25th August 2012.
This was just another reason why weddings would ever remain a censured fixture in Jide’s life. He swore he would never be caught dead in another wedding again. Alex had just called from Abuja where he and Susan, his new bride would be honeymooning for the next one week to inform him that they had just checked into a hotel in Maitama and were settling in nicely. Jide’s active participation in Alex’s wedding was an oddity, an exception to the rule just like his sister’s had been five months ago. As a principle, he avoided weddings like a plague and he would have side-stepped this one too if the circumstances were any different. He had disregarded four wedding invitations from other friends this year alone. There were two more outstanding invitations to ignore before the year wound out and his decision on these two was already cast in stone. He had a fool-proof alibi ready for occasions like this. But sadly his anti-marriage stance couldn’t stand up to his loyalty and the lifetime of friendship and brotherhood he shared with Alex. They hadn’t even discussed it; it was a foregone conclusion that needed not be broached. This was as of yet the ultimate height of double-facedness Jide had been embroiled in throughout his thirty years of living. Even his sister, Bukky’s wedding had given him room to wiggle but Alex’s case was air tight. He was at the very eye of the storm.
In spite of his gripes with the whole marriage hassle, he had managed fairly well but in truth there was nothing natural about filling the commodious shoe as Alex’s best man. The past two months had been a busy one for Jide; juggling his tedious workloads at the bank, compounded by the preparation toward the last phase of his ICAN exam and the wedding planning- those endless stream of tuxedo fittings, aso-ebi unionism, bachelor party and all the works. It was an exhausting experience. Alex had wanted a simple wedding at first, Susan wanted a grand one. At the end it was a grand wedding Susan got.
Jide had whined to Alex ceaselessly in the weeks leading up to this day.
“Even the simplest of these formal consummations in the name of marriage isn’t worth the trouble,” he’d said on one occasion.
“That is what we want.” had been Alex’s retort. The force of Alex’s resolve had surprised Jide. Eventually he had to swallow the bitter pill and go with the flow.
He’d been involved in two of these unnecessary showings this year; his sister’s wedding in March and then this one. What he found most troubling was the endemic mode in which his friends were jumping on the marriage wagon these days. Alex’s wedding was the final blow.
He wondered why people were so fixated on this thing called marriage. Why is companionship not enough?
As these thoughts roamed through Jide’s mind, he watched Mimi, his live-in girlfriend of three years turn on her side on the king size bed reading a book by one of those delusional romance writers. They hadn’t spoken much since they came back from the wedding some two hours ago which was rather strange and ominous. It felt like eternity. He knew this was her reaction to the upheavals they’ve been having in their relationship since Bukky’s wedding in March. She was like an active volcano about to erupt, just simmering beneath the calm surface. The whole I-do hassle had begun to give Mimi the marriage itch, the one thing he couldn’t give and this was beginning to take its toll on their relationship. He hated these fights; he hated it when she was like this. If he could he would acquiesce to her bidding but he could not. His aversion toward marriage was far too deeply rooted. Why ruin a good thing in the name of conformity. Why couldn’t they just live in the moment instead of searching for some illusory bliss in marriage? She was his everything. He couldn’t think of life without her, as clichéd as that sounded. No woman measured up to her. No woman will ever do.
One thousand and twenty four days and today was the record. An astonishing record of his fidelity! He’d not known any other woman sexually. That was a tall feat for him, he a one-time philanderer who once hopped from one girl to the other frittering the seed of his virility like a ripe pollen. His appetite for women was like the quest for the holy grail- unending and forever elusive but that was all in the past now. Mimi was his elixir, the wholesome spice that precluded the varieties and put paid to his carnal quests. She was his miracle, his cure.
How in God’s name did I get so lucky? He thought to himself.
Right from the day the news of Alex and Susan’s engagement broke out to the planning and preparations that led to the wedding proper, the tension had been building like a heap of sand, unstable in the wind. There had been little sparks, snide remarks, cursory slurs and little outrages between them but nothing frontal or earth shattering. They’d learnt to dance around the flames; two years of living together had taught them that. But tonight it appeared like the heaven was about to collapse.
