heard. You said ‘Thank you, thank you’, and shook hands with them, theirs timid and limp, reverently reluctant to clasp yours.
In past years you had wondered how they managed to keep this little detail in their heads until it occurred to you that it was of course a requirement of their job. Staffs of Secure Towers were never to forget clients’ anniversaries, or that of their spouses or children. As you rode to work in your favorite automobile, the state of the art Lincoln Navigator, you wondered if your business associates and well wishers had bought over every commercial slot on Ray FM. They called you a visionary; they sang folk songs celebrating you. Every eulogy did its best to outdo the one before it in verbosity. One finally trumped them all, the last one you listened to before you stepped out of the Navigator onto the gravelled parking lot of your rented deluxe office complex. The senders of the message, a student body your foundation had once given a grant refereed to you as among other things, “… a father.”
That, literally, was a lie. You and your former wife Ebere had gone everywhere imaginable in the search for an offspring. The doctors all told you one and the same thing: “We can’t see anything. Go home and keep trying.”
You became masters and mistresses of the intricate mysteries responsible for procreation. You timed sex to the minutest detail. You timed your ejaculations too. The bursting forth of your seed had to coincide with the release of the ovaries. Still, you were like a farmer who after planting his seedlings and watering the farmland returned on the day of harvest to find the farmland bare.
The pastors and Alfas told you to: “Keep on praying, God will answer you.”
The traditional healers gave Ebere countless concoctions. She had to pinch her nose before she could eat or drink many of them, to keep the foul odours at bay. Her period remained as certain as the passage of time. The month she by faith, refused to buy her sanitary towels, her period came gushing at a dinner held in your honour by the Actor’s guild after you’d been picked to play the role of Kunta Kinte in an Hollywood adaptation of Roots. That day had marked the beginning of the end of your union.
You had been angry with her for embarrassing you that way and she had raised her voice back at you and blamed your insensitivity and total lack of faith. She reminded you of Brother Damian and Sister Dorcas, the forty something year olds who gave their testimony in church last week. She’d scoffed aloud and asked if you even remembered the last time you went to church.
“She and her husband joined their faith together,” Ebere said, tears in her eyes, her tiny fingers curled into fists, her right hand held like an anvil, a dramatisation of the strength in unity. “They bought baby things instead of sanitary towels. And it worked for them. They have a testimony. And there you are, faithless, angry I ruined your stupid dinner organised by a rag tag group of actors!”
Both of you hadn’t spoken for a week after that and over the next few months your wife had mutated. She’d gone from the glamorous ex-bank staff who managed your accounts with a new generation bank into a dour countenanced old maid who wore drab ankle length gowns and silk scarves wound tight over her ears. She shunned all forms of jewelry and makeup and was always on one spiritual retreat or another. You asked her once when she came home from another retreat, that if she spent all her time on distant mountains, when would you both get to have the sex that would produce a child? You asked her to tell you which made people pregnant, sex sessions or prayer sessions? She’d opened her mouth to say something but then got content with just looking at you as if you had gone mad. The few times she came to you after that, she first rubbed a miracle Olive oil all over the length of your turgid manhood, all the while muttering prayers.
She finally left you after eighteen years of marriage, when it came to light that you, not she, were the problem.
The doctor had been quite direct. Oligospermia was a common problem among men. There was medication you could use, but of course it would take years and a lot of luck.
Before Ebere left, she spoke to you about faith in the Lord. Then she pleaded with you to go forgive her. She was approaching fifty herself and did not have the luxury of time that you did. You said you understood, even though you did not.
You died inside the day you heard that she had her first baby.
It was exactly a year after she left you.
The hall was well decorated for a royal banquet. Soft lighting streamed down from little circles in the ceiling. People stood in small concentric circles, stars, business men, celebrities, all totting wine glasses and affluent smiles and swapping stories only the well heeled swapped. Everyone ‘yayed’ when you walked in, and they all broke into the conventional birthday number, followed by ‘Jolly good fellow’.
You had seen her immediately you entered. Almost as tall as you, (and you stood at six foot two inches), she was hard to miss. She was what your people called a mulatto – a person of mixed ancestry. Either of her parents must be white. You found out later it was her mother.
‘She was Jewish,’ she told you in a sombre tone.
Her perfect face lit up when your eyes locked above the knuckle of heads. She batted her eyelashes playfully and fluttered long fair fingers in greeting, her dainty lips that had been done up in a startling red hue forming the words ‘Happy birthday’. You responded with a hesitant smile and courtesied.
You gave a little speech of appreciation, cracked a joke here, ribbed a fella there and then let the party proceed organically.
Your eyes kept meeting all evening long. Her jet black hair was done up into a tight little knob that sat in the middle of her head, rotund like a billiard ball. Her dark blue chiffon blouse dipped dangerously at the bosom, revealing ample cleavage. Her breasts were not too big. They weren’t too small. They were dense, descending heavily on her chest and juggling delightfully against each other with every movement. When she turned her back to you and bent over to drop her wine glass on a low stool before excusing herself from the gathering, you had dropped your glass too and decided there was nothing wrong with a little recklessness.
It hadn’t taken much to get her to meet up with you in your pent house suite at the Marriott. As usual, your body guards had made sure she was ‘clean’, devoid of any phones and cameras before letting her in. Chit chat, a few glasses of bourbon and you had torn the clothes off each other as if they had caught fire. You fucked her three times that night, both of you giddy with excitement, tearing at each other like dogs on heat. You cannot remember the last time you had sex three times in one night. Must have been almost a decade ago. But there was something about Omokhefe who was visiting from the United Kingdom, smoked grass and said you were ‘… even cuter in person’.
