For the love of God.

My friend Elisha is going to be fifty. The big 5-0! We met twenty seven years earlier at NYSC camp. It was a sunny afternoon. I was sitting on the ground after the routine early morning exercise, practicing my toasting skills on a very beautiful light skinned girl from Anambra. Funny, how after so many years I can still remember the state she hailed from but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember her name. He reminded me of the wrestler Mighty Igor. Something about the build of his torso..the set of his shoulders. I was a mad wrestling fan back in the eighties. He was from the east…spoke the same language as the chick…and she preferred him to me. I didn’t mind. Before camp was over, he had moved on to other waters. He was a great orator. I enjoyed listening to his stories, his experiences. I came from the south-south and though had schooled in Lagos orientation was quite similar. He was raised by staunch Catholics, so was I. That was part of the attraction,I guess. Our parents religious leanings made our upbringing so familiar.

As life drew us in different directions, our bond waned and we lost touch. We met again a couple of years ago in the banking hall of Guarantee Trust Bank; where I had gone to open a domiciliary account. Elisha was the customers service manager and had sighted me on the queue. We stayed in touch since then. He was ‘happily’ married to Malinda.I was and still remained a bachelor. We would meet one or twice a month. Dates that always coincided with his meetings at work, so Malinda would not burn a gasket. He still was a great talker. We would discuss politics, his relationship with his wife and then religion. I would listen to his woes on his marriage to an insufferably insecure woman. I couldn’t understand why he stayed with her. I am not a religious person. I mean, to be honest, I said my prayers every morning but I wasn’t one of those people who ‘marked register’ in church every Sundays like Elisha, my parents and my brother-Albert. My younger brother had chosen the Pentecostal route. All his sentences were peppered with..GO said this…and GO said that...like he couldn’t think independent of whatever the general overseer of his church said. It wouldn’t irritate me half as much if he quoted from the bible…but no..it was always a quote from his g.o.

Anyway, back to Elisha and his ‘cross’ Malinda. She was the last fish his hook ever sunk into while wading the youthful waters during our NYSC days. I never got over why he married her. He told me then she got pregnant..and her religion forbade abortion. I told him then, her religion forbade what led to the pregnancy, too. All of a sudden, she became holier than thou after the shagging brought forth it’s reward. I never pass judgements anyways….Lord knows I would have dodged that bullet. Back then, I always thought their relationship would eventually fizzle out…so many do when you are younger, grasping for straws in the darkness of immaturity. So, imagine my surprise when we reconnected and he told me he had married her. And not just married but had four children with her.

She was a difficult woman at best, belligerent at worse. A very insecure girlfriend who counted condoms and smelt under wears. She would start a fight with any woman…young or old who lingered after exchanging pleasantries with Elisha. In marriage, her insecurities grew leaps and bounds. My friend had withdrawn from family and friends alike more out of the embarrassment of constantly having to apologize for her bizarre behavior. Despite the difficulties he faced being married to her, my friend was determined to make his marriage work. He said since she found the Lord in church…she was more ‘manageable’.

At least, until a ‘sister’ in church decided to spend too much time with Elisha trying to discuss the process of opening a second checking account for business purposes alone. Malinda had been waiting in the car for him…and had come looking when he still had not come out of the church. On sighting the sisi who had ‘blocked’ her husband…all hell literally broke loose. She dragged the lady to the ground and proceeded to kick and punch whilst cursing her out loud. Elijah said it took, two security men, two deacons, himself included to pull his wife off the poor woman. And it only happened because Malinda paused for a second to re-tie her wrapper which had become undone…exposing her ample buttocks to the full glare of gawking church members and on lookers who had been attracted by all the raucous.The woman had to be hospitalized. Elisha was marked as the brother with the crazy, possessed wife. Elisha said that was the pivotal point in his marriage. I’m thinking..talk about being long suffering. He decided to take her for deliverance. I remember he looked at me like I had suddenly spawn a tail and an extra head when I suggested, maybe, just maybe what she needed was a therapist.

