It is my wedding day and I weep! My emotions are like fickle weather that simultaneously releases the rain of my tears and the faint rays of my wan smile. I am quite jumbled up on the inside and my feelings get worse the closer I get to the altar where my husband-to-be and his best man are waiting. Seeing the brilliance of my Love’s animated smile as he watched me walk down the aisle provokes a flash back that propels me down the tunnels of time to when it all began…
It was five years ago in the University of Ibadan. I had gone to study all night to catch up on one of my dreaded courses but after eight hours of gruel studying, it was like I had been hitting my head on a wall all night long. Irrespective of my efforts, nothing entered my brain; I might as well have slept through the night. The candle had been burned furiously at both ends to no avail. The futility of the whole exercise made me shed a few tears since my semester exams were close and I could not afford to fail.
That was when he walked past, whistling to himself gaily. His own swotting must have yielded results. Looking at me, he stopped in his tracks. Even now, I still do not know what attracted him to me; maybe it was my helpless, miserable look or my puffy face with reddened eyes and a mien of dejection.
“May I help you” He asked?
“No, I am fine” was my reply; I was not used to getting attention from strange men.
He insisted, saying that something was definitely wrong. I finally was moved by his genuine concern and I told him that like a fisherman, I had toiled all night long and caught nothing. He told me not to worry and sat by me to reveal the opaque depths of the course that I could not fathom. Boy! The dude was so smoking hot that I felt he must have written the textbook or must be the son of the professor who did. Within an hour, the arcane mysteries of the subject had been dissected down to piece-of-cake level. I was so grateful.
That was when I took a good look at him and my heart so dropped down to the level of my feet that I swooned. He was handsome and of mixed breed with brown eyes like pools of honey that stuck and sweetened the senses, he was so easy to talk to. Decked in designer wears and redolent of a lovely manly fragrance even at that time of the morning, I knew this guy was swimming up to his eyeballs in money. I was definitely not his type; he was too high up on the social stratus ladder for me. The reality of this truth pained me but I know I am no princess and there was no point in building castles in the air. I mumbled a lack luster thank you and sauntered off but he ran after me.
“That was the most energetic thank you anyone has ever given me but you are so welcome. He sarcastically joked. His voicewashed over me when he spoke like a flowing brook smoothing the rough edges of a boulder. I am Jesse, may I know you”? This was said with a quizzical raise of his left eyebrow which released hundreds of butterflies within me. I wondered whether he knew the kind of effect he had on ladies with his non flirtatious friendly demeanour.
“Anyuli is the name”. Chai! Nsogbu (trouble)! These were the words going on in my mind as he shook my hand.
He gave me a ride back to Queen’s hall where I stayed. His car was a brand new sporty Honda with soft seats and insides that smelt like heaven. I reluctantly alighted but not after we had exchanged phone numbers. I went about my business believing that was the last I was going to hear of him.
To my surprise, Jesse did not let go but kept coming back. I thought he was a bit mad because I could not see what he saw in me. He was “tush”, I was “razz”! He was born and bred in Ikoyi and had traveled the world round (his father is stupendously wealthy). I grew up in a one room “face me I face you” apartment in Bariga where we draw water out of wells and used pit latrines. He sure was a weird one considering he could have had any girl he wanted on campus. The most amazing thing was that he was not the hit and run type so I was sure it was not just about sleeping with me.
I was an ugly duckling, he was a swan. The two do not mix. I kept stringing him along waiting for when his crazed brain was going to come out of its madness.
However, Jesse stuck to me like an egret to a cow and would not let go. I could not help but capitulate the day he finally told me, he loved me. I surrendered all! We became soul mates and he was always there, impacting my life in a huge and positive way.
