“I want to dance, oh ye ladies who care, for I do not have much time to listen to my heart which begs to cry. I have short time, and before death comes, my mouth if even for once would have known laughter. Friends have arrived at my porch, knocking and begging for me not to die, but it’s too late, I will die today. Let them struggle, drenched in their own sweats, they cannot save someone who is not willing to be saved,” said I two days ago and indeed I died but here I am again, breathing.
It was three days ago when I received a message from my girlfriend with whom I have led myself to believe that happiness exists nowhere but in an invisible chest to which love is the only key. She wrote: “Dear love, with you I have tasted what true love could be, but wouldn’t it be totally unfair if all your efforts are directed at a wrong beneficiary? I do not feel the same way as you feel and I’ve really tried to love you if even a bit but all has been to no avail. Is it because I do not know what love is due to my inexperience or just that I truly cannot love you? You’re an embodiment of generosity and faithfulness but I would not compensate that by pretending to love you. For both our sakes, find someone who could truly love you. You deserve it! From now on, I will try as much as possible to stay out of your path so that memories of our past glees do not rouse emotions you may be incapable of handling. Have a good life!”
When I saw the message, although I was scared, I was sure it was an April fool prank, only that we were not in April. Before I knew it, I became a stranger to myself, a stranger who could not hold a phone, the phone fell off my grasp; a stranger who could not move from a spot, I just stayed there, afraid of finding it true.
“Uncle, your phone has fallen,” I heard a boy called.
“Ehn-ehn—Thank you.” I flagged down a bike and gave her address to the marijuana-flavoured young motorcyclist with eyes in somewhat a gin puddle.
I did not wait for the change before I dashed off towards the unpainted bungalow which has been her hostel for quite a while now. The moment I got to that house, I knew she was not joking about the message. Because standing at the entrance of the house was her brother, all the way from her hometown? And—what the hell, her mum too? Her brother was pointing at me the moment I emerged from behind a snacks shop. That was it, something was happening.
I put on a poise of a gentleman you could let your daughter off with, but it didn’t help, the eyes that welcomed me were like brooms aggressively trying to sweep me off the ground.
“Ekasan ma,” curtsied I. “Ekuurin ma. Hope the journey was not stressful.”
“S’ewo l’aafa?” was the response I got. (Are you the Islamic cleric? That’s the question).
Semi l’aafa ke? I thought to myself.
“Ah—yes ma,” I was out of words. “Tunde ma,” as if introducing myself would count. “Se Funmi ti prepare—”
“She’s not even around. She went out with her sister who came with us. I’d advise you check back for her later.”
That was it. They were the reasons behind the message, for the fact that I was called ‘Alfa’ (an Islamic cleric) said it all. Her brother’s accepting of my handshake was quite reluctant but I tried to pretend it didn’t bother me. I turned without more ado and went slowly away, trying not to look uglier than I already was.
I kept smiling bitterly as I walked on without any destination in mind, my eyes soaked in the tears that I successfully held back. We had a dream for God’s sake! Funmi and I had a plan! We said we’ll get married on the closest days to our birthdays, bear stubborn kids who’ll love ice-cream and mathematics. We had a plan to sneak away after the wedding to a beach house where we’ll play like children and have a child-like nice time. What has changed?
I dialed her number at once, I mustn’t conclude on the worst without hearing her say first, maybe she’ll laugh: “Ootie le, sheru ti wan bae ni?” The call tones chirped on and on but the call went unanswered. Damn it!
It was nightfall when my phone buzzed to life that I realized that I’ve been walking by the side of the road for the past four hours. I looked around and couldn’t even recognize where I was. All those didn’t matter anyways, the phone was ringing and it was her name on the screen. I picked it.
“Hello bae, why did you send that weird message to me? I’m fucking freaking out here. I came to your ho—”
“You shouldn’t have come. They told me that you came. See, I’m sorry, forgive me, it’s all for the best, please. Tunde, Tunde—can you hear me? Okay, good. I know you’re strong, you’ll move on.”
“Is this a joke or are you really—really serious?”
