By Ucheoma Onwutuebe
Your friends will tell you of a new joint in town where the oil company guys hangout. Spare no time in getting dressed and joining them next Friday night. Remember, one of the New Year resolutions you wrote down in your diary was to “be more outgoing and sociable”. By the way, you are single and not getting any younger; your mother has begun to look at you one kind: that gaze offered with raised eyebrows, that mingles disdain with curiosity.
At a rowdy corner of the bar on your first night, spot potential Bae amidst a brood of good-looking, moneyed men, draining gallons of Origin. He will be the handsomest of the lot, or better put, the one you think is the handsomest since your friends do not agree with you. Stalk him with your eyes, with that look that seem to say, “if only I could like touch the hem of his garment.”
On your second night, wriggle your way to him on the dance floor. The girl he will come with would give you a look that can curdle milk. Pay her no heed. Overtaking is allowed. Don’t stop dancing. Take off your shoes and dance some more. Slip your number into the back pocket of his jeans.
Every night, talk with him over the phone till your ears ache and feel like too much water got into them in the shower. Chat with him on BBM till your hands cannot hold anything steadily. Steal your roommate’s Victoria Secret lingerie as you pack for your first sleepover. He will whisper to you that he likes you ,that you’re smart, a real fighter. Chuckle and tell him you enjoy being liked. While he lies spent and snoring on the other side of the bed, you will discover that beneath the bulging biceps and clean strong teeth, he is just another ordinary man with animal desires, in search of a less ordinary woman to attend to his needs. It is a role you can fill in comfortably. Brood on your luck till daybreaks.
There are baby pictures on the dresser of the bed. He will tell you they are his sisters’ children in South Africa. He is very fond of his nieces and nephews.
He will to begin to bait you, like fish in water, with feminine fripperies- hair extensions, trips abroad, gadgets- but inwardly you will find this too much effort on his own part. You do not need to be wooed, not at all. Your love will come fully made, like pus-filled pimple begging to be released.
The sleepovers will happen frequently and you will start to ostensibly forget your articles of clothing each night till a segment of the wardrobe becomes yours.
Ignore the latent signs of abuse: the dark, thick cloud of anger that will hang heavy in the atmosphere when you forget to send his clothes to be laundered by the dry cleaners; the wild flick of the hand when you will touch his shoulders to pacify him, the wagging finger in the air that will come too close to your face when you forget his clothes at the dry cleaners again.
Go on more trips: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, London. Resign from your job as the front desk officer of a four star hotel. He will promise to fix you up in someplace better. Moreover you will be tired of him making jest of your job, saying you were a mere receptionist hiding under the fancy title of Front Desk Officer.
Miss him when he takes long trips to South Africa to visit an ailing mother. He will come home with more fripperies. Move in with him.
Tell no one when he begins to leave his mark on you, like a stingy school child who spits into his food to prevent his playmates from begging him. He will say in this way, no one will mistake you for theirs. When he will be away and you are done with chores, to beat boredom, take self-appreciating, selfies,I-woke-up-like-this selfies, waiting-for-bae-to-return-home selfies. Never post them without filtering out your bruises and depression.
In 4 months, you will be planning a wedding. You will be scared, you will want to tell your mother, but she belongs to that class of women who called underwear “petticoat” in order not to scald their righteous tongue. She will say she is happy for you and you will not want to ruin her happiness.
That day the officiating minister will say many, many things, but the only thing you can make out is “No woman ever goes to the altar of matrimony with a stiffened neck.” Your heart will be pounding.
Suddenly. The ushers will be holding down a woman in pyjamas with tattered hair. She will scream, “God punish you! All of you!” and her South African accent will ring loud in the ear. His wife….
Allow a year to roll by. Ignore the whispers as you walk by. Gradually the news of the unfortunate incident will eclipse away when more interesting things happen. You will be torn between choosing an ascetic lifestyle: selling your car and ditching expensive weaves to appear more approachable; or going back to that bar where the oil company guys commune. Choose the latter. Go to that bar again. Choose another potential bae. Repeat all the steps. Easy, careful this time. Good luck.