‘Congrats bro! Happy married life.’
For a second, I wondered what the blackberry message was about and I was going to ask when another message came through from another contact.
‘Wow! So u finally got married? I am so happy for u!’
That one made me smile, realisation dawning. I looked at my display picture and my smile grew wider.
She stood 5inches shorter than me, the palm of her left hand rested on my chest close to my heart, and her right hand snaked around my waist. She was looking up at me, and the camera lens did well to capture the adoration and love on her upturned face.
I had my arms around her in a protective embrace, my lips turned up in a mischievous smile, and in my eyes there was no mistaking the love therein.
‘Franque! So u went and married without telling anybody? That’s too poor o! Anyway, happy married life.’
‘Guy how far? Everybody dey ask me whether u marry and I nor sabi wetin I go tell dem…’
‘So finally one geh don lock u down abi? Shebi u dey feel like player since? God don catch u!’
My phone kept flashing as message after message came in. The messages surprised me, amused me and some even made me feel bad.
Where do I know all these people from? I thought to myself with a smile as I read through the messages.
‘It all happened suddenly,’ I tried to explain to some, but when one asked ‘Shebi u don give am belle? Na ur way’ I just stopped with the explanations. Instead I simply replied with a ‘Sorry nor vex. Thank you for ur good wishes.’
I flipped through some more wedding pictures, each one drawing a smile from my heart. I had to admit to myself that we did look good together, dressed in matching aso-oke outfits. We stood there, caramel and chocolate under the evening sun, smiling for the cameras; smiling for each other.
I thought back to the ceremonies of that day, and my chest swelled with pride and joy, and a little something I could not name. I played back the entire day’s events in my head and wondered, not for the first time, what had taken me so long.
When I woke up that morning, it was in the arms of another woman. Less than four hours later, I was dressed and dancing my way into marriage.
I arrived amidst drumming and dancing, the hunter come to claim his prize, a gardener after a flower, a man after his heart.
The talking drums talked, the drummers tapping out my life’s story on their gaangan; the Alaga regaled the crowd with stories of my people’s exploits, extolling my virtues as a worthy protector and provider. The music swelled and my feet were made light, dust swirled as I shuffled and danced. I was giddy, and I had not even had a drop of alcohol; joy can do that to you. Sweat ran freely down my face and my purse strings loosened and I gladly paid the tolls as we advanced from the gate, making our way to the courtyard where everyone else was gathered, me and my entourage danced our way there, paying freely without counting the cost.
“Ile ta’lo wa? Whose house are you at?” Her family’s Alaga asked me.
“Ile baami ati maami.” Came my reply.
“Se o be’be fe iyawo?” She asked.
Lying flat on the mat, my stomach, chest and chin to the ground, I pondered on why I was in this prostrate position asking for the hand of a not-so-fair maiden in marriage.
The weight of the wine and grey aso-oke pressed me down. My cap, made from the same woven material, in my hand. To the right and left of me, my friends lay prostrate in solidarity. I was acutely aware of the eyes of onlookers as they pressed hard into my back and my skull. I was not contemplating the question I had been asked by the Alaga. Was I begging for a wife? I already knew the answer.
“Mo be’be fe.”
The rest of the ceremony went by in a whirl of activities. I paid my respects to the bride’s family, sat on their laps as a sign of acceptance that they are now my parents as well. The bride was presented, and she did the same with my parents. I drew the line at carrying her though; I had to save something for the night’s activities where I was most certain to carry my wife. Instead we posed for pictures. I was fined for that, but it did not matter. In my books, the wedding night mattered more than the day’s activities.
On the day I married her, I woke up single albeit in another woman’s arms, and went to bed married and by myself, with only my blanket to keep me warm.
Mateelly had come into town the night before, and had bought the cinnamon loaf from Imperial bakery, Abuja that I like. I had gone over to get it and ended up sleeping over – there was a fair bit of catching up to do.
Back home, I went through my phone messages to find Theo, another friend of mine, was about to have a meltdown.
‘I am getting so many cancellations, I just want to cry.’
She had put together an event to showcase Nigerian weddings and, after weeks of planning and preparation, participants were cancelling last-minute. One of the grooms had just cancelled on her.
‘How tall is he?’ I asked, my brain already racing ahead of our conversation, my body moving to catch up as I opened and slammed drawers, tossing vest, underwear and socks into my backpack.
‘About your height and build,’ she said.
The phone set aside for a moment, I hopped out of my jeans and straight into another pair. I changed my shirt, checked that my clipper was still in the backpack, and then I made my way out of the house.
I got to the venue on the island and got introduced to my ‘wife’.
Fortunately, the wife was Gator, a friend I have known over ten years, so it was easy to get into character.
Our part played, we danced off the stage for the next set of players to showcase the Igbo marriage rites.
The event went really well, and we all agreed it was fun helping out.
The next day, I put up a picture as my blackberry profile picture, with the intention of rotating pictures from the event.
I could not have anticipated the deluge of messages I was going to get.
Within ten minutes of putting up the first picture, seven of my contacts had changed their profile pictures with congratulatory messages to match!
I had always suspected people wanted to see me married, I just did not realise how many wanted to marry me off.
‘Wait Franque, did u really get married? I am not being nosy or anything like that, I just want to know if u got married.’
‘Atink say u swear juju say u nor go marry? God don catch u! Now Lagos girls dem go rest.’
PS: Slowly but surely, we have come to the end of another year and I thank God.
For next year, I have no resolutions. I just want to be a better person, be a happier person, and retain the ability to be thankful come what may.
That there is my prayer for all of you too.
Happy New Year!