The wedding was a success. Jide was glad it was all behind him now. He was emotionally exhausted. It was a lot of work putting up a happy front when all the while he was seething inwardly with disapproval. He’d worn a superficial mask throughout the ceremony, chatting amiably with guests, smiling and laughing at the dry jokes of the Master of Ceremony. Even his toast at the reception was uncharacteristically effusive; a persona he had reserved for his poetry. He almost sneered during the exchange of vows in Church. He had a vision of his hand rising above his head as the wizened cleric read the marriage Miranda.
Anybody who is opposed to the union between these two: Alex Adebowale Akinshiyan and Susan Ebelechukwu Okoh – should speak out now or forever remain silent.
It took the sheer strength of his will to keep his hand down. In fact the whole thing was a huge tussle of willpower. Alex was a good sport throughout, cheering and teasing him the whole time. Only Alex and Mimi saw through the genial charade. More than once, Alex had even reminded him to wear a smile.
It was sad enough that his traditional role as the best man was crucial to the success of the wedding. It was awkward still that his girlfriend of three years, Mimi was the one member of the bridal train who kept slipping into the Chief bridesmaid’s role like it was her fate to be by his side.
And guess who had to catch the damn bouquet at the reception? Yeah it just had to be her again, like some unforeseen forces were bent on rubbing Alex’s wedding on her face and by extension making his night a miserable one. And from all indications, they were succeeding. Those phantom spirits, succeeding in making his angel turn her back against him on this cold night.
She hadn’t even strove for the bouquet though. In fact she was sitting by herself massaging her feet to ease the pain from the dangerous stiletto she had bought for the occasion- but which he was now pretty sure would never see the light of day again- when the bouquet flew past the bevy of single ladies clamoring for the damn thing and fell flat at her bare feet.
“Jide who!” the exuberant Alex had screamed, only for the guys to join in, chanting his name riotously like some enfante terribles in a playhouse.
Mimi’s phone buzzed on the night stand and broke into his thought. She reluctantly closed the book she’d been reading, disabled the alarm sound and flicked off the hanging switch on her side of the bed. They both lay on the bed in silence, each one with his or her thought. The tension in the room was a dead weight. The day wore on infinitely longer than was possible. Things appeared to be moving in slow motion as the day drew to a close. Sleep was definitely slow in coming. It felt like it had been thirty hours since that morning. Jide’s body ached from the grueling exertion of the day. He had a sense of foreboding that the night lay longer still. It didn’t help that sleep had connived with Mimi to push him to the brink of his endurance. Her scant negligee revealed the contours of her body through the flimsy bodice. She had called it her sexy armor the day she first wore it.
“A gift for you,” she’d added lewdly that day.
”How can it ever be a gift for me when you have it on?” Jide had argued, a wicked smile on his face.
“Oh it’s a gift for you alright. Feel it.” She had led his hands to her waist and watched as his hands caressed her body through the slippery satin. It had felt so good at the time and the scanty thing had proven quite a worthy accessory for the foreplay.
Mimi lay on the other side of the bed now. Her back was turned against him. A sea of space lay between them. She was within arm’s length but she might just as well be on the other side of the continent as far between as Nigeria is from the United States. The air around them was heavy with tension. He wasn’t sure if it was safe to cross to her side .He was pretty certain of what befell Pharaoh’s legion in the middle of the Red Sea. He would hate to be caught in that situation. The stiffness in his groin was beginning to spread an unholy heat around his body. Mohammed, he thought would just have to go over to this impassive mountain.
“Mimi baby,” he cooed seductively into her ears. He was rebuffed by her silence. He snuggled closer to her side of the bed, a little beyond the embankment of pillows she had coyly mounted to fence herself in like the Great Wall of friggin’ Communist China.
“What is the matter?” he asked the forbidden question. An ice breaker. She didn’t even stir.
“Come on Mi,” he climbed over the cushion ridge, the ever dogged Mongolian intruder.
The scent of her body teased his senses to no end. He flung the pillows aside and set his head against the nape of her neck. Her smooth skin felt like velvet to the touch. Some primal energy from his core whooshed through him like a dry sirooco wind through the Sahara. His throats suddenly felt dry, the rivulet of his salivary gland dammed. An urgent desire arose in him to draw from the well of her mouth for fluid like a child’s innate craving for her mother’s nipple. He felt the heat from different part of his body assembling like pockets of fire in that part of his brain responsible for pleasure.
Rapture, cloud nine. An image of heaven flashed before his mind.
Oh God. Heaven is here!