To-to-to-to-to… Call ended.
What does everyone want? Happiness! But where the female could get, she was not willing to give and vise versa on the common scenario. We’d prefer to long and long, the waiting, eventually leaving us accepting whatever was available. I thought I have found my own happiness but just to be hit again by the reality I have sworn does not exist. I stood there, staring at the phone, my fingers trembling, my feet shaking as if my body was too heavy for them to carry. And after then, I heard a loud horn and the screeching tires of a vehicle stepping on the break. I felt my body hit the ground very hard, then, darkness.
“Tunde! Tunde!! Breathe! Can you hear me? Please help me hold this thing. Thank God he’s back. Can you hear me?”
My eyes which were a pair of tiny slits looked at a blurry figure of a man darting torchlight from my right eye to the left.
“I can hear you. I can… see you,” I managed to say.
“Good, perfect ocular response, uninterrupted vocal and nervous activities. Do you feel that?”
He kind of pricked me with a pin on the toe.
“Yeesh,” I muttered. “I felt it—I felt it.”
“Good, perfect nervous response. He can wiggle his toes. No broken bones, just simple wounds, no fracture either. He’s very lucky.”
He soared off me and faced an audience I was not seeing yet. I could see very clearly now, the man was in a lab coat, a doctor! Papa o! I was in a hospital! A ceiling fan greeted me welcome and sang to my ears, will somebody switch off that fan? I didn’t say it out.
“He is lucky,” addressed the doctor. “He’s only sustained simple bruises which with proper care will close up in a matter of days. No broken bones, no internal injury, nothing fatal. By nightfall today or sunrise tomorrow, he’ll be discharged and you must see to it that he has a sound rest, okay? And, one of you will follow him here every three days to change the dressing on the wounds.”
He turned to me again, touched some parts of my body and walked out of the room. I hate hospitals! I hate the smell of methylated spirits, iodine, cries of pain and so on. I rotated my neck to see who the audience was and… what!
I pulled the drip hose out of my hand, lurched out of bed, brushed past my friends and stood before my girlfriend because of whom I was in hospital. “I don’t understand,” was all I could utter through my trembling lips.
“You have to,” she said quite plainly. “It’s over.”
“But why? What happened?”
“Nothing happened. I can’t—I just can’t.”
“You can’t what?”
“Just accept the development, okay? Life is full of unexpec—” she turned away to hide her tears.
I laid my hand gently on her right shoulder which was a familiar place to rest my head on depressed days, I felt subtle pain but I was okay.
“Life is full of unexpected what? Look at me. You need to look at me bae. This is not happening, why are you breaking up with me? Did I cheat on you? Did you find me a liar? Did I do som—”
“You’re a Muslim!” she suddenly burst into my face.
Ah, shoroniyen? I was clueless as to what to say next.
“You’re a Muslim,” she repeated, obviously expecting me to say something defensive or whatever.
“But I’ve always been a Muslim the whole time and you knew. We already talked about it and you said you don’t care reverting, remember? So, what about it now? Haven’t we settled it?”
“We haven’t settled anything! It’s not ours to settle. My parents can never accept you. They won’t.”
“You’ve discussed about me and they’ve condemned me already, haven’t they?”
“Talk to me. That’s why they came here, isn’t that why? They’ve told you to break ties with me, haven’t they? They’ve told you that Muslims are Boko Harams, haven’t they? Talk naw, oo de soro, ehn.”
“Good then,” I spoke earnestly. “I thought they aren’t supposed to get between us so easily. I thought when love is present, all other resistant forces fade out.”
“That’s the point,” she shrieked, “love is absent. It’s not because of religion alone. I do not love you… truly. I’m sorry.”
She grabbed her bag and gushed towards the door where she looked back at me through tears, wanted to say something and suddenly decided not to, and I stared back in frustrated wits, searching through her eyes to find answers, to find a glint of hope that all this was one big prank.
“Farewell, Tunde,” she said and left me staring at a closed door.
What the hell! Has religion finally robbed me of my first true love? Just like that? This must be World War Three.