So, today I am visiting his church. There’s a special thanksgiving program for his 50th birthday. I want to see up close and personal what kind of message they preach. What kind of  water do they drink. Elisha has been with his ‘cross’ for almost twenty seven years. He has grown in patience and resilience…but it takes a special anointing which I want to partake of…no joke…to stay hinged to that kind of fire.

At least, until a ‘sister’ in church decided to spend too much time with Elisha trying to discuss the process of opening a second checking account for business purposes alone.

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Mr and Mrs Jones

How did I get here?

When we met, I had so much fire in my belly. I was this fresh faced, bespectacled law and economics double majors student. I was the great activist. I would mount the podium at those fiery meets spitting Socrates and Machiavelli. I would raise my right fist high over my head at the end of my speeches and walk with the swag of a conqueror, the ends of my bell bottom pants gliding gracefully around my ankles. The students union president. A black panther.

We met at one of such meetings. You were the vice president of the students union of a neighbouring college. Back in those days, it was not a common feat for a woman to hold her own in a fora seen as male dominated. We were in awe of you. In your signature styled blue jeans, turtle neck sweater and beautiful blue- black Afro….I was struck. I had always been a man who was captivated more by what was between a woman’s ears than what her statistics were. I was never preoccupied by the opposite sex,  not for their lack of trying or by a lack of virility. I just found social activism more of a turn on than a rump between the sheets. In retrospect, I can say honestly, I also lacked the emotional maturity to give a woman the right emotional succor that would be expected in a healthy relationship. Social activism was my woman….until I met you.

If I before I had purpose, after I met you, I became driven.

I went ahead to graduate with a first class was snagged by Ashland and Smithdt. You went ahead to Uganda for a year to teach English. I was so proud. We got married after your return. I had never been so happy.

Then, the twins arrived the fifth year of our marriage. God kept on giving. With the demands of our growing family, you stayed back home to care for the children. I was happy to take on more responsibility to make up the difference of your income. When the children were old enough to be in school full time, you faltered at getting back in the workplace.  I didn’t mind. I wanted you to take your time. I did notice, though, that there was a difference in interests. I still wanted fiery discourse on social justice and economics.I wanted to discuss the details of my job that encouraged economic empowering of otherwise disadvantaged. Your conversations were peppered by the Real Housewives of ‘whatever’ and Tele Mundo.  Now, I knew being the primary care givers of two babies erodes the brain cells of anybody but you…my darling were not just anybody.You were my copilot!

I bought books. I started a book club…yes, a book club to encourage the development of more cerebral material. You grew sullen and resentful of my efforts to create more opportunities to bond with you. You would start pet projects….all none increasing our economic empowerment but eroding it. I was never one given to work for the purpose of acquiescence.  For me, my work gave me purpose. I loved giving law and economic advice to people. I loved watching start ups grow exponentially from my input. I loved being part of a company that gave millions of dollars in grants to people who normally would not have access to such resources. I was doing it long before I joined Ashland, remember.

While the constant networking with people of like minds have helped grow our bank account…I am growing tired. I am no longer twenty five with fire in my belly. I am a forty six years old man with smothering embers. I have no more desire to amass more wealth. My hair is thinning out, my shoulders are slumped and even though my eyesight has been corrected by laser surgery, the light in my eyes have deemed. I have encouraged you over the years to get a job, lessen the pressure on me. You whine, pout and say we can manage on one income. I am tired of being an ATM machine. I am also tired of talking about it.

The children are now in college. Thanks to scholarship and the fund I started when they were born, their future is well ensconced financially. At my last doctor’s appointment, I was advised to lessen my workload….my health is failing.  And so, I have decided to do just that. Since I made partner five years ago, I have not taken a full holiday. I have informed the board I am taking all my accrued paid time off. It totals five months. I have also informed them, I intend to take a back seat. The details in ramifications to our finances are of no importance me. I will be taking off for a month. Alone.

When I return, we will re access our relationship.  If you are willing to stay in this marriage, fine. I will not die while catering to a lifestyle that milks me of my wholesomeness. If you decide to leave, fine. Be warned though, I have sharpened my skills for twenty years knowing the law….you will only get what I am willing to give you. Marriage should be mutually nurturing. It serves me no purpose if I am dead.