Decades II – very much like the original Decade project – explores the wholesomeness of womanhood as lived in ten-year intervals; Girls; Ladies; Women; Mothers; grand and great-grand mothers all. They live the same life we live, experience the same joys and pains unique to their decades and maybe we can learn a thing or two from them. Find the subtle connections that link their lives together and get lost in stories told. Decades II.
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Emeka was the first person to tell me I had no bum. “The hips of a white woman”, he’d said. Then he’d walked over to where I stood, kissed me, and placed his hand on my backside, squeezing my cheeks playfully. With every increasing dent I felt my self esteem pass out of me. So, at the party, I didn’t shake my booty. I raised my hands high above my head and wiggled my shoulders. I couldn’t komole so I fosoke’d, I moved my knees where I could no longer justify moving my hips, and all my friends said I danced like a white girl.
I heard he became an actor, but I don’t believe it. His eyes used to go blank when he told a lie; he wouldn’t even blink as he stared into the tear filled pupils of my eyes. He would recite his lines with decided precision and I would blink back my suspicions and smile, trusting him with my heart. Until I overheard them describing his backstroke in the ladies’ bathroom, the day after he’d looked me in the eye again and told me he loved me, only me.
I didn’t cry when I told my friends, and they eyed me in suspicion.
“You didn’t love him,” Nike said.
“Are you made of stone?” Rose said.
“She must have been cheating too,” Dami said she overheard Fatima say to Busola.
So I broke up with them, too.
Twenty one was that year; the one where you find out there’s more to life than Brazilian hair and overpriced Ankara skirts. The one where you count your losses and bless them one by one, the one where you realize your life has just begun.
They all got married. One by one they dropped like dead leaves into the forever of matrimony. Busola got pregnant and couldn’t get married in Church. Fatima married Emeka’s brother and inherited a live-in mistress. Nike got fat, and at her wedding she made all her bridesmaids wear satin boubous and stick bows in their hair. Either that or she made sure there was no one on her train who could shop outside of a plus-sized store. They shuffled around with their inflated faces as they filed into the reception. The band started to sing (Nike Peperempe! Omo Olakúnlé!), and I waited until they were all dancing around her to walk over and say hi.
“You look so good!” Rose (nee Ndubuisi) blurted. Nike jabbed her in the side with her elbow.
“Thanks for coming”, Nike said.
As I smiled and walked away, Dami ran up to me and told me that Busola told Fatima that she wanted to know who my doctor was. I gave her directions to my gym.
I told my mother I got a promotion and she wailed in agony; twenty six was the year when success was reckless. The line of pot-bellied suitors at my door shrunk the moment I bought myself a ‘big’ car and my father, strong and silent as he is, led me to his study to impress upon me the merits of marriage. I impressed upon his fading memory the amount of money he’d spent on my education.
He sent me to fetch his coffee and wished me a good day at work.
I was too busy to take my lunch break, but Tracey brought me a slice of cake anyway.
“Happy birthday,” I said.
“Oh no, Jumoke got me the cake because I’m leaving. I’m getting married! Can you keep a secret?” she gushed. “My corner office has your name all over it. Congratulations!”
She wiggled her hips and walked merrily away, even though I hadn’t said a word.
I went to the wedding. I even wore the designated office aso-ebi, posed for the pictures and stood in line to catch the bouquet. Her bridesmaids – and Jumoke – took turns holding up the train of her dress, and her mother hugged her with tears in her eyes as the DJ played ‘Sweet Mother’. Her husband held her hand and pulled her close, and every so often he would whisper something into her ear and she would burst into fits of giggles. And when they thought no one was looking, he would kiss her.
I watched them. And I let myself wonder; maybe I wanted more.
Maybe I wanted a friend.
Maybe I wanted a hand to hold, somebody to lean on; a rock to be strong for me so that I didn’t have to be strong all the time, so that I didn’t need to be strong anymore.
Twenty eight was the year I realized… maybe I wanted love.
So the second time Bamise asked me out, I said yes. I choked down my doubts, put on a dress and tried on a smile as we walked into the restaurant.
He held the door open for me, and he didn’t walk ahead of me. He pulled out my chair, but he didn’t wait for me to be seated. He ordered for me, but he asked to make sure I didn’t mind. And even though I know his eyes must have slipped downward repeatedly, I only ever caught him staring straight into my eyes. I let him kiss me after our third date.
He didn’t make me choose. When he said he wanted me, forever, it didn’t come attached with an ultimatum. Even though I knew I could, even though I knew I would if he needed me to, he didn’t make me swap my Range for his ring.
My father smiled at me as we posed for the cameras. My mother danced with her in-laws as they sang aloud to the choir’s ‘This is the day that the Lord has made’. My husband held my hand and gazed into my eyes, and when he said I love you I knew he wasn’t lying. He turned me around on the dance floor and I threw my hands up high, above my head, and around his neck.
At thirty, I still dance like a white girl.
Beauty is vain, it cloaks the pain
Smiles conceal fears conceived
Who will see behind the veil?
Who will set, the wall ablaze?
To such a man belongs the jewel.
SO THANKS FOR READING. STORY AND POEM. WHAT’S IMPORTANT IN LIFE AFTER ALL? WOULD YOU TRADE SUCCESS FOR LOVE? HOW MUCH WEIGHT DO YOU PLACE ON FRIENDSHIPS? IS LOVE IN MARRIAGE THE ULTIMATE?
WHAT IS LOVE TO YOU?
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
WATCH OUT FOR THE ART OF @JadenTM LATER ON AFROSAYS AND EVERYWHERE ELSE AROUND.
N.B. The project still goes on for the following five days. Tomorrow we have The Fourth Decade by @Zaffiro.
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