I looked enquiringly about to find my friends still standing there speechlessly, looking at me. I was always the motivational speaker, I guess they did not know what to tell me. Slowly, I turned around, grabbed the knob and walked out of the room. My friends followed me. I saw their car parked amongst others at the parking space in front of the hospital, I walked past it and I saw them following me quietly, maintaining a distance, I said no word to them. They knew I was really beaten and believed I would heal in time. They knew I hate being consoled, so they let me console myself. We walked on like that, my joints hurting like fire was burning in them. Then I looked to the right at a point and saw a mosque. I took a turn and my friends followed. I did not observe an ablution, I just walked in, went on my knees in the middle of the mosque. I had no idea what I was doing or why, I just heard myself say:
“God! Why must there be many religions instead of just one? Every religion believes there is a supreme God, you. And they do preach modest virtues at shrines, churches and mosques. Why have they still fought bloody wars over the centuries amongst themselves? Why is everyone of one religion an unbeliever, a heathen or a pagan to folks of another religion? Must I marry for religion’s sake or for love’s sake? Is everyone who is not in my religion a bad person who is bound for hell? If yes, then why? I do not understand. And I cannot blame you for you are the wisest of anything or anyone that is wise, but I’d prefer to marry for love and revert my wife afterwards. And here we are, after all, bereaved of happiness for religion’s sake, where should I begin again? Where is the justification?”
I waited to hear a reply, none came that was audible. So I stood and went over to my friends. “Really?” I growled. “Must you follow me around as if I’m some dummy?”
“We wouldn’t have if you’ve not just tried to kill yourself because of a girl. Go to anywhere you like today, we’ll be right behind you. If you’re going to die for a girl, you’ll have to do it in the presence of friends who after all, care for you more than the girl does.”
To cut the story short, in the evening of that day, I was in my house with girls wheeled over by Mc Daface, partying with them and drinking alcoholics that I never tasted before. I locked my friends out while I poisoned myself inside. I was set to kiss life goodbye, I wanted to go and question God in heaven.
“I want to dance, oh ye ladies who care,” sang I, “for I do not have much time to listen to my heart which begs to cry. I have short time, and before death comes, my mouth if even for once would have known laughter. Friends have arrived at my porch, knocking and begging for me not to die, but it’s too late, I will die today. Let them struggle, drenched in their own sweats, they cannot save someone not willing to be saved.”
Indeed I fell to the ground and died, and I saw myself on an ocean, standing on it and not sinking. It was quiet but there were many people in white robes, walking to a direction I couldn’t point out as either north or south. I heard whispers occasionally and a man with ample beards suddenly appeared in my face.
“You’re a good heart,” he said. “But good hearts do not always enjoy good times without pints of despair to give meaning to the good times. Religion is the only thing left that forces sinful and destructive tendencies into the unconscious part of humans, and we must not think little of what it teaches. Of course the flesh will protest and will want to let loose, some will and will feel happy that they did, losing every chance of goodwill in the hereafter. Love is important, more important than religion, for where there is no love, religion is also absent. In fact, the only thing religion preaches is love, love is the greatest material any man needs to survive, but love being returned in a romantic affair is a different story entirely. Love is a spice that gives meaning to life, if you lose it, you must find it and not without it die, fight religion if you have to, but be careful to not eat your own tail, for at the end, your religion is wiser than you. Return home brother, you’re not ripe to be here, love and never die if it’s not returned. Every man who loves is destined to find at one time or the other someone who’ll truly appreciate his ability to love and to him return the same.”
I’m back now, second time in a hospital in one single day, looking at a nurse with a pointed nose, broad shoulders, neatly greased lips and ample bosom, younger than others, assessing me.
“How’re you feeling?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied honestly.
“Kind of.” I shrugged. “Am I not dead?”
“You’re not, Mr. Adebayo, only almost. Your friends begged not to involve the police, if not, you would have been in a lunatic asylum by now. Just be grateful you have me for a nurse in charge and those guys as friends, perpetual urge to commit suicide often ends the patients up in lunatic asylums with no exit door. We believe it’s a brain disorder.”
