From The Sex Issue
“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”
– Salvador Dalí
In the presence of readily inquisitive guests, in the heat of an ongoing conversation, Ginika abandoned me. But since the earliest days of her NYSC trips to the village, there had been signs of a different woman—steadily emerging—and warily securing its way into my mind. We had both known it for some time and quite clearly, that she preferred the serene remoteness of rural life to any sort of convenience that Lagos might stand for. I was never opposed to that. So it was hardly any surprise when she opted to serve out her one year of patriotic service to the country, as a lab assistant at the newly built maternal hospital—a short walk from our village home. But even so, it has remained an impossible task for her to be satisfied. And now she wants me there with her too! As though I had nothing seriously planned to achieve with my own life, rather than taking in the same repulsive, hospital odor with her—all day—and curdling-up malaria-shriveled children? Perhaps, the subtle ways of insanity is what she needs explained to her once again, if she’ll ever listen.
My father once had it painted boldly in bright-blue letters, above his solid bedroom door that: No one is responsible for your pain, if you fail to calmly bend in through the door. And for some odd, dire reasons, I have come to understand that he must’ve meant the same wisdom, also, in remedy to such cases as my wife’s. For though I would readily go any length in getting her to understand my grounds, I have found it aids nothing any longer. Partly, because she has grown such discourteous manners towards me and everyone else, who ever considered her approachable. And perhaps, it results from certain charitable tendencies that I once thought were natural to her person, but have revealed themselves to me at this point—as nothing but warped virtues.
Now I couldn’t enjoy a meal or two without someone murmuring behind my back, about some motherless child endangered by one ominous disease or the other. It would be on every body’s lips by dawn—of course, that I abandoned my wife to a measly life in Ajali, even if I stayed up all night thinking about it.
And who knows, soon enough some silly fool might even find guts to say things to my face—all because an insatiable woman wants to be pleased. She had merely returned this time to attend a book release party and because I promised to come along to an Enweonwu exhibition. I had voiced nothing about my seething disgust for such useless pass times as art exhibitions. Needless to say, she was aware that I felt all painters were nothing short of impractical whiners. Yet I never turned down her invitation. And rather today—in return for all that effort at leniency, she considered it a well-fitting act to storm out on me in the presence of our guests, Egbuna and his fiancée, Munachi.
Slowly, I had risen up from my seat afterwards, clearly stoned and speechless from the whole situation. From their still stoic faces, there was no question that Egbuna and his fiancée sensed the bitterness that was baring itself on my forehead; because I shortly began to smoothen it, as I was prone to do whenever discomfited. The dim-green light flowing through the room, further heightened the tension by casting a staid, bulky shadow of myself onto the brown marble table beside me; as I wondered right then, if I was really doing the expected thing.
It was fairly midnight. I still had to drive Egbuna and his fiancée back to their Lekki home, as promised. While I drank up the little spirit that was left in my glass, for some reason, Ginika’s mauve-colored purse caught my attention. Perhaps, it was how it lay carelessly on her favorite wool-couch, like a proud sleeping child, that netted my interest. Maybe, that was what I‘d meant to admire. But then I was steered off my thoughts by Munachi’s thin voice.
“So…what are you waiting for, Kaine? You have made me ask the question, so just spill it. What was all that supposed to mean?”
Our eyes nearly met. But then questioningly throwing open her palms towards me, she was speechless once again. Egbuna had been so busy with his phone for a while, that I could fairly guess he was doing nothing serious. I began to feel suddenly responsible for everything that had just happened, even as I battled myself for something else to say.
“Sometimes, I really wish I could say this was uncomplicated, Muna. But…you know better.”
Not knowing what else to let out, I had said what I said. My mind, at that point, was nothing short of an unintelligible space.
“I should drive you guys home. It’s late.” I said.
She knew better. Well enough, to know that I was merely trapped in a helpless throe of ego with myself, right then. She simply sighed and shrugged her shoulders, somewhat mechanically like a badly rehearsed act. I knew right then that I would have to explain myself someday, even if it was some months later. When we left the room, walking towards the garage, there was a heavy slam of the bedroom door—as it landed on its iron-panel. Our attention being seized, there was an eerie and trappable silence afterwards. In fact, for a moment no one seemed eager to move.
Then with some courage, after few seconds, Egbuna was able to mutter few words under his breath.
