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Dejection By Rachael Asikpo

POSTED 09/19/2018 12:37
1403 Reads Dejection By Rachael Asikpo, short story on Tushstories
“MY PEOPLE WELCOME!” The MC1 blared and my heart quivered. “Thank you for answering this call to come and celebrate young love and to witness the joining of our daughter, Edima and our son, Edet.” He announced.
I gripped the folds of my dress hard and tried to take calm steady breaths but my chest fluttered as the MC rattled on outside, working our guests. All around me, my friends clamored, gasping at the assorted display of cowries and bead necklaces adorning my body, wanting to be in my shoes.

I wondered if I wanted to be in my shoes or was I just experiencing the first throes of cold feet. A normal dilemma every girl experienced on their wedding day? Why was I so excited and glad but yet fearful and edgy?

“Hm! Edima! Do you know? If you go outside now and see the horde of guests that are in attendance, you will just turn to salt!” Ekaette rapped, clapping her hands and fluttering about me like a butterfly. I managed a wary smile.
“Stop making her anxious. What’s wrong with you?” Aniebiet snapped at her and then turned to me with a warm smile. “My dear, this your day is truly a big one. I even hear the chiefs and the Governor’s son will be in attendance.”

My heart palpated. Edet was an aspiring politician and had a lot of friends in high places. He was also the son of a business mogul and Chief of my Village, and an eye-candy for any female. I had begged for a minimalistic day but he wouldn’t have it.

“Relax, Edima. See your beautiful face sullen with anxiety” Ada teased as she dabbed my cheeks lightly with brown powder. My face was a gold brown from lavish make-up. The girl staring back at me in the mirror was stunning, a goddess flourished in a flowing sleeveless Ankara dress. Before me was a creamy skinned apparition that could have been mistaken for a mermaid.

I blushed and basked in my epiphany. I had undergone months of skin toning and weight watching for this day. My mother had made it her personal task to drill me on etiquette and showered blessings and prayers on me every night.

“Ehehn! You can see these palatable dishes presented before you today. I assure you, our daughter can cook every one of them.” The MC chuckled outside and I blushed. I knew that was a glaring lie. Mother had ordered the best meals from the best catering team there was. This was just a charade to laud my homeliness and upbringing.

I listened as the tirade of questions began. Elders of the village bombarded the MC with questions to be sure I cooked those meals. My stomach knotted, what if they demanded that I come out and explain the step by step procedures involved in the creation of each meal? I shuddered.

I was a thorough bred city girl who had spent most of her life in the Lagos. I had only seen my village twice throughout my life and I never enjoyed my stay in the village. I despised the musty clay scent from the clay and cement mixed walls of our family house. I hated the stuffy, rotting wood smell that lingered in the narrow corridors. I hated the eye watering smoke that invaded half the compound when Grandma would cook in her shack which functioned as the makeshift kitchen. The walls of the small kitchen were draped with layers of soot from decades of burning wood.

I would always go to the village with at least three packs of table water because I hated the oddly cold water fetched from the clay cauldron, the makeshift cooler for village life. I would imagine a million minute life-forms bobbing about in the water, invisible to my eyes but waiting to be consumed so they can infest my body. I would cringe in disgust and retreat to my musty room for one of my table waters.

The girls around me burst into laughter and I blushed hoping I hadn’t said my thoughts out loud.
“Edima just listen to how that man is struggling to defend you! They might call you out to explain how you cooked those meals.” Ekaette mocked and I pouted. She was a city girl just like me, visiting her origins just once in a blue moon and clueless as to how to prepare the local meals.

“They wouldn’t do that, Papa settled the elders.” I mumbled, my heart wavering with every word. The elders could be a very brutish and maligning group. Their permission was always sort first in the case of traditional marriages where they would seize the opportunity to brandish long lists to the groom’s family, requiring certain items for appeasement. If the groom failed to completely procure these items, they could terrorize the wedding arrangement by making sure every norm is followed to the root at the event.
“My people, the elders have seen and inspected the dishes and given their approval to carry on with this harmonious event.” The MC announced cheerily and my heart rose to the surface. I let go of a nervous breath I had been holding.

*********

Andy sat somewhere in the back, seeing only at the mercy of the fat female heads before him, Heads wrapped in wide outstretching geles²: the bulky head cloth usually called “canopy”. He crooned fervently, his eyes groping for the scene in the center of the compound. The MC was a tall and lanky man. His wiry build swayed like a perturbed reed in his bogus attire. The long native gown seemed to be wearing the man, instead of vice versa and he struggled to keep his ankara wrapper at his waist, stopping every now and then to adjust the forever slipping clothing.

