Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Our Family Wedding: Part III

The Best Man

Weddings Weddings Weddings.

The air is steaming again with the sweet aroma of desperate women. I do not know what it is about happy weddings that creates sad, lonely, ready-for-anything women. They are everywhere, and they are always trying to prove something. Its funny that by June every year you can already spot the serial wedding-hounds. Like Daisy - Lord bless those endless legs - and her exotic frienemy, Jummai. It would be awesome to get them together in one room. That would be a party. And then there were the older women who prowled weddings looking for fresh blood to make them feel young again. Those were the ones who let loose with such abandon that would make their younger competition blush. Almost everything I know, all the tricks that have women coming back to beg for more, I learned from an older woman.

Speaking of older women, it is taking a lot of restraint not to wink at The Mother of The Bride as she sits over there primly, doing her darnedest not to look at me. But her respectable attire does not fool me one bit. There is a feisty nymph inside those respectable motherly clothes. But this is not the time or place; and whether or not I get a repeat performance from her, something inside me knows that I will get her alone in a room again and watch those eyes grow dark with wanting me. Not that I really want to, but I never do what I should do. For now, I put my lecherous thoughts aside and turn my attention with the rest of the guests as they rise up to welcome the Bride.

The glowing, blushing bride.
My girl.

I have known her since high school when she was a sassy little know-it-all, and many years later I still feel that intense sense of protectiveness towards her. Even now, I want to snarl at every man in the chapel and growl

"Mine. She's Mine"

The same way I almost did when my best friend proudly announced to me that he was going to make her his. But I held back, I reasoned that he could only be taunting me into admitting what he had hinted at all these years - that I was in love with her. Besides, she was not remotely his type, and everyone knew he was still disgustingly in love with the ex-girlfriend who dumped him and fled to Europe. Wonder what happened to her... It was a huge shock to me when she shyly came to me and told me that she had decided to date him. "He's sooooo perfect," she had crooned, all smiles, as she gushed excitedly about him. I could not believe my ears, I had never imagined that someone like her could be remotely interested in someone like him and I truly regretted introducing them...

She had just graduated from college and had come for a two week visit, to relax and catch up. I think deep down I was hoping that now that she was all grown up, something would blossom between us. Unfortunately, my best friend had shown up uninvited to talk about his runaway girlfriend and see if I had any new information about her. It was a funny story really: he swore to everyone that he had done nothing wrong and that he was in love with her, but her family protected her from him like he was the devil. After many weeks, the subject was tiring and I just wanted him gone. So I did the selfish thing and asked her to take him to a local bar while I finished up the imaginary work I brought home from work.  I knew she would not be impressed with him and would find an excuse to get rid of him soon enough. But something must have happened that night because a complete change came over him and he started to pursue her ardently... and now, in less than a year, they are getting married... and I am still surprised by it all.

I look at her smiling and glowing as she floats down the aisle and I literally stop breathing. It's no secret by now that I am in love with her. I have always loved her. But when someone has so much power over you, you do everything you can not to fall into their hands. Because then they can really hurt you. So the more I loved her the more distance I put between us. And now it is too late; because how do I say to the only person I have ever loved "I love you, but I slept with your mother six months ago, because I wanted you....." I feel the sting of tears as I realize I am losing her forever and I look away. The mistake I make is looking sideways at my best friend...

The look in his eyes as he watches her coming down the aisle is cold, hateful. If I did not know him I would say he had the look of a killer, and even though he is not looking at me I shiver a little.

"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God, and in the face of these witnesses, to join this Man and this Woman together..."

Who is this man?

I have known him very well for years. And even when he has been away in school or taking care of family business we have managed to stay in touch. And I owe him my life: after my parents died and I had no one, his family took me in as one of them. They are responsible for my education, my comfortable life, everything. But they have always had their secrets. And as I look at her over his shoulder I feel the cold hands of fear squeezing me so hard that I can hardly breathe. I cannot, will not, let her marry this cold stranger...

"Now, if anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace..."

I open my mouth to speak, and before the words are formed I hear them whispered and echoed throughout the chapel "I DO"

No one is as surprised as I am...

