I REHEARSED the words over and over in my spare time at night. I rehearsed really hard so that when the time came, I would say them out like a proud lady getting married to a man of her dreams. Now, staring into Marvin’s eyes made me realize I would be getting married but with a dark secret. I panicked. Marrying Marvin meant too many things. It meant; marrying his bad breath in the morning, marrying his bushy armpits, marrying his stinking shoes, marrying his snoring! My head felt woozy and I almost ran out of the church but I willed myself to be strong. I knew I could live with all these.
When it got to the point I had to say my vows, the words came out like a mewing sound. My heart froze, that couldn’t have been me! I looked at Marvin. He was smiling so sweetly at me that I cursed myself silently for trying to ruin our day. With a firm voice this time I said ‘I do’ with more emotion and with a deeper sense of commitment.
I enjoyed my day like every woman should and I knew that Marvin would love me till the end of time. It was easy to love him, but for a long time I held onto the walls I built around myself. Gradually, like a demolisher he brought them down with much affection, care and shoulders I have refused to cry on, not because they didn’t look capable. I was afraid for myself and afraid I might drown his shoulders with my unending tears.
I chided myself for trying to reminisce at the wrong moment and as a way of trying to reassure myself that all would be right, I rushed forward and gave my man a fierce hug that I knew would convey my unspoken feelings. He understood and held me tightly the way I liked to be held.
‘I love you Marvin, now and forever’. I whispered into his ears. I felt him hold me a bit tighter but I loved it.
I wore the thickest of the new night gowns Marvin and I picked up at the shopping mall a fortnight ago. He wasn’t satisfied with my choice for the night:
‘Honey, pink favors you most. Why not try that?’
‘Really? You’ve never told me. Love, do we really have to do anything this night?’ I sweetly asked, stalling even as the end was inevitable.
‘Of course, dear. Wedding nights are magical’.
I felt my heart beat faster and it felt like Marvin could hear the drums from where he lay on the bed waiting impatiently for me to join him.
‘Let me put off the light dear’ I said walking towards the switch on the wall. I never made it there because half way through Marvin sprang out of the bed and made a grab for my buttocks – he got a hand full. He snaked his hands up to my waist and then to my chest to help himself to my melons. But half way through his hands froze. He searched further to be certain his hands weren’t playing tricks on him. Though I was backing him, I could describe the look on his face and the whirling emotions in his heart. It was the height of betrayal and selfishness. But I felt total relief wash over me and for the first time since we started dating I felt calm.
‘How could you? How could you do this to me?’ He asked turning me around with a manly force. I lacked the courage to look into his eyes and I couldn’t bear to see the hurt in them. I merely cried as the tears came down from the well of my soul.
Marvin screamed like a wounded warrior. He turned and grabbed the flower vase sitting next to the television and smashed it on the wall. His light skin looked red from hurt. He began to sob uncontrollably. Something I had never seen him do. He sat on the floor and I moved to where he was, on my knees.
‘I can’t take this Boma. I have loved you like no other woman and this is what I get in return? Half… half…’ He trailed off there. ‘It’s too early to get divorce papers! The next time you see me, it would be about time.’
I have been married for thirteen hours and separated. How worse can life be? I wasn’t meant to fall in love. I wasn’t meant to feel. For a long time I told myself I wasn’t destined to love and be loved. I was just meant to love so my heart would be smashed into smithereens. I have had my heart broken fifteen times and by different men whom I felt could love me if they knew everything about me, but I was wrong.
I have gone through a lot but I have come out stronger. Not confiding in Marvin was a desperate attempt to salvage my bitter life. I don’t regret my actions, not now or ever.
I have been a cancer victim since I was twenty-three years. I was told it was hereditary. The lump had grown large and spread to delicate areas. The only option was to do away with the bad breast – the left one – to save my life.
The journey from cancer was a long and trying one and the idea of ending it seemed very appealing. All the men in my life had rejected me. For a long time I felt rejected and vowed I would never let any man come close until Marvin came and something in me changed. And I made up my mind to keep him, no matter what.
On my wedding night, Marvin embraced the ugly imperfection that would stare him in the face forever… That day he not only married me; he married my single breast; he married the ugly scar on the left side of my chest, where a breast once rested. He married my deceit; he married my nightmares.
Two weeks later, here I am still. In my wedding dress, perhaps waiting for my wedding again. But how far do wishes go? I know that when next there is a bang on my door and Marvin’s baritone soars in, they wouldn’t be bringing glad tidings. It would be to have our divorce papers signed. Still, my nights are colder than what they use to be and the nightmares have found their way back…
Finally, the dreaded knock. I knew who it was before his voice called out: ‘Boma!’
For the first time in forever, I rushed to the mirror and looked at who I had become: a scarecrow. I had emaciated, had my hair haggard; and stringy like dreads. Marvin couldn’t see me like this! Instinctively, I moved towards the bathroom then mid-step thought to myself: What was the need? Who did I need to be clean for?
Was that anxiety in his voice? No. Probably the residue of what he had taken with him. I walked to the door calmly and opened it. Marvin stood there, a near direct male reflection of what I had seen in the mirror a little earlier. He was in his suit still. His eyes were to the ground, his voice really low now…
‘Boma, do you think we can continue from that night once more…?’
I wondered what to say. It was our wedding all over again. I wasn’t sure I would go on this second time. What if he did the same thing again…? I closed my mind and allowed my heart talk:
The next moment, I felt myself lifted… and I was in that lovely grasp that had formed my dreams once upon a time… I hugged him back hard as if my life depended on it. It did.
First published in A Basket of Tales: An Anthology of Benue ANA Short Stories. You can download the full collection by clicking HERE.