He was cracking jokes and working the guests, setting a lively mood for the event whilst gallivanting around the table of dishes. He was great at his job, Andy would have laughed but his heart was shaken and his thoughts adrift. He was only here for one person: Edima.

She had left without a word, no rant, no curse, no apology, she just was there the previous night and the next morning she was gone. Her page was gone, her account was gone, her Lagos friends kept mute, no one knew where she was. It was like she died but her body was missing to validate the fact, trapping him in a transit between grieving and hoping.

This had been months ago. She had just varnished along with his being, leaving a walking-talking shell, a shadow of the once bubbling man he was. The pieces were laid before him but he couldn’t pick them up and move on, for fear she would reappear the same way she had varnished.

And now, just three days ago, he was fortunate enough to run across a friend who she invited to her wedding! HER WEDDING?! She invited people to her wedding but she left him out. He had been walking the earth only technically sane, clutching at anything that could lead to her finding only to come to the realization that she was alive somewhere…getting married. Bile rose to his throat and the tears blurred his eyes. He palmed the cold iron in his hands, running his delicate index finger along the sharp cusp of the trigger.

Loud drums began to roll as adept fingers caused melodic beats to feel the atmosphere and the guests began to jeer; the men hooted and the women began singing a ceremonious folksong in their mother tongue, swaying in their chairs, sitting at the edge and raising their heads to feast their eyes on the retinue of brightly attired people entering the wedding grounds.

“Prince and his family members are here. Look at the beautiful caftans the men are wearing. I heard those textures were imported from India!” The women beside me chattered whilst craning their necks, well trained and longer than mine, seeing what I could not see owing to their fat heads blocking my view.

“Oh! So he is a prince?” I cut in with an easy smile, sorting to gain their attention and to probe for information. “Yes Oh! His father is the present chief of this town and a renowned politician. Just stand up and look, see how he is wallowing in money!” The woman beamed, her double necks wobbling as she screeched in excitement.

My chest expanded painfully and my entrails were in disarray. Could she have left me for what glittered? But I thought all that glittered wasn’t gold.

I rose from my seat and my eyes caught the center of attention. A group of six. An elderly man danced hand in hand with an elderly woman, both dressed in flowing attires having the same ankara pattern. Following after them were two other elderly men, both bearing feathery fans and fanning themselves as they danced. I observed. They were not fanning because of the scorching rays from the sun above but much more majestically as if to fan off the swag oozing off them.

And then my eyes caught him. The man that snatched my life for six good months. He was a towering man, dressed in the same flowing attire with a feathered hat. He held a bigger fan which gave off his identity besides the fact that he danced the most and everyone before him and around him paid attention to him only.

I saw him and instantly I felt the bitterness form in my mouth, tasting bile and disdain. He was handsome in every ramification. Although he wore a flowing traditional attire, snippets of his buff physique peeked every now and then. His gait was steady and exact, majestic like a royal bred and although I stood afar from him, under a canopy in the midst of babbling women, I could see his gold brown eyes with its accenting sheen under the sun.

For the first time in my life I felt unattractive and incompetent in every way. But it did not justify why she disappeared. It only made me want to go on with my scheme…

*********

My heart danced tunes of joy and every atom in my body vibrated which each step I took, softly, step after step, a little sway to the hips, a little toss of my face to the side, just like Mother taught. I emerged from my shelter and out into the full glare of ogling. My eyes briefly swept through the crowd of guests seated in the canopies. The traditional tunes were loud but their cheers were louder. The women bubbled, waving at me in adoration. The men hooted, jeering in envy. I blushed. I felt like the most beautiful woman in the world.

My friends, acting as my maidens went before me, sprinkling glitter as they went, paving a path for me that led straight to the center of the grounds, where the MC was waiting. I followed slowly, guiding myself carefully till I was standing before the tall lanky man, who was perpetually holding on to his traditional wrapper to keep it from slipping.

“Ima Ima! My people, see our daughter! She is shining! Our ancestors have truly blessed this day.” He announced before going on to offer me a Calabash containing wads of money. A small token to beg for my father’s blessing. I took the bowl gracefully and the band struck up another melodious tune, inciting another popular song that had the women singing as I danced to my parents. They were now sitting in a canopy reserved only for my family members.

My father was a robust man, clad in colorful regalia, a flowing caftan and a beaded hat. He beamed a knowing smile at me, bopping his head to the ceremonious tunes as I came. I danced till I was down on my knees, presenting my gift before him. He leaned in and ran his eyes over the money, picked one wad up and scrutinized it melodramatically. The people laughed and I giggled. He nodded his approval as he took the Calabash from me.

