Saheed was hopeful Allah would answer his prayers soon. Just a week earlier, his younger brother had got married at home and everybody had joked about Muftau’s children growing up to call Saheed ‘Buoda’ if Saheed did not make babies of his own on time. He wasn’t too holy as they had painted of him; Islam encourages early marriage; his marital status had nothing to do with holiness, they just wouldn’t understand.
He wooed Fatimo in school, she turned him down. Then he wooed Sadia, the elder brother to that one had nearly beaten him simply because he was a Yoruba young man trying to stain their Hausa bloodline. So, Saheed had determined to never go after any Hausa lady again; he was going to focus on Yoruba ladies alone, and thankfully, NYSC had posted him to a Yoruba State, Ogun State. Indeed, Allah was merciful.
He zipped open his portable Qur’an and tried to read a Sura, but the road was bad, they were ceaselessly swirled, bumped, shaken, jolted and thrown about hither and yon by the roughness and brokenness of the road. So, he returned the Qur’an in his bag and looked at the road through the window he directly flanked. He was on his way to the NYSC Camp in Ogun State and the bus was fast.
After their bags were checked at the gate upon arrival, Kemisola was the first person Saheed met as a friend on camp. This is how it happened. There were these soldiers who were yelling “Double up! Double up!” at them and since they were new Otondos, individual just walked on lazily until a soldier whipped like three of them in a row, commanding them to put their bags on their heads and jog on. Everybody got startled and rumbled clumsily away from the soldiers. That was when Kemisola fell on the ground, pushed by a guy who didn’t even bother to look back, and Saheed who had only come with a small backpack had happened to be the one who pulled Kemisola up and helped her with her bags. The soldier who was coming towards them decided to let them be; he must have found the act of patriotism plausible.
Saheed delivered Kemisola to her hostel before he went to find his. The day went by and registration took the succeeding three days. They never met again until seven days later when Saheed bought a bottle of water and couldn’t be provided with his change. The person who finally showed up to buy another bottle with the needed change happened to be Kemisola and they recognized each other and reconnected.
Saheed’s mind was not with her or with anyone for that matter but he got lucky, Kemisola appeared to have taken into him. After the evening parades, she would find him out and take him to Mammy Market and it was embarrassing that she wouldn’t allow him to pay for their barbecues and drinks. All the payments Saheed made were only forced. Saheed didn’t fall in love though, not until a certain day when Kemisola passed out at a military drill and was rushed to the clinic where she was asked to call someone to stay with her and she had called Saheed.
“Saheed,” she called to him when he appeared at the door in frightened face, “it’s just stress, come and sit by my side here, I want to be seeing your face.”
It was so unusual for Saheed to be warmly spoken to by a beautiful girl like her. She could’ve called one of her female friends but she called him instead. It touched him. It was like an avalanche, the feelings came crashing down on him and after he was made to leave at night because he was a guy, he came back the next morning and refused to leave until Kemisola was discharged. A SAED lecture was going on then, so they just sneaked into a canopy in Mammy Market and paid for fried eggs and malt. They felt strongly attached, like they had known each other for eternity. It was epic. O deep gan.
One thing though, there wasn’t a discussion of love, relationship or anything close between them yet, it was always at the tip of Saheed’s tongue but he was skeptical; he wouldn’t be sure of when the best moment was to start it.
It was their last night on camp when Mammy Market and everywhere else was lively with Corpers wailing and jubilating over the nearness of their discharge from camp that Saheed finally expressed his feelings.
“Kemisola,” he had said frankly in a sudden melodramatic tenseness, in recoil from something funny that Kemisola was saying. “Heat happened to an egg, it hardened. Time happened to a chick, it laid eggs. Kemisola, you have happened to me and I’m madly in love with you. I’ve thought of the best way to say this but there’s no other way. I want to be a source of happiness for you till eternity, Kemisola. I want to go beyond camp with you, to sail the world with you and have you to call my real home from this moment on. Kemisola, I love you.”