Before we met, I was the kind of lady who wore a multicoloured top on a multicoloured skirt with a neon orange coloured bag and white shoes. My English was a horror, I said things like “anoose” for anus and “diginity” for dignity with an accent that was heavy enough to break down fortified walls but Jesse did not mind. Instead he kept teaching me, gave me books to read, exposed me to places I had never been, paid for me to attend a finishing school, bought me clothes when he travelled and taught me to match colours like a brilliant artist. He invested in me until I was completely transformed to the point that I knew swans live in ugly ducklings. His patience was unbelievable.
He finished with a first class and was sent to Sokoto to serve. I begged him to redeploy but he remained adamant. My guy was that kind of person who believed in being directed by a divine hand and would not try to make things happen by human efforts. He always told me “Anyum (my joy)”, the hands of flesh shall not prevail. So off to Sokoto he went.
By this time I was a belle and the whole school knew it. Jesse going away left a huge vacuum in my life and I was bored to distraction since we did not talk the way we usually did. This was when “Snaky” started coming on to me. He was the King cobra of the serpentine brotherhood, one of the meanest cults on campus. The brother had hooded eyes that were lifeless, cold and sent chills down one’s spine. Black was his favourite colour and his movements were sinuous and slow in a way that screamed dangerous. However, when he is at his charming best, those hooded eyes fill with light and warmth like the sun parting the curtains of the sky to melt the icy hills in the Antarctic. I never acknowledged him, Jesse constantly warned me about his type, so whenever I saw him coming one way, I took the other.
Snaky would not just take no for an answer, he was so resolute. He showered me with flowers continuously, thrice every single day (they coincided with breakfast, lunch and dinner times) for three months coupled with Simon Elvin cards filled with poems that would make Shakespeare’s sonnets seem banal. Trinkets, clothes, shoes (I kept wondering how he found out my size) phones and recharge cards flowed in a constant stream but I remained as immovable as the mountains. Nevertheless, my resolve started getting chipped off bit by bit by the forceful wind of his persistence. The lyrics he sent as text messages were like keys customized for the doors of my heart. They whispered open sesame to my soul. He was a repertoire of jokes and I began to wonder whether the news going on about him were just unsubstantiated rumours. The brother had my number!
Finally, I agreed to have ice cream with him and that was the beginning. I was swept off my feet on a magic carpet ride. The cloud of dangerous allure around him enshrouded me so much that F.U.N (fighting unholy needs as stated by one of my pals) was not an issue anymore I gave in completely.
Snaky became my lover, I stopped taking Jesse’s calls. Jesse was a great guy but Snaky was more exciting and generally more fun to be around with no inhibitions. His was a bungee jump compared to Jesse’s carousel. With Jesse, I am usually more constrained with his constant preaching and laws (do not do this or that). What a churchy bore he was.
I completely lost my head, we visited all the trendy clubs in the western region of Naija, I got into smoking, alcohol binging, a little bit of drugs and we did every unmentionable thing you could ever think of. Life was a roller coaster ride, fast on the broad lane! My days were groovy and breezy. The last time Jesse called, I blatantly told him to move on, that he was a stick in the mud and too boring for me. I heard him break down on the line but I was a little high that night and past caring.
In the midst of all these, I became careless and got pregnant. That was when my eyes opened to the fact that I had been had. Snaky was incensed by what he called my stupidity. All the romantic feelings left him in a rush like air escaping a ruptured balloon when I said that the baby was not going to be aborted for any reason. I could not bring myself to terminate a baby breathing and growing within me for some inexplicable reason. I told him there was a connection, an incomprehensible attachment I could not severe. Snaky gave me a resounding slap that sounded like a pistol shot, it was like someone had used a battering ram on my face.
“Jesse could never have done that”! I cried spitting out blood with a tooth.
The name caused an eruption within him and he descended on me like an enraged axe shouting “never mention the name of that goody-two-shoe to me forever again”. Apparently, he never really loved me but wanted to get back at my former boyfriend. Unknowing to me, they had this eternal feud thing going on. Snaky hated Jesse and the ground he walked on because my ex had stood in the way of the Serpentine brotherhood before and prevented them from carrying out some of their murderous activities. The King Cobra had sworn revenge which is what made him come at me but he so enjoyed the pleasures and the publicity I brought him that he stayed on.
