A promise made, an intention to keep it exists, but life has a way of happening…
Jennifer Chioma Amadi
Chidimma sits in front of the dressing mirror as the makeup artist works on her face. Several layers of concealers and foundation have succeeded in covering dark spots and the little scar on her jaw. She struggles to recognize herself with the well-drawn eyebrows that look like arcs. She notices that the detailed contours give her small nose a pointed look and add elegance to her cheekbones. Her red lipstick matches her red dress which is itself accompanied by a pair of silver six-inch heeled shoes.
In the midst of the quiet chaos in the room, the soft tune of Adekunle Gold’s No forget draws her attention. Everyone in the room paces from one corner to another, seemingly becoming chattier with each passing second. She quietly listens, perched on the wooden frame of the bed, to the lyrics of the song as it plays.
And Segun springs to mind. Segun, the first male friend she made in her first year at the university, would later become her boyfriend. Barely a year into their relationship, Segun had been granted a scholarship to study Civil Engineering at a prestigious university in Canada.
He had asked her to wait for his return, promising to work hard for a better future for both of them. While the idea of him leaving saddened her, she was proud to have a boyfriend who would be studying abroad. As the years went by, she didn’t feel his absence as much as she might have. They communicated frequently, via phone calls, WhatsApp and Skype. Besides, the workload of medical school was sufficient to keep her mind firmly occupied.
She feels an overwhelming affinity with the song, although she is unable to understand the Yoruba verses. And yet,she listens, to the beautiful soft voice of Simi singing “no forget,na you I dey wait for“. She recalls saying a similar line to Segun. “I’ll wait,” she had said. Just when she is enchanted by the melodious blend of voices, she hears a shout outside and everyone immediately lines up, as though mysteriously ordered by a hidden voice.
“Ndi ogo gi no eba – your in-laws are here,” says her mother, rushing in excitedly.
She stands up hastily and rushes to join her maidens. This is her first outing. She goes to the door and peers outside,immediately seeing a fleet of cars parked close to the gate of the compound. Looking further ahead, a cluster of ostentatiously clad people sit under two yellow and blue canopies. Those must be the guests Okey invited.
The village people are standing, behind the canopies, happy to partake in the celebrations. She gets a little flustered. Okey had not heeded her wish. Perhaps he had a fair reason not to. She had said “small” but he had instead invited all the contacts on his phone and community, and everyone else who had known him, even in passing. As she dances out, hips swaying rhythmically from side to side,to greet her approaching in-laws, she spots Okey at the rear of the third canopy. This should make her wine-carrying easier. She pretends to not notice him while she dances back into the house.
Before the wine carrying, she changes to a sewn pink lace blouse with two blue heavy wrappers. As they tie the yellow gele on her head, she feels the onset of a slight headache. She cannot believe she is going through all these stress for Okey. Okey, whom she had met only six months ago. The first time she told her mother about him, she was quick to say
“Chidimma, kedu ihe i na-chere? Chidimma, what are you waiting for? ‒ Bring him home! See, you aren’t getting any younger o!”
“But mummy, Segun!” She had replied.
“Before that one comes back from overseas and starts thinking of settling down. Not to talk of looking for a job in this hard economy or have you not heard that Nigeria is in recession? Biko just say ‘yes’ to Okey because I wouldn’t allow you to go and suffer with that Yoruba boy when you have an ‘already made’ eating out of your palm,” She said with an accompanying hiss.
She had told Segun about her discussion with her mother and he simply replied, “Love, Philippians 4:19 says ‘The Lord will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory’ and that settles it.”
She had gotten angry with him that day. She had wanted to hear the date of his return and his plans for getting a job when he returned. She had needed him to declare where he would be settling down and the date for their wedding. She did not need a scripture quotation, especially one unrelated to the present circumstances. She needed certainties and assurances, not probabilities and postulations. That was their first fight since he left. She told him she needed space and time to think things through. Eventually, when he didn’t call for a week afterwards, she got mad at him. And when he finally did call, she chose to ignore it. She let pride get in the way.
As she dances out again, the spectators cheer and call her lovely names. Her father gives her the glass cup of palm-wine and proudly bellows, “Mma, show us your husband.”
The thought persists that she is making the wrong decision. A rushed decision.She at once wonders if “already made” is what really she needs. Would money satisfy her and would Okey, awaiting her with a broad smile, make her happy. Her walk slows to a trudge, slow and arduous.
She is barely five steps away from Okey when she sights Segun standing just behind the second canopy. He is staring at her in an almost ghostly manner, with a shocked and accusatory look in his eyes. Her legs seize moving and the glass cup slowly slips through her sweaty hands and shatters as it hits the hard earth.