Kemisola’s mouth was hanging open then, and she focused on Saheed’s mouth and eyes till he paused, and then she let the swelling laughter out.
“Oh my God, Saheed!” she screeched. “You made me feel like I was acting the role of a hero’s girlfriend in an Indian film! In fact, this would be the time I stood up and sang in a flowing robe, dancing with everyone on this camp. Saheed, you’re so funny!!”
“But I’m serious,” muttered Saheed persistently.
“I know you are but you could’ve just said Kemi o, how far o, you get this idea of us dating o, what do I think o? And I would’ve just said it’s okay instead of that chick laid eggs, heat boiled it blah blah blah.”
“Ah-ah,” Saheed smiled then. He should’ve known Kemisola wouldn’t turn him down. She was his bae!
“We’re practically like lovers already anyway,” said Kemisola. “I like you, you like me. In fact, if only it was possible, we would’ve made a perfect couple.”
“If only it was possible? It could be possible if we want it to, Kemisola, that’s exactly what I hope for, and I know you love me too.”
“I do so, Saheed. I always saw us as lovers but this marriage thing, uh, remember, you’re a Muslim, this is as sweet as we can be, marriage discussion can’t happen. I’m a Christian, you’re a Muslim. Have you forgotten?”
“I know but that doesn’t matter naw! We’re both Yorubas. We have the same culture. We’ll understand each other, respect each other and be happy together. I was schooled in the north and they have made me realise how best it is to marry someone from one’s ethnic group. Religion doesn’t have to be a barrier, we were Yorubas before we became Muslims and Christians.”
“You’re right, but… that hasn’t changed the fact that we’re still religiously divided. Saheed, I can’t go to the mosque! I can’t do all those Muslim stuffs! We can only hang out for the fun of it. I like you, it’s not that I don’t, but marrying a Muslim? Oh well, that’s just, I can’t even imagine it, like… Saheed, without even talking about my parents whom I’m damn sure would rather kill me than let me marry a Muslim, I can’t do it. Do not be unequally yolked with unbelievers my mum would say.”
“But I love you Kemisola!” Saheed was tearful then. “How I feel for you, I’ve never felt like this before, it’s real, I love you, love should be what matters most.”
“Is it you that is talking like this, Saheed? Love can’t withstand religious differences, let’s be realistic now! See, my mum used to go to a Baptist church while my dad and the rest of us attended Redeem. They wouldn’t accord my mum the respect she deserved solely because she was always single at the church. You can’t imagine the problems this issue caused at home before mum eventually joined us in Redeem. Imagine if one of them was a Muslim, see? Let’s just forget about it.”
“But Islam is beautiful. It’s a religion of love and peace. Why would you be so afraid of joining me in it?”
“It’s not that I’m afraid, you don’t understand, I just can’t. I don’t believe in it. I can’t be a Muslim. I don’t mean to offend you or anything Saheed. I know you love me. But… wón á pamí nílé ni. Wón á kàn pamí dànù ni. Wón á kòmí lómo sef. Let’s look at it this way, can you convert to Christianity? I can’t present a Muslim fiancé to my parents but if you’re a Christian, we’re a go. So, can you convert?”
Saheed smiled dryly and sat back in the Heineken-branded plastic chair. They looked at each other forever. They fell in love quite easily, Yorubas from the same ancestor, Oduduwa, but there they were, widely separated by foreign religions. They could no longer marry because they spoke the same language or shared the same culture, unless they go to the same church or mosque, they were never the same. They looked at each other and knew that they would be happy together as husband and wife but religion wouldn’t let it happen or let it last even if it happened. And again, for the umpteenth time, choice of marriage partner is at the sacrificial slab of religion, religion beat love.
“Can you become a Christian?” Kemisola’s voice cut through the silence in repetition.
“No, I can’t. Astagfurlah!” snapped Saheed, shaking his head.
Religion carpeted love but this is not the end.
…to be continued TOMORROW!
-Lord eBay (and his random ruminations, 2017)
Contact/Follow Lord eBay on Twitter/Instagram/Fb: @lordebay