“Ginika has changed. I believe you should have something to say to her about all this, Kaine. At least, before she returns back to Ajali.”
He continued on as we slowly approached the garage.
“Maybe it’s time you went and witnessed for yourself, what has made your wife into a Red Cross of her own.” In my mind, I comfortably spat at the misery of those two words. What sort of people paraded themselves as life savers even at their own life’s risk?
Munachi had found a Majek Fashek album from the compact disc pile that lay in-between the two front seats. It was a signed copy by the artist from one of the last concerts he played in the late 90’s. I had forgotten I owned the album.
Soon enough, the car was possessed with Majek’s visionary voice as he sung “Send down the rain…oh…jah send down the rain.” Egbuna shortly began humming to the song, after he realized I wasn’t making any conversations. And then, it slowly occurred to me that Majek was reputed to have come up with that song, during a time when Nigeria reportedly suffered the worst drought in its modern history. It’s also remembered that following a notorious performance of the song at a Lagos stadium—after which it was rumored that the drought magically came to an end—the song had raked up staggering sales across the continent. It quickly became a national creed; to the point that certain churches incorporated its melody into their accepted hymnals, declaring it a prophetic mantra for all men.
As we drove past the German Cultural Center on Ozumba Mbadiwe street, I began to get a feeling that Ginika had been right about something. But just what it was, I couldn’t quite piece together. I might be a man of many stories. But certainly, mine would belong with the most probable stories of all stories. I drive a Mercedes Benz S-Class and live in a house of my own. Perhaps, it is the comfort that she has come to loathe. Or rather, it could be I who now loathes my own comfort. September will be making it yet another year, since we both began trying to conceive. And even though it hasn’t been the most wonderful thing to reflect on, certainly, I still stumble upon the idea at many mid-points in my contemplations.
Egbuna have long toned down his throaty humming and Munachi seemed quite relaxed, except for the sky-fixed eyes that appeared to be piercingly searching the night-sky for something deep—and almost giving off a philosophical image of her person. We were soon on Kayode Street. It was as usual, bathed and decked-out with a million bright lights, like the whole of Lekki was known for at nights. The shimmering rainbow of flower beds that neatly lined its entrance, easily brought to mind, the fabled gold-paved streets of afterlife utopias. Except, this was a very Lagosian vision of it. Perhaps, such an aesthetic order explained the popular belief throughout the country that a better number of the people who came to Lagos with their souls intact, would eventually end up losing it. I am yet to fathom what wisdom lie in those words, since Lagos itself, remains a city of the soulful. At least, I believe it to be so. For what could be more soulful, really, than finding oneself at the very center of the ubiquitous but unique energy of Lagos? Perhaps, the depth of the saying simply evades me.
I was about placing down my hat on the passenger seat to grab Egbuna’s extended hand, through my window, when I sighted Munachi yawning mindlessly into the breezy Lekki air. We both smiled childishly at each other as our eyes met. Then planting one of her arms onto her waist in a somewhat commandeering manner, she told me that I was so lucky she didn’t fall asleep in my house.
“Else, I would’ve brought you and Ginika to pious order, since you both think you’re still boys and girls…okwa ya, isn’t it?”
I smiled. It was easy to tell she needed a nap; she spoke with eyes that were rather too sleepy to be serious and like every other time, it felt funny listening to her speak. On my way back home, Ginika called. I impulsively found myself wondering if it was merely out of guilt, that she had called.
“When are you coming back home?”
A clearly wanton sigh followed the question. It was becoming harder, day after day, resisting annoyance from her growing desensitized manner of speech.
“I’m on my way home. Already.” I said “Is there any problem?”
“Nothing!” She thundered back.
A crackling sound was emerging from her side of the phone. I knew she was bored already; curled up and salvaging her prized short-bread cookies, as usual.
“Ginika…are you there?”
Another long silence. And then the beeping sound jolted my ear.
Shortly before placing down the phone, it occurred to me that she had merely called to sense how annoyed I might still be from her earlier actions.
The rest of my drive home was ridiculed with thoughts of her; not merely from of all that took place earlier on. Rather, it was all resulting from a feat to understand a companion who spins numerous lives, yet never successfully became any of her cherished molds.
When I got home, she was childishly cupped into her favorite couch, heavily asleep and far away from all the misery that must’ve included myself.
Photo: Finn Terman Frederiksen