Coming soon: Our Family Wedding IV (Mother of the Bride)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our Family Wedding: Part II

Once upon a time I had given up hope that good things could happen to me.
Really good things.

But as the doors of the Chapel open up to let in the radiant sun and her, I realize that every good thing I want is right there at the end of the petal-covered aisle, in a dreamy white dress that made me think of a field of flowers, a hammock swaying lightly in the breeze, a lazy summer day in a village in France. She is the girl of my dreams, my treasure, my answer, my whole world. I watch her face light up as she walks confidently into the chapel, a princess claiming her kingdom, and I feel my heart quicken. It is finally happening. This woman with her beautiful mind and gorgeous body and infectious smile is about to become mine. That beautiful smile slips off her lips for a second, I follow her gaze to the middle of the room, and I see him. He is a nobody, someone she cheated with earlier on in our relationship. I knew the entire time, and it was over almost before it started.

It is the only time she has ever cheated. I make sure.

I have never had to confront her with the knowledge, but it is good to know that I know everything about her, all her secrets, just the way it should be. I should have him escorted out after the ceremony however, just to further mark my territory. I dismiss him and turn my attention back to her. She really is beautiful, and I knew from that first day I met her that I would do anything I could to be here at the end of this aisle. And here we are. It feels like everything in my life is finally going to be alright. She steps up beside me smelling of vanilla and daisies and she holds my hand as we face the priest.

The priest smiles at us and pats our shoulders. I cringe inwardly. I do not like priests....

"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God, and in the face of these witnesses, to join this Man and this Woman together in holy matrimony; which is honorable, instituted of God..."

God. Yeah right.
For me there has only been one reason ever to get married.
God has nothing to do with it. Or maybe he does.
Meeting her when I did was definitely a miracle.
My best friend had talked about his cute, spoilt little rich princess friend forever. At first I thought he had a thing for her, he could never shut up about all the things she did while they were in high school, and all the time she was in her private exclusive college in a far away part of the world. But he insisted over and over that she was not his type, and was too quick to shove us together that first day at his apartment. Just the miracle I needed...

No one here knows that I am the Black Sheep of my family. The Fallen Heir. The disgraced son. Only my mother's pleading and my father's pride have prevented it from becoming a national scandal. I can just picture the headlines: "Oil Magnate's Son disowned and banished from Family Business""Family Secrets: What Really Happened Abroad"
Luckily, I have been spared the public humiliation. But as much as we present a united front to the world, my father has ensured that I will have to depend on him for as long as he lived or face the world with all that I have done, with no hope of ever having the kind of money I am accustomed to. The money that is my birthright. Oh how I hate the sanctimonious bastard!! 

Sure I made some mistakes; I got caught up, I did some dangerous things. That's what young men do. The drugs are only for fun, an escape to free my head of the tediousness of too many years of school. At first the arrests were minor, overnight. A bar fight here, a drunken misdemeanor there. A warning phone call from the old man, a tearful, pleading visit from mother dearest. Always, the news was covered up quickly, the records quietly buried. Until that one night. I still swear that he was alive when I left him on the sidewalk, bloody and whimpering like a fool. But the cops showed up later at my condo with warrants and handcuffs: Everyone had heard me threaten to kill him. Everyone saw me beat the crap out of him. No one saw him move after I left. ManslaughterI got 7 years because my father got the best lawyers money could buy, and served 5 years for being the best behaved inmate they ever saw. But it was too late. He had cut me off, without him I was as good as a pauper. No education, living under his roof and taking scraps from his lofty table, knowing that I would never touch a dime of his money. 

So I had to marry a princess, someone with an empire waiting to be taken over. The first few did not work out. They always ran away, they said I was too angry, too violent. And then my true love walked into my life. The first of two daughters of one of the few men whose wealth could rival my father's. He would need a capable son-in-law, and I vowed that I would be that man. It was not hard to explain away my lack of a degree or my absence from the face of the earth for 5 years, our family has holdings in many corners of the world and an education is second only to wealth in our world. My family would never reveal their secret, and the truth was too far-fetched for anyone who wasn't looking to imagine... It was a whirlwind romance, but who could blame us? I am a man in love - who wouldn't love their meal ticket? She is smitten. Her sappy parents are happy. My family is relieved and too eager to help me at my game. Everybody wins... 