“But I’m not mad. And it was my life. I had every right to end it if I wish.”
“You must be very stupid and selfish then. Do you know there are people who love you here? Because a girl left you, death occurs the last resolve? You’re a coward. You’re not a man.”
“Oops! If I’m not a man, will I have a cock? Check down there, you’ll see I’m a man.”
“Lousy fool, if big cocks are what define men, Mike Tyson would be the American president and Barrack Obama would probably be a carpenter. If it was left to me, seriously, since you’re so eager to die, I wouldn’t obstruct you. In fact, I would make sure you’re dead already before I call up the hospital.”
“You don’t mean it, you must be very cruel. Why am I surprised anyways, nurses are cruel.”
“No nurse is cruel, mister man, we’re just being nurses. You’re the one being cruel to yourself here. You’re this young, handsome and even possessed of nice friends, what on earth would still make you want to murder yourself?”
“My girl’s parents told her not to marry me because I’m a Muslim.”
“They’re funny if that’s true, but they’re not stupid, such cases are common and justifiable. But if it was left to me, I wouldn’t care, after all, does marrying someone of the same religion assure us of happiness? Most of the divorces recorded every year are of couples from the same religion. I saw the lady, Funmi, is that not her name? She’s here, outside with your friends, crying and very pissed off. I assure you, that lady loves you. She may be under a lot of pressure because of you currently, but she cares about you. You should face the challenges with her and not run off like a dumb coward, leaving her to be haunted by her weak decisions. If I may judge, you’re the son of a bitch in this story now, when you’re discharged from this hospital, you should find a time to speak to her. When religions threaten your relationships, you fight! You don’t give up so easily like a nincompoop. Love triumphs all the time, the only thing capable of defeating love is death, and thank God, you’re still alive.’
The door opened just exactly at that time and who was the one that entered with her mum and siblings and my friends? My girl!
She bent over me after the doctor stepped back and gave me an unforgettable long-lasted kisses which brought her tears soaking into mine, in her mum’s presence!
“Do not die,” she told me. “When I imagined you being dead, I could not imagine myself being alive. Damn it, be an atheist if you like, I’m going to marry you. And thank God anyways, you’re a Muslim and all the Muslims I’ve known so far are nice people. Mr. Rafiu Sanni for example is modest, honest and respectful. One of these days, I’d wear a Hijab, go to Mecca with you and return an Alhaja, but that is if you’re alive, abi? Forgive my childishness, I caused all these. But if I haven’t, I probably wouldn’t have known how much I love you. My mum is here now. She heard about the incident when your friends called, my phone was on speaker. I’m saying it in her presence, if she doesn’t allow me to marry you, then she’ll have to marry me herself ‘cause I’m not letting my eBay die. Do you still want to die?”
My mouth widened into a big smile and I saw my friends being unnecessarily melodramatic. How did they all get here for God’s sake as if it was some funeral?
“Bae,” I finally mumbled. “Nonsense! I don’t wanna die o, I’d rather kiss.”
“I loooove yuuuuu,” she glowed.
“Love you too bae.”
Loro badi muah muah muah (kisses) while others sluggishly looked away.
The purpose of religion is to ensure the existence of love and common sense. However, if a partner chooses to disown you because of religious diversity, do not hate him or her, or condemn his/her reasons, he/she may be leaving you for your true destiny to find you, it’s for the greater good. But note, if you truly love your partner, you must fight against whatever seeks to separate you, you should only retire when there’s indeed no more reason to fight. Muslim parents do not always allow their daughters to marry from different religions, Islam forbids it. Christian parents also protest against giving their daughters to Muslims in marriage, do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, they say. At the end, the victims end up with spouses they’ll probably never love. We forget the part that says “Love is of God, and anyone who loveth is born of God and knoweth God.”
Well, I’m not sure I’m wise or equipped enough to explore this topic. You can do whatever you want as regards your choices of marriage, na u sabi. But if you’re still willing to educate us more, we’re all ears. But be warned, don’t say attacking things.