I was talking to someone the other day. He is much older than I and I was telling him my travel plans. Like a typical Nigerian, his travel plans consisted of Amelika and the UK and not much else. So I took it upon myself to encourage him to take his family somewhere different this year (he cna afford it too!) That was when he told me he had never lived with his wife. Say what???
Anyway it got me thinking. Abeg abeg abeg, why are you people married? And I am not trying to be judge but marriage is for companionship-how are you people managing it from across the oceans inugo?? The short term situations are hard enough talk less of this kind of “no end in sight” scenarios. Biko Bi Igbin ba fa, ikarahun a telé e …Lol, see what I did there? Mixed Ibo and Yoruba in the same sentence? Hehehe. Igbo Kwenu, Yoruba Kwenu…All of una doh o!
If you need translations of that my Yoruba, google is your friend. Otherwise wa wa alright…
It was a marriage of convenience. This much was clear from the get-go.
All their friends were getting hitched and it felt like they were expected to as well and so they had.
He had actually expected Demi to say no when he asked her to marry him. In fact he had hoped she would take one look at him and the expensive diamond ring he had bought without much thought and seen the insincerity in his request. But she had said yes and within eight months they were married like the rest of all their friends.
Less than a year later, Demi had got a scholarship to study in Dublin. She was expected to spend a year at school, plus maybe six months getting some experience and then return to Nigeria where they could continue building their lives.
It had however been eight years since graduation and she was still in Dublin. In that time, they had had two children- Osaro and Ogogo. In all of that time, he could count the number of times he had slept with his wife. In all of that time he had lost count of the number of other women there had been.
When he tried to think about the women that had flitted in and out of his life since Demi moved to Dublin, he always ended up with a migraine caused by their blurred faces. He could hardly remember their names. They had been mere bodies, nothing more, nothing less.
Everything about Elsie was unexpected. He hadn’t expected to take her home with him that night she had sidled up to him in the club to dance. He hadn’t expected to find her in his bed the next day even though he had deposited her in the guest room the night before. He hadn’t expect to want her that morning or every night after. He hadn’t expect to find she was a virgin, unspoiled like no other woman he had been with. He hadn’t expected to fall in love with her either. He hadn’t expected the way she moaned when he made love to her, like she would die if he ever stopped. Or the way she sang in the shower like life was a hidden precious pearl that only she had discovered. Or the way she held him for too long every time they had to say goodbye. Or the way he couldn’t stop smiling like a love crazed teenage boy every time she asked him over the phone if he had eaten.
Everything about Elsie was unexpected and more than he could handle and so after five months of it, he had bought a ticket and headed to Dublin.
“Ehi!” Demi cried in surprise when she answered the door bell to find him standing there. “Is everything okay?”
Before he could answer, the kids had barreled their way in between them to hug their daddy.
After they had opened the gifts he brought them and Demi had put away the crayfish and palm oil she always asked he bring when he visited, the kids had gone to bed.
“So what’s up Ehi? Since when do you show up without letting me know you were coming?”
Ehi’s eyes swept over the length and breadth of the woman that was his wife. It was hard to believe she was a mother of two much less that she was going to be forty in a two years’ time. Her svelte shape and beautiful face seemed ageless and suddenly he wondered what he could have done to make her happy.
“So I need permission before I see my family?” Ehi asked as he accepted the glass of white wine Demi had poured.
He had told her countless times over the past ten years that he preferred red wine, still he took a sip before setting the glass down to face her. The house should feel like home but it didn’t, not to him. He had always felt like a guest here even though he had paid for it, even though he had spent three weeks shopping for its furnishings with Demi in those early days, before the kids.
“I want you and the kids to come home,” He said, as slowly as he could manage.
The silence that met his request was interspersed only by the chiming of the clock in the living room and the dripping of a tap somewhere that someone hadn’t turned off completely.
“Did you hear me Demilade? I said I want you and the kids to come home.” He said a little louder.
“There is nothing wrong with my hearing Ehi.”
“So why are you acting like there is?”
“Because I am trying to understand where all these is coming from.”
“Where it is coming from? Are you serious? Where else can it be coming from Demilade? Was this your expectation when you agreed to marry me? To live oceans away from your husband? To miss out on his birthdays and have him miss yours and the children’s? To have a sham of a marriage? Is this what you planned for Demi? Is this the life you expected to live when we took our vows?”
She laughed then. A laugh that cut through flesh, muscle, nerve and broke his bones.
“Oh Ehi , there is no need for the dramatic, none at all. Before we got married, we were both seeing others. You because you were greedy. Me because I was afraid of someday waking up to find out you had finally found someone else you preferred over me. That you asked me to marry you was unexpected. Unexpected but welcome. I wanted to get married, maybe not to you but I was tired of all the pressure and I thought why the heck not you. “
She stood up to go to the bar for a refill.
“We got married and I expected to settle down into a loving married relationship. But do we always get what we expect? No Ehi, no we don’t. You sleeping with your colleague, you know the one that had the gold braids? I didn’t expect that to happen less than three months after we said I do but it did.”
She paused to take a sip of the wine before continuing,”The scholarship too was unexpected. But you know what was even more unexpected? That you let me, your new wife of barely eight months, go to another country with no fight, no remorse. Then I unexpectedly found the job of my dreams here. You know what else was unexpected Ehi since we are talking expectations? That when I asked, no when I begged you to move the business to Dublin so we could start life here together with the child growing in me, that you said “No”. And that over the years, you never once demanded that I move back. So forgive me Ehi for being caught unawares with all these your talk of expectations but I learned early in this marriage to kill mine. “
His glass was empty to his surprise. He couldn’t remember downing it all. He stood up and went to the bar to get something stronger. All through the flight, he had rehearsed the conversation he was going to have with his wife and so far nothing was going as expected.
“So what next then Demilade? We go on like this?” He asked after the first shot of scotch.
“Oh Ehi, I don’t know what to say but I will say what I should have told you a while back anyway. I met someone about a year ago. He teaches at Osaro’s school. I never expected to but I fell in love with him, and he with me. I was hoping to let you know on your next visit so we could talk about legal implications.”
“I guess my visit was unexpected too then.”
“Oh Ehi, I am so sorry.”
There was nothing else left to say then and so she drank the rest of her wine while he took the bottle of scotch with him, said good night and went to sleep in different rooms.
Expectations are a lot like assumptions, meaningless to those we have them of unless until we say it out loud.
They spent the remaining eight days of his time in Dublin preparing the kids for a life just a little more devoid of the man they called father and then Ehi went home. To Elsie. To the new unexpected.
Song of the day: Michael W Smith – Awesome God