"Now, if anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace..."

I scoff inside. Who would dare mess with me now....? Until I hear the words, barely above a whisper, "I DO" I turn around with a murderous glare in my eyes...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our Family Wedding: Part I

Something Blue is really really tight...

I wiggle a little as the elastic band of my pale blue garter digs into the tender flesh of my left thigh. Serves me right for allowing my jealous younger sister order my wedding lingerie; she must have picked a small size on purpose. Now I am really looking forward to the garter-toss, not just because of the magic of having my future husband touch me intimately - in front of everyone we know. That is the part of the ceremony I have looked forward to since we agreed not to be intimate a whole month before the wedding.

But first, I have to get married.

The string quartet strikes the first chords of the wedding march.
There's a smile and a thumbs up from the wedding planner.
Daddy smiles proudly as he kisses my forehead and pulls the tulle veil over my eyes.
And we glide towards the aisle, just like we practiced.

Until we step into the doorway of the chapel hall and my eyes stop on him, standing there looking as irresistible as the first day I saw him. The music in my head screeches to a clanging halt. I feel like I have tripped over my dress but a glance at the guests show nothing is amiss. "How DARE he show up at my wedding?!" The smirk on his face tells me he knows I am uncomfortable, and he is fine with it. I turn my nose up inwardly and continue gliding. Our affair only lasted a few nights, a long long time ago, and unless he has pictures, I will be denying any claims he ever makes. Since then, I have had bigger problems to worry about.

I smile at everyone, but I avoid making eye contact with those on the groom's side of the aisle.
Everyone is smiling. Except Aunt Velda.
I wish Aunt Velda would smile one day in her life, sigh.
Even her ever-sour and disapproving face cannot dampen my mood today.
I see some people dab at tears in their eyes, so sweet.
Even the Best Man seems to have tears sparkling right there on his long lashes.
I look away from him quickly.
The flower arrangements look absolutely gorgeous, Mother sure deserves a medal.
Everything looks wonderful. Everyone looks wonderful.
Finally, when I cannot take it anymore, I look at Him.
My Love. The Man of All My Dreams.
He looks so handsome. And ecstatic, and only slightly terrified.

As I step beside him I take his hand and squeeze reassuringly, and we face the priest.

"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today...." 

The words take me back to another wedding, only six months ago... I was standing in the bridal train for one of my best friends when I started to feel like I would faint, right there on the marble floors of Our Lady of Fatima. Nausea rolled over me in waves. I was so frightened that it took a minute to realize what was happening. Morning Sickness. Only it was 3pm on a sunny afternoon in front of hundreds of guests at a huge society wedding. I concentrated with all my strength to hold my smile in place and not give in to the urge to run out of the hall and find the nearest restroom. Inside I was shaking. A wedding was not the place to do anything without getting everyone's attention. I looked around at all my friends in the hall and realized I could not tell anyone what was happening to me, not with the high stakes involved. Good thing my fiancée was away on a business trip. I survived the long wedding ceremony and attempted to sneak into the bathroom two times during the exhausting reception ceremony to empty my already empty stomach. Hours later, I escaped with wedding-planning excuses and drove to a pharmacy far out of town to purchase as many different brands of home pregnancy tests as I could find. Later that night, I sat on the bathroom floor shaking my head in disbelief as all six of them told me what I had known and ignored for weeks:


Possibly pregnant for my fiancée, or the one man he feared and hated the most, even though they were closely related. It was a chance I could not take, not now that I had found The One. So I did the only reasonable thing: I took an unplanned shopping trip alone, and I got rid of it. Quietly. I never told another soul. No one would ever know now...

"If anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace..."

I smiled nervously at my husband-to be and caressed my now-empty womb softly as I congratulated myself again on averting a disaster... Until someone broke the silence... "I DO"

Coming soon: Our Family Wedding: Part II (Groom)

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Life in the SS Lane

No holiday is as perfect as the ones where you get to enjoy Grandma's pampering instead of Mummy's scolding for a whole week... and it is even better when Mummy goes away and Grandma comes to visit. Because then, you get the luxury of your cushy bed, all your video games, the PC for Solitaire (my obsession then) and all your favorite food and the tender loving care of your favorite Granny.