“Adiaha! Here, take this, that your father may agree with our ancestors.” The MC offered me another smaller cup bearing fresh palmwine. The drummers stopped drumming and the arena went silent as the guests watched intently. Old norms had it that if my father was not satisfied with the preparations or the bride price given so far, he could reject our marriage by pouring the wine.

Inside me, I smiled. We both knew better! He had received a voluptuous sum of five million Naira as bride price and my wedding preparations were the most grand ever heard in the vicinity. I shivered. I felt so lucky. I never dreamed this day could turn out this way.

I presented it to my father and he drank from it. The crowd roared in cheer and the women struck up another song. I bowed my head and let my father and mother bless me, pouring their good will and hopes over me and filling me with bliss before I rose amidst the cheers from the guests and in that moment I felt like a woman, for I was now bound for life to the man of my dreams.

My chest expanded and contracted sporadically as maidens came out to dance with me, leading me to my husband. I took my steps gingerly but surely, having practiced with the best dancers before this day! I stopped in the center of the arena and stunned onlookers with a flurry of steps. They went wild. My heart was beating fast. I stopped to curtsey before returning to my husband…but then a face loomed amongst the others. I stopped. I blinked. It had faded and disappeared behind the beads of heads wrapped in enormous Gele.

“Edima! Dance! People are watching!” Ekaette scolded, sending a jolt through me. I recollected myself and moved to sway my hips to the tunes but I could not, not with swag and ease as I had so easily done before but now my steps faltered and my waist became brisk.

“What is wrong with you?” Ada snapped, doing a bit of Ekombi before me to block out curious eyes.
I could not respond but my heart throbbed and my limbs were weak. How? Was my mind playing tricks on me? I looked in that direction again. And there he was. This time his face did not disappear for he was standing tall behind the women, towering over them with three full inches...

Everything paused in that moment. I could no longer hear the cheering all around me or the tunes serenading the air. I was standing across from him. A man after my own heart. He looked leaner than I could remember and disheveled. My heart ebbed. Had I done that to him? His eyes were dark and empty, like endless holes sucking grief into an abyss of pain. His expression was placid but I could feel his pain. It was Telepathic, like I shared a part of him.

“Edima!” Ekaette's shout brought me back from oblivion and I was standing still in the center of the compound, awkwardly gaping at nothing.
“Adiaha, what is wrong? You are troubling your guests.” The MC chided, touching me lightly on the shoulder. I shuddered at his touch, it felt like I had been doused cold water. On impulse I looked again to where I had last seen him…he was gone. My eyes searched, sweeping through the curious guests like strobe lights but I could not find him. He was gone. I shuddered. It felt like something in me died. I clutched myself and rocked hard.
“Edima? Edima?” I could hear them but I could also not hear them. I was no longer on the same plane with all of them. My heart had gone to find him and my body was deserted in wait.

*********

I walked away.
Trudging heavily as I sifted my way through the guests. I had looked at her. She had seen me and our eyes had locked and in that small moment, there was a truce of understanding and closure. I had reached for my gun but I could not take it out. I could not point that lifeless muzzle at a woman that had ripped my heart out and left me in the dust.

But in that moment, a million things were revealed…and I understood. I understood that despite our trials, she chose a better name and a fatter bank account. I understood that I could have never given her the joy she wanted. I understood why she never liked to present me to her friends or introduce me to her family. I understood why she did not like eat outs with me or take my calls in the day time. It had all been a lie. A farce.

She had been standing there in her royal regalia, beautiful. A possession that was never mine. Had she used me? I wondered. No. She had not demanded anything from me. She was the local girl in a University, selling undies in the female hostels and trying to make ends meet. I was the wash boy, the laundry go to. It was only fated that we would be tangled in a bale of lopsided affection.

She was happy now. I had never seen her smile like that before. Not when she was with me.

I found myself outside the compound and by the roadside. The guests cars lined the streets, flanking a now narrow stretch of road, causing plying cars to traverse slowly through the narrow length. I turned around and looked back into the compound. There was clamoring back in the wedding grounds. The guests were shouting and rushing out of their seats. Something had happened. I wanted to wonder what, but I just couldn’t care anymore. I reached into my pocket and secured the handle of the gun. I pulled the gleaming piece out in the sun and brandished it to my head…
v But I stopped and smiled at my own stupidity before tossing it into the gutter before me.


Keys:

1. MC means master of ceremonies and refers to a critical role mostly played by a comedian during Traditional events as the moderator and facilitator for that event.
2. Gele is a native head wrap worn to native events such as Traditional weddings and other festivities. It is colloquially called “canopy”.

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