The negligee was getting in the way. The damn sexy armor! Who needs a sexy robe when sex is in the air? What had sounded like a misnomer then in a moment of lucidity, made clear meaning in the sizzling heat of the moment. An armor, the negligee had proven to be indeed! Mimi didn’t make it any easier; she just lay there like a log.
Suddenly he felt her tense under his wild groping. This realization was so sudden; it hit him like a blow. She had been remarkably dormant in this duel tangling while he’d been wantonly lost in his own desire to notice. His ardor for sex was momentarily doused. She made no movement and if she felt the fuzzy warmth of his breath and kisses on her body, she did not react. He knew then that it was going to be a tough night. He could sense her eyes closed but he knew she watched his every move like a hawk. She was out to torture him. He had to thread this minefield carefully.
This is enemy zone.
One good thing though was that she had not resisted him outrightly. That has to count for something, he rationalized.
I can do this.
He marshaled his thoughts back into tripping her with his charm.
“How is this for a perfect number”, he cleared his throat to pick the right key for a Boyz II Men’s tune she loved.
“I’ll make love to you like you want me to …” he sang into her ears.
If she didn’t want to be made love to, this was her chance to voice out. Not a word. Her eyes were still closed, but her breath had taken an uneven rhythm.
A loose cannon.
“Mimi I love you.” he said.
That did it.
Like a wild cat, she flew out of bed knocking him off at the chin. It was an inadvertent motion but could have been done deliberately for the fury that glowed on her face. He reeled away in pain. There was a moment of hesitation, like she was considering what to do with him.
Pound him harder or nurse his bruised ego and patch his lips with kisses.
Jide seized on the moment of hesitation and managed his sorry face act.
“You do?” she sneered at him.
“Oh baby, a million times over. With hell’s fury blazing hot and the chill of winter biting hard”, he dug into his poetic reserve. His jaw throbbed in pain.
Anything to get him some- some tonight.
“I’m not doing hell or high water with you tonight”, she replied defiantly.
“You heard me. No hell or high water! No loving you till you are dead and all dust. I’m having none of it. I just saw the most beautiful expression of that saying today and it was done in full glare of family and friends. This is nothing close to it,” she waived her hands frantically, “I’m tired of this”.
“What do you want from me?” he countered, visibly hurt.
“Do the right thing Jide. Put a ring on it, Seal this union and let’s do away with the child’s play”.
“Child’s play?” he said incredulously, “I can’t believe you just said that. Do I have to tell you again how much I love you?”
“No, you’ve told me that enough. It’s time to make it official.”
“Don’t I make you happy?”
“You make me happy Jide more than anything in this world. I can’t imagine my life without you.” She was sniffling now.
“Then why are you not okay with what we have?”
“What we have amounts to nothing if we don’t put a seal on it. I need to be assured that you will always be there for me in sickness and in health till death do us part.”
“And I promise you today Mimi like I have told you a million times before. I swear by it.”
“That won’t do”, she snapped. “Didn’t you feel any stirring at all today? Marriage doesn’t undermine love. It is an expression of love. See how beautiful today was. Do you honestly think anything will change between Alex and Susan because they got married?”
“My point exactly, a rose by any other name would smell -”
“Keep Shakespeare away from this okay!” Mimi’s voice rose a pitch higher. “A rose by any other name- and you think companionship as you call it is a substitute for marriage?” Her eyes glowed angrily in the dark.
“But it is just a name. Why complicate things?”
“Complicate? I actually think it is a very simple thing.”
Jide saw that the argument was going nowhere
“Is this about the bouquet?” he asked feigning ignorance.
“It is about everything. It is about doing the right thing. There is the right thing you know. This is about making it perfect, hell or high water perfect! Fulfilling all righteousness Jide. It is called commitment and the proof of that promise is what we witnessed today.”
“Oh here we go again “, Jide said furious, horny and hopeless.
“What we have is nothing if you can’t make good of it. Nothing!” she picked up a pillow from the bed and made to leave.
“Baby I need you tonight” Jide said desperately.
“You can have the bed to yourself. I’ll sleep on the sofa “. She stormed out of the room, her fanny seductively waving him goodbye as she strode off.
“Damn it!” He banged his fist against the night stand sending the bed lamp flying off the stand.
And how did it get so bad that he was losing Mimi for a companion? He recounted that Tuesday afternoon in May…