‘I couldn’t believe it when I saw you tonight like Oh!my!Gad! He’s cuuute!’ she drawled in a cockney accent. ‘I almost did not come when my cousin Aimalohi, invited me. Not until she told me who’s birthday it was. Like, I’ve seen you like all over the bill boards and tabloids in London? Like you mean you are S.A Akinbode? Oscar winning Nigerian actor? I simply cannot! Believe it yet!’
You found her gushing fresh, even if a tad discomfiting. You had expected her to be worldly wiser. She had looked and acted worldly wiser. But at twenty two, maybe you probably shouldn’t have expect less. You were a big actor and she must have felt lucky to have been picked by you, to have ‘served’ you. They all always did.
She returned to London the next day. She sent you an email to say you were the highlight of her visit, no longer the investiture of her father into the order of Knights at the Catholic Church which she had actually flown in for. You said you’d see her anytime you came over. She was ecstatic. You took her numbers and, fortunately you gave her your direct line. Fortunately because if you hadn’t, there was no way she could have privately gotten the news across to you that she was pregnant.
“Pregnant?” you repeated several times in the course of conversation.
“Yes, pregnant. Pregnant! My father has been looking for an excuse to kill me! Now he has it!’ she wailed. Her grief sounded so palpable it was difficult to appreciate the vast geographical space that separated both of you.
“Do nothing Omokhefe! I’m coming to London.”
You hit London two days later with all the force of a tropical cyclone. Both of you sat in front of the GP a small man with a clean shaven head and a bushy beard who peered at the paper he picked up from his table as if he were seeing it for the first time. You sat there, holding Omokhefe’s claims hands too tightly, your heart beating. The seconds passed languidly, like several hours. The gentle hum of the electric heater comforted you somewhat; it ruptured the deathly sound of silence, told you they there would be a noise of joy, that it would be good news. When the GP finally raised his knob of a head and confirmed that indeed Omokhefe was six weeks gone, you had gotten up from your seat in the white man’s office and given your little audience the full spectacle of your ancestral Bata dance steps. Omokhefe and the Dr had stared at you, at first bewildered before the Dr had gotten hold of himself, remembered his manners, stood up from his seat and pumped your extended hand heartily.
“Congratulations mate. Congratulations,’ he said. His small mouth made you think of a mild mannered hedgehog. Omokhefe sat staring at you two as you pumped each others hands and giggled excitedly like a bunch of retards.
The argument on the drive back to your hotel room was long and hard, but eventually you won. You made love all afternoon and assured her she would not lack a thing.
The next day, you and Omokhefe started to shop for an apartment. The Zoopla staff who took you around was a freckle faced undergrad on vacation. She seemed slightly irritable at first but became more accommodating of Omokhefe’s fussiness after she heard that she would be having a baby. Subconsciously, she cradled her own tummy in her arms for a while. Her smile did not dim in wattage until late in the evening, when you found exactly what you had in mind: a two bedroom affair in a quaint little apartment building that sat on the shoulders of Sidcup.
‘If you get well, I’ll have that Mariachi band play at your birthday,” you remember promising Isabelle. She’d smiled weakly at you, her breath laboured, the needles and tubes sticking out of her body giving her a pained, alien look. You averted your eyes so that she would not see the tears in them and watched snowflakes fall like wool from the skies through the little widow close to the ceiling.
“Cancer of the bone marrow. It is common in Sickle cell patients, though hers came a bit early,” the consultant had said when Isabelle had first taken ill, eight years ago.
Wasn’t life a funny thing? The one woman who finally carried your seed had to be AS like you.
“But there is the option of a transplant. It has a fifty-fifty success rate and we will pray it doesn’t relapse. That’s our only option.”
You remember being comforted, the way the doctor said ‘our’ as if she was a part of your little family, as if she felt your pain.
“We’ll do it,” you and Omokhefe had said in unison, grabbing at the slender ray of hope with both hands. Tears had welled up in your wife’s eyes. The first and only time you had seen her cry before that had been the day her disciplinarian father disowned ‘the prostitute who is pregnant for her father’s mate’. You and Isabelle were all she had. You both were ready to do anything to keep Isabelle in your lives.
The transplant had been successful and the patter of her feet around the little apartment in Sidcup had brought back music into your lives again, until she’d relapsed.
You thought about those anxious days as the Mariachi band played their hearts out. It hadn’t been easy getting permission to have them in the mausoleum, but the manager had eventually relented, granting you ten minutes. The usually serene atmosphere was charged with fanfare as they did Isabelle’s favourite – Los Camperos Poppuri. Tears streamed down your cheeks as you bent down and laid the wreath in your hands on the little marble tomb. Her face shone on the shiny black surface, her smile beautiful, her hair curly.
“I fulfilled my promise, Isabelle, although you didn’t fulfill yours,” you whispered and smiled back at her.
You remained in the kneeling position for a while, then stood up, straightened your black suit and stepped back into the sunshine where Omokhefe waited by the Limousine, her dark RayBans reflecting in the sunlight, long arms clasped over her increasingly protruding tummy.
Ebere had been right. One needed faith. It was after all the assurance if things not seen. It was a good thing you had someone who was willing to keep faith with you, someone who had the luxury of time, and strength enough for a second try.
Song of the day: Six Pence None The Richer – There She Goes