“For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.”John Greenleaf Whittier
The muscles rippled like pythons in a coital dance as her arms musically pounded the soft white mass of yam “fufu” in the black womb of the mortar. The rain had earlier quenched the flames of the sun, and dusk now came tiptoeing into the village. Suddenly, with a swift flick of a magician’s sleight of hand, the gathering gloom dropped its cloak on the cage of the world and darkness descended rapidly and reigned supreme. The night here is like the rains, heavy and brooding compared to the city’s, so thick you can chop through it with an axe.
When I was younger, it was usually a scary experience traveling down from “Eko” because of the blanketing shadows and all those buzzing flies. The most poignant experience was when I was six and had to wake up to make urine. I felt the dark, weighing down on me, sitting on my chest, choking me; it was like being suffocated in a cold, thick, black, inky soup. As I grew older it dawned on me that it was because of the endless forest of trees which filter the golden grains of the sun unlike the metropolis I live where the murderous roads of civilization had laid claim to the verdant souls of their woody relatives.
From that spell of dusk, emerged the magic of merriment. In the black sea above, a canopy of stars twinkled and winked like mischievous diamonds, heavenly fireflies that made the whole evening fairy-like and ethereal. The voice of the “Oriental Brothers” sweetly rent the cool air, while nature’s band lent its voices to the whole show. The crickets chirped and the birds chirruped in combination with the occasional hoot from a lonesome owl as the rhythmic up and down metronome of the pestle generated the percussion for the whole delightful sequence.
The only blemish to the whole scenario was the generator groaning and coughing in the distance like an octogenarian tuberculosis patient. As I watched my mother-in-law perform her joyful task, cascading rivulets of sweat joined to form a delta coursing down the black rock of her skin, my mouth watered with the anticipation of the coming meal. The buzz of the activities of in-laws celebrating me filled the atmosphere. The constant motion generated enough static to make me glow inside like a hundred watt bulb. I had never felt so loved.
From the thatched mud kitchen, the aroma of the “Ofe Owerri” soup bubbling and gurgling like a happy brook on the coal flames wafted into my nostrils. Right now I could shame Pavlov’s dogs. But rescue came even sooner than expected as the food was served in black earthen-ware by Ugo my youngest sister in-law. She is the one that cannot stand my guts because of the belief that I was around to deprive her of a huge chunk of her brother’s love and cash. She hissed like a vicious serpent as she dumped the food before me (it must have been at her mother’s instruction, she doesn’t usually accord me such honour). Mesmerized by the feast, I pretended I didn’t notice her discourtesy as I performed ritualistic ablution of my hands. The chiaroscuro effect of the snow-white pounded yam in the black clay bowl combined with the palm oil red colour of the soup that had every kind of condiment swimming in it produced a masterpiece that even Picasso would have labored to create.
The steam from both plates was an offering to the altar of my olfactory senses. I tucked in and it was as though a pleasurable Molotov’s cocktail exploded on my buds. The whole sequence of it was unlearned art. With bare fingers, I cut a piece of yam from its parent body and molded it into a smooth ball until I was satisfied with its shape and texture. The lump was subsequently submerged in the pond of soup and transported into my mouth, each accompanied by either a piece of smoked fish or meat. The meat was so soft that it seemed to melt in the mouth. Filled with the rush of elation a lioness feels as it gorges itself on fresh kill, I engaged it like an enemy; strip upon strip. There was a surfeit of beef. Not surprising since I was being hosted by a butcher’s son. The pepper spicing was just enough to make my taste buds march in cadence to the commanding tone of its sharp flavour. Each bud was an instrument of the orchestra making celestial symphony in my buccal cavity, local spices had never conducted better. It was the movement down my gullet that was most inexplicable, a journey so smooth that it became indescribable. I could feel my stomach stretching with orgasmic pleasure as each ball landed without fuss.
Frothing at the edges of its vessel, was the palm wine that had been left untouched and unnoticed for so long. Midway into my meal, I decided to relieve its indignation and took a sip like a connoisseur tasting new wine. The drink left a foamy mustache on my lips as the drink swirled in my mouth and streamed down to join the celebration in my innards. Believe me; the Olympians never tasted anything sweeter.
Everything sang and thrummed around me. A guitar in the hands of this sumptuous fare, every string of my being was plucked until every fiber of my soul said yes. As Deberre looked into my eyes, he saw that he had hooked and reeled me in like I was hapless catfish.
From the inception of our fortuitous rendezvous, food had always been in the vanguard. The first time we met was at a naming ceremony. I noticed he kept gazing in my direction with looks of appraisal but I completely ignored him. He was too short for my liking and clothed with all kinds of name dropping adornments. The brother was obviously loaded! Not that I gave a hoot anyway, at the risk of sounding immodest, I was a stunner. Tall with enough curves to make Venus de Milo envious and skin that shone like polished ebony, I had made a lot of men eat their hearts out, except for Theo, my “Nkem”. I knew the stranger was dazzled but I could not care less. I was here to enjoy myself as usual. Life was about living! Unfortunately the heaps of food turned out inedible and I happened to be ravenous. He overhead me complaining to my pals and offered to take us somewhere we could eat a superb meal to our heart’s content. Ravenous hunger and my being a gourmet of some sort made me agree and he drove us to a beach-side restaurant.
The place had class coupled with beautiful scenery. The cool air caressed my tresses and kissed the heat away from my face. The surf could be seen in the distance rollicking and frolicking with the sands. It was a haven from the roasting heat of Eko Metropolis. I began to thaw a bit; it seemed the guy also had some finesse and a taste for the finer things of life. The Mister then ordered and that was what unraveled me and melted the last vestiges of my resistance. The pieces of meat were very well fried. Crowned with rings of onions, with red and yellow slices of chilli sandwiched between, they were a bewitching sight.
Needless to say I was enchanted by the spell of this man who knew what my buds wanted. Brilliant devil that he was, the chops he ordered were matched with a bottle of stout so cold that it perspired in its silicon vessel, so black it seemed like liquefied opal. As I quaffed the drink, the question that blazed in my mind was how something so chilled could evoke such glowing warmth. Of course, it wasn’t amazing to learn that I forgot my fiance in a hurry. All thoughts of him were banished beyond the reach of my consciousness.
I liked the new guy’s style; Theo was wonderful and romantic but rather old fashioned with a job that did not pay much. Beside the Courvoisier L’Esprit Cognac of Mr. Flashy, he was like Burukutu (local beer made from guinea corn). I was the kind of sister that needed a lot of glitter and gold in her tanks to run as smoothly as a Ferrari.
That was the only blur that had clouded the silver lining of my boyfriend and I for the last seven years but not anymore. It was going to be all sunny from here on. I fell out of and in love in record time.In a short while the newbie’s marriage offer was accepted. Someone said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach likewise the road to this woman’s……
To be continued……………
© 2013 Ekpo Ezechinyere