Genotype my foot!
Why can’t I marry the woman I love?
Love is nothing without sacrifice. Love is nothing without tolerance. Love is nothing without trust and patience. All these virtues are summed up in one woman I found ten years ago. She’s called chioma. I still have not forgotten how I met her that rainy Thursday while I was a second year student at the University Of Nnamdi azikiwe University. I was terribly hungry and dashed to the canteen for a meal. As usual, students would cluster at the canteen at certain hours, resulting in long queues. That was the situation that particular day.
It was a long queue, moving slowly with me, struck at a location behind.
Patiently, it had eased and suddenly it got to my turn to be served.
“Fried rice, moi-moi and two meats”, I reeled off and swiftly the waitress assembled my order.
“One-fifty”, she told me. I reached my pocket for money and alas, two hundred naira I had in my pocket was no longer there. I started fidgeting, touching my all my body as if the note was glued to somewhere on me.
“Oga, abeg, no try that trick with me here”, the waitress said. “Give me my money now!”
I have…had money on me…but”, I was stammering despite the fact that am a smooth-talker.
“Oga, My money. One fifty!” the waitress screamed at this point, and this waitress attracted the attention of everyone on the queue. Students, being who they are were divided in their reaction to the scenario. Some just burst out laughing. Some called me a cheat, a liar. Some said I had the right to eat even if I did not have money.
But someone stretched a hand and handed over one hundred and fifty naira to the waitress! She had done it effortlessly as if she was performing her patriotic duty.
“I had money in my pocket. But I don’t know what happened to it”, I told her.
“I believe you. It happens sometimes” she said, while I went to eat the meal in the corner of the canteen. Though I was hungry the circumstances had somehow siphoned the appetite. I saw myself eating like who swallowed a whole elephant.
While I was there picking the food contemplating why fate would deal me such a blow, she came to sit opposite me with her plate of food.
“Why are you not eating?” she asked sounding concerned.
“I have lost appetite”, I told her, my face buried in the plate of uninteresting rice.
“Don’t let what people think about you to bother you”, she said
”You have satisfied yourself, so let that settle everything.”
“It was very embarrassing, in said succinctly”.
“Yes we all find ourselves in embarrassing situation sometimes. Should we kill ourselves for that? No!” she said, gave me a nod approval and started eating her food.
After we had eaten in prolonged silence, I decided I would ask for her name. When I did she told me her name was chioma okeke.
“I ‘m chukwudi but my friends called me chuks. Am studying mechanical engineering, two hundred levels”, I told her.
“I ‘m in accounting one hundred level”, she announced.
After we had eaten, we left the canteen together and that I would say was the beginning of our friendship. For one year, we were just platonic friends, sharing g advice, exchanging visits to our respective hostels and coming to each other’s needs. Most time we studied together and the level of closeness got to a point where the whole school thought we were siblings.
But chioma and I were just friends.
However something did happened which forced us to change our status. A certain guy, who was in final year in her department, started coming around to alter the course of things. At times, I would be studying in the classroom with chioma, and all of sudden, this guy would appear from nowhere and take chioma away.
At the end, she would return with biscuits, cake and all these canned stuffs, which she would toss at me. I would join in eating all those things, but inwardly, I was deeply pained. But there was nothing I could do since she was just my friend.
But an action I took one day, really baffled her. The guy had as usual come to the classroom, and chioma shortly followed him. When I waited for fifteen minutes without the traces of her, I packaged my books and left for the hostel. Of course, I left her books at the classroom, and did that to protest the fact that she went out with that guy for longer than twenty minutes.
That night, I made sure she did not reach me. I just blocked the entire channel which she could have access to me. But the next night, she had ambushed me, demanding why I left without her.
“I wanted the guy to walk you back to your hostel”, I told her.
“Is that why you also left my books there? But you are not my boyfriend” she said.
“So he is your boyfriend?” I asked
“Joseph is not. He is just toasting me. But don’t think that I want to date him”, she replied.
“Then stop seeing him” I commanded.
“I‘m not seeing him. He’s the person coming to see me. Chuks, don’t tell me that you are jealous” chioma said.
“chioma, I am. And I cannot explain it. Sometimes I have the feeling that I should only be the man around you. Each time I see you with that guy, I feel like throwing up. Please promise me that you will not see him again” I said.
“How is that your problem? Why is it bothering you at all? You know why I am wondering? Because you have never told me you love me or you are interested in dating me!” she was almost screaming.
“Okay chioma, you know what? I love you! You know what? I want to date you and be the only man around you”, I stressed
A supercharged silence followed. Then, she breathed out, rather resignedly.
“As usual, you will give me time to think about it”, she said impulsively.
“No”, I resisted. “I need an answer right now”.
She hesitated, but I pulled a fast stunt by pulling her close to me and kissing her deeply. She did not resist. She gave in with her soul; I knew the entire process have been mutual. Both of us had been longing for each other, yet we had been pretending to be cool with just sitting close to each other reading.
From that day, things changed. The status in fact, became more interesting, more so, with the reality of that year Valentine’s Day, just four days away. Everything was perfect. The stage was set. Love was in the air, and the pair seemed tailor made for each other. At some point others students were just urging us to enter and compete for the campus couple pageants, certain that we would win from the level of closeness we were enjoying. In reality most campus romances just end at the gates of the school but ours followed us even after we had graduated. Chioma was quite lucky with employment. She got recruited in the oil servicing industry, earning a huge salary, while I still battled with clients at an automobile company. Of course, our incomes were at a disparity, with chioma, making most four times what I was getting. While mine was irregular, hers were religiously at the third week of every month.
People that would make her lose sight of our affair, but chioma still stick to me like glue. In fact what even continues to baffle me was the way she was carrying on with the affair, as if her life depends on it. Other women would have judged their man on the basis of their income, but chioma rather preferred to judge me based on what we have seen in each other while in the university. On a number of occasions, she would bring her income to me and ask me to take as much I needed. She just was doing things I never knew was possible with educated women.
Naturally, I had to wish that the fun should last me a lifetime by making a marriage proposition which she accepted in good faith, but her parents who had been equally supportive advised that we should have a test!
“of course, you know that no modern pastor will wed you unless you produce details of compatibility in terms of health”, chioma’s father had advised.
I even liked the idea because the Hiv test I did when I was a youth corper confirmed that I was negative, and I had sort of maintained a monogamous relationship, by clinging to the woman of my life, chioma, exclusively. We of course, got the rude shock from the pastor whom we usually visited for counseling at his office. That very day, he started on a pessimistic note.
“I want you to know that God wills everything. Sometimes love is not enough to make a marriage work. Whatever God avails to you, take it in good faith”, he had said and for almost thirty minutes, the pastor did not leave of pessimism. I managed that God in his infinite wisdom, also designed love to conquer all challenges. And it was at this point that he opened to tell us the result of the test we had at the church clinic. He said I was a partial carrier of sickle cell gene, just like chioma.
“The meaning is that one out of every four kids you have will have a full blown sickle cell anemia. One out of every four children will cause you pain”, he stressed
“And based on this, I will urge you to drop the dream of becoming man and wife.”
“Pastor you know what you are asking us to do? You are saying we should destroy a life we spent ten years building”, I announced.
“It may be difficult option today, but you will realize it’s the best option tomorrow. The problem you avoid today, may be your guiding light tomorrow”, he said.That day, chioma and I wept bitterly of course, I can’t life in the arm of another woman. Which woman will give me the kind of attention I have enjoyed from this woman? Who will tolerate, trust and cherish me like she has done? I am dying in bits, I can’t fathom why I can’t be with the woman I have loved all my life?