Looking at me bleeding and broken on the floor with his malevolent hooded eyes, he said with a smile of derision creasing his face “I am the serpent in the Eden of you and that haloed fool”! As his footsteps echoed down the hallway, realization hit me like a thunderous fist that the king of the reptilian brotherhood is evil and could never have the capacity to love.
My father disowned me because of the pregnancy and since there was none of my previous beaus around, cash became an issue. I could not cope with the pregnancy, emotional trauma, financial conundrum and shame, so I had to take some time out. I traveled to my grandma’s village in the depths of Imo state.
Jesse kept calling but my embarrassment and the fact that I knew he was calling to lambast me made me never pick his calls. I kept licking my wounds while the baby within me grew.
One day while shelling egusi seeds for soup, I heard a car stop outside. I was surprised because cars rarely came that way especially one that had Chris Quilala of the Jesus Culture group singing “your love never fails” from its speakers. My curiosity was piqued and nostalgia flooded me. This was one of Jesse’s favourite songs. Before I could get up and waddle to the door, he burst through the raffia mat we used as a curtain and hugged me in my smoke saturated gown like I were oxygen and he was a drowning man. Words of endearment flowed out of him like a rushing river but I pushed him off.
“Anyum, I have missed you” He said.
“Are you mad, Jesse, have you not heard? Can you not see? I am not even fit to be called your friend. Please do not mock me ooo”. “Sweetie, you are the apple of my eye, nothing can separate us even if you run away. We are destined to be together so we are going back to Ibadan”. He actually drove down all those miles to see and take me back. I kept glancing at him as we traveled down to Ibadan wondering whether he was going to start foaming at the mouth or uprooting his hair or something because this guy must be crazy. This kain love na crazy one o.
It was later I got to know that he had confronted Snaky and made a public show of disgracing him and some of his mambas (top henchmen) because of what he did to me. I learnt they were still in the orthopaedic wards of UCH (University College Hospital) receiving treatment for their broken bones. Jesse did the unthinkable, took on the Serpentine Brotherhood, no one ever dares them. I kept remembering what Bebe Winans sang in,” what kind of love places itself in harm’s way”. Furthermore because of his boldness, the cult scattered and some students finally had the guts to point out Snaky and his boys as the culprits of a lot of law breaking deeds that have evaded the hands of the law for a long time. Word going around is that they were going to get life imprisonment and the keys to their cells were going to be thrown away forever.
At this juncture, I broke down. I felt like a filthy rag but he still loved me. He booked me into antenatal clinic in a very good Obs and Gynae hospital and was there for me when I delivered, even though he was supposed to be at work. Furthermore, he engaged the help of a very good nanny so that I could go back to my studies and bought me a small car to help ease the stress of motherhood.
Jesse was so amazing that my father took me back because of him. However, most amazing of all was that he agreed to adopt Snaky’s son without any fuss. Now, that was way too much! After my service year, he proposed and instead of giving him a yes, I kept crying. I had not gotten over my guilt. I was damaged goods yet this guy placed an inestimable value on me. He actually burst his accounts to purchase me. I told him I was not going to wear white on our wedding day since I was tainted but he said he still saw me as pure as fresh driven snow, as innocent and as vestal as the petals of a newly blossomed lily….
…I am still crying as I continue walking towards him. He looks so handsome and regal as he stands at the altar with Emioluwa, his best man. I have not been able to come to terms with this manner of love. “How he loves me! Who am I that he is so mindful of me”? As the ceremony progresses, I still can not hold back the tears that flow unbidden. He even adds a new clause to our vows which says “death would not even do us part”. As he declares “I do” and slips the ring on my finger, I notice the gold band has some deep engravings on it. I twirl it around and read as the tears kept streaming;
I have loved thee with an everlasting love!!!!