You are not the type of woman a man marries, not even if he is gay. You are the one he sits beside at a dimly lit bar, talking about Beverly or Vanessa or Sandra as you lovingly send shots of whisky to warm your stomach. He will tell you about the tiny frictions and abrasions of the love net she has woven around him, and tell you in full detail about the same things she desperately tries to pry out of him and fails without intermission.
“Why can’t she be more like you?” he would ask as he hiccups through his third drink while you think about your bed and the holiday you have been putting off for five years. You mutter three sentences of comfort, never more than three. It is pointless to waste your words on the vagaries of romance, it is one of the first things you’d learn when you become one of the guys.
The words are handy, even crucial, in a viewing centre- for cursing Arsene Wenger for beautiful games without fruit and for screaming offside! When you finally understood what it meant. They are important on the morning another friend gets married and he calls you at 5am with voice patchy with doubt and fear. Your words will warm his feet and propel him to the ceremony where his wings are snipped. Your life had just enough sauce and you intended to keep it simmering, and then, you met Kachi.
When you left your tiny flat that morning to the store, to get eggs, milk and flour for the pancakes you had craved for weeks, you selected your Whitney Houston playlist and hooked up your headphones. Headphones discourage stupid conversations; you had learned over the years. You were swaying to “I wanna dance with somebody” when an arm attached to a face with big eyes shielded by glasses and full lips curved upward with an aspiring lush beard as frame, tapped your shoulder.
He was still smiling when you slid your headphones down your head and neck to rest on your shoulders and the smile did not falter when he told you he loved the song you were listening to and he looked forward to dancing to the song with you on your wedding day. You were instantly frightened of him and scanned the floor for a quick escape route.
You were still looking around when he called your name, your ears warmed and burst into invisible flames while you desperately wished you could spray the contents of the bottle of holy water, carrying a label with the image of Father Oku Eligwe with his arms spread heavenwards, on the almost handsome face of this stranger. But it was resting at the top of your wardrobe when you left the house- the green plastic bottle and its contents would have given you enough confidence to leave him there- after wetting his body with it, of course. Your mother had pressed it into your hand at the park as you prayed for the bus to fill up quickly and give you respite from the nightmare that had been dancing around your mother’s questions about a man, the diminishing returns of a woman’s eggs, dying ovaries, and about marriage. My mother must have been psychic and known I would need protection from two-legged demons, you thought.
He told you where he had first seen you, at the house-warming party of your former friend- former, because his wife could not understand the friendship between a man and a woman that did not end on a bed. He had tried to get your number but you left the party too early. You remembered him at that point and even allowed a small smile wiggle through the wall of your face, he latched on that smile and by the time you were leaving the store with him beside you, carrying your items and the bottle of wine he had bought, you were laughing.
If anyone had told you that two months after meeting a man, you would be considering marrying him, your reply to them would have been- become a stand-up comedian. Kachi had decided he was going to marry you and you were faced with the relentless force that was his desire for you. At night however, in your room where you and your thoughts roamed free, you knew it wasn’t solely about his persistence, you had begun to like him too.
“We’re going to see my mother next week,” he shouted above the noise buffeting the tiny nkwobi joint he’d insisted on taking you to that evening.
“I don’t do mothers” you muttered before opening your mouth to swallow the chunk of meat dripping with sauce that he put just in front of your lips.
“And the next weekend, we shall go and see your own mother. I can’t wait to see her dance for joy when she sees the handsome man who is willing to marry her stubborn daughter.” You hit his shoulder and bit your cheek to keep yourself from laughing with him even as the accuracy of his words continued to wiggle your funny bone.
His mother turned out to be as restrained as her son was open, his father was a quiet man who’d shown you his precious collection of old stamps, ten minutes after you walked in. You had begun to relax slightly after lunch, even allowed yourself the luxury of enjoying the conversation when a voice that had always made your hands ball into fists, drifted into your ears.
Victor’s snicker on recognising you warned you that this was a battle you were ill-equipped to win. His evil delight reminding you of all the times he had tried to sabotage you just because you’d said no to his advances. Not even time and your leaving the company you had both worked at, reduced his fearsome menace
“Are you here for counselling with my aunty? She’s a brilliant psychologist and that your sex addiction seemed rather serious to me” was his first shot after getting welcoming hugs from everyone in the room, except you and Kachi- who was on the phone with a supplier in Australia. He continued to yak, saying things that were technically true but were twisted so horrifically that you couldn’t even react as he’d punctuated each crazy story with “am I lying?”
Your hosts looked extremely confused and you soon mumbled goodbye and left before Kachi finished his call, you switched off your phone when you left the gate, your heart twisting with every step. You were flinging clothes into the leather bag Kachi had bought you when you heard a knock on your front door. You ignored it and packed even more feverishly but when you heard the clang of keys and the opening of the door, you were strongly tempted to jump through the window.
“It’s a good thing you gave me spare keys, I would remained outside, banging at the door uselessly.” He said as he stood beneath the door frame, looking handsomer than you’d ever seen him.
“So you ran away because of Victor? My parents told me all he’d said. You know, he has always been evil but it took his performance this afternoon to convince my parents of my claims of over thirty years. He is the devil’s twin brother.”
“Kachi, I cannot marry you, not with Victor being your cousin,” you whispered softly, closing your eyes to trap your tears.
He ignored you and brought out his phone and in seconds, you heard his mother’s voice calling your name. She laughed at your flight and wondered why you didn’t wait for her to handle her errant nephew. I have cut him off from our lives, she said, he will never bother you again and her husbands voice in the background grunting his agreement, dismantled the last brick walls around your heart and you began to sob, letting out joy and relief from your throat and eyes as he pulled you to him.
“I am not going to marry you, Kachi. I am marrying your parents and you will be my stepson” you whispered as you pressed your face on his chest.
“As long as you’re keeping it in the family, I don’t mind,” he replied, just before kissing your hair and tilting your head to find your lips.