It started out a perfect day like that. I was a happy 7-year old bossing her siblings around and doing nothing meaningful. I remember I was by the large living room windows overlooking our front gardens when I felt a dull excruciating ache from my right knee down to my toes. I can only attempt to explain it to you: imagine that your bones are thick pipes filled with a creamy yellowish liquid (they actually are, kinda, that's your bone marrow). Now imagine that the creamy liquid starts to heat up, never really getting hot, and that the heat moves up and down in waves through your pipes. Because of the heat, the pipes get hot too, from the inside, (I imagine they start to glow an ugly red color too) and as the heat moves in waves the pipes expand and contract too, up and down in a wave motion, but only slightly, just enough to almost kill you...

That was what I experienced. Within an hour, all my limbs were on fire. I was massaged, overdosed with painkillers and prayed on like never before. As I lay on my sweat-drenched bed writhing and whimpering helplessly I saw tears on the faces of my grandmother, my 5-year old sister, my 2-year old brother and the househelp. There were no cellphones when I was 7, mummy would not be calling until later in the evening, and daddy was away at a construction site somewhere, out of reach.

"Maybe we should call Yvonne and Tyrone's mummy" my sister chimed in, rubbing my thighs with her little hands.

My grandmother ignored her suggestion with a sigh. What could our mum's best friend do that we hadn't done? By the time my mum called later that evening, I could only moan weakly into the phone. She started to cry, and promised she would be on her way as soon as it was dawn in Kaduna. The rest of the day was a blur: Grandma prayed for hours against spiritual attacks, but after a while she broke down, admitting that she was afraid and we needed some help. At 10pm she carried me on her back and walked the distance to the Teaching Hospital a few miles from our house, praying and crying and walking. Needless to say, there wasn't much help the hospital could give us. Nurses were tired and irritable at that time of the night, doctors were nowhere to be found. A nice matron offered my grandmother some sleeping pills and her cot for us to sleep. As I fell asleep I heard her whisper to my grandmother.... "Crisis le leyi o, mummy. Aromol'egun. Ko si ogun fun iru e" (This is what they call a Crisis. Rheumatism. It has no cure.)

Before that day I had no idea I was born with the dreaded SS genotype...

I lived like this for about 5 years, the pains came, I took Ibruprofen and a mixture of other drugs and cried myself to sleep until they went away just as suddenly as they came. Sometimes they lasted a few hours, sometimes a few days. Other times it was not as intense as that first day, just a dull ache that prevented me from running around as much as I wanted to or smiling as much as I used to.

There really is nothing to make it better. Hot and Cold compresses did not do much, massages really did not help, pastors prayed, my diet was changed, I used about 9 different pills everyday to keep my blood count up. But it was a part of me, this curse.

But the story gets better. One day I had to do a routine blood test for school. The doctors already knew what to expect, but when my lab results came back as genotype: AS everyone was confused. They took so much more blood from me, ran so many more tests, but the Sickle Cells were nowhere to be found. I haven't had those pains since then. Sometimes there's a twinge of something, but I'm starting to think it is just a figment of my imagination. I thank God every day for this miracle, my wonderful, inexplicable miracle. Till date, apart from that one night in the Matron's room I have never spent a day in a hospital bed, never needed a transfusion of blood or water, and I haven't been sick more than once a year, if even. But I never take it for granted.

That is the story of Me...

My friend Franque inspired this post with this article today, read here. Even though my family was spared the pain of having children who suffer from the horrible effects of the SS genotype, we should all be aware of the horrible nightmare that it is in our society. So many people die from it, and so many more suffer all their lives from the terrible symptoms that come with it. My parents admit now that getting married knowing the chances they were taking was a terrible idea. I suffered for their choice. Marriage is hard enough. LIFE itself is hard enough. All that 'Love' evaporates when life gets real and you have a child whose suffering you know could have been prevented. And no amount of happiness now is worth that life of pain... Think about it.