“Didi, I am pregnant,” Chichi said.
I almost fall out of my chair in shock. She is the most careful woman I know and her cycle is as predictable as the clock which is why she has had only 1 abortion that I know of. I remember her telling me that she and Moses had to be careful not only to avoid getting caught but also not to get pregnant. The church would not wed them if she was pregnant. They would have to do a “marriage blessing”; probably in some“ office in Shepherd centre without the normal fanfare of church weddings or wed in another church.
“How did it happen?” I ask.
“O buro Moses (Is it not Moses)? He claims he reacts to condoms and I told him it wasn’t my safe period but he said he would be careful. Lee nu ya (Look at the result),” she said folding her arms.
I was at hers because a tailor was to come there and take our measurements for the clothes for her wedding. She was running late.
“Ke ihe I ga-eme (What are you going to do?)”
“I don’t know. Moses says we can’t keep it. He can’t lose the job in church.”
“Will they fire him because you got pregnant?”
“You don’t know these people. They can be petty. Even if they don’t fire him, he won’t be seen in the same light ever again.”
“Well…I don’t know how that is a loss. Maybe they need to see him for the hypocrite he really is!”
“Didi!” she gasps.
“What did I say that is not true? He has everyone fooled that he is on a high spiritual plane or something yet, he is asking you to get rid of his baby.” I spit in disgust and cross my arms before the thought hits me. “Wait, is it his child?”
“How should I know?” she replies non-pulsed. “The child belongs to whoever I decide to keep it for.”
“O gini (What is it)?” She rises from her couch to pick the remote from the centre table and proceeds to flick through channels casually as if she just announced that it rains in Nigeria.
I gape at her, mouth open as she stands with one knee on the table and her left hand on her waist. She has crossed many lines in the past but now I feel like I can see into her soul and what I see is frightening. I feel like in place of her soul she has a yawning hole; deep and dark and menacing, filled with the souls of all the men she has been with. I shiver with repulsion.
“How did I ever admire her so much that I wanted to be like her?”
She takes her seat before speaking again. “Why is that tailor taking so long?”
“Chichi why did you continue sleeping with your boss when you knew you were engaged to Moses?”
“Who will pay for me to maintain my lifestyle? Is it Moses who can hardly fend for himself? I had to give him money to secure a venue for our traditional wedding. His rent just expired and his car is on its last legs. Why doesn’t he ask where I get all the money from?”
“He is afraid to ask…” I realize.
“Does such a man deserve…never mind.”
She picks up her phone, dials a number. I overhear her scolding the tailor for being so late and urging her to hurry.
I find myself wondering whether Stan would ask me to abort his baby if he found I was pregnant. Then I find myself wondering what Nedu thinks about abortion.
“Why am I thinking about Bro. Nedu?”
“That woman is testing my patience. I will change tailors if she doesn’t show up. The last time she kept me waiting like this it turned out she was lying and had never left her shop. Ndi mmadu di nno unreliable (people are just unreliable).”
“How far gone are you?”
“Is there any one apart from your boss?”
She nods. “There’s Chief Braithwaite and Felix.”
“But…but…Felix is married, newly married. I thought you guys broke up?”
“Is it my fault his wife doesn’t know her duty? He said she is frigid. All these “sisters” who don’t want you to test before marriage: She was hiding her issues. The guy came to me in tears. I had to put him out of his misery.”
She reaches for her glass and takes a gulp. With her it is never anything light. It’s go hard or go home. Even when she used to smoke she was smoking Cuban cigars. She gave them up last year when she felt she was losing control. I hug myself. There is a chill in the air.
Maybe it comes from us coldly discussing the future of a child who did not ask to be conceived by a mother who exists solely for the next thrill.
Maybe it is because of all the alcohol we have consumed.
Maybe it is about to rain.
I feel sad but I can’t explain why. Though I am the less adventurous of the two of us, I always defended her actions. Now I find myself wondering if there will ever be an end to the excuses.
“Where does it all end really?”
I realize I have spoken out my thoughts. “What will happen after the wedding when Moses finds out he has been fooled?”
“Like the good Christian that he is, he will accept his lot and make the best of it. Come to think of it, he is getting me.” She points at herself. “All this gorgeousness for one man?”
I laugh despite myself. She has a point; a woman as highly coveted as she is only comes at a price and Moses will pay it whether or not he realizes it.
My phone jars me out of my reverie at work the next day. It is Nedu. I realize I didn’t call him.
“Hi. Bro. Nedu good evening.”
“When did it become “Bro. Nedu?” he asks.
I almost blush and I wonder why. “Why am I so nervous around him? I feel like a bumbling fool, barely able to string two words together. Even pastors don’t make me this nervous.”
“I am sorry: Nedu. I should have called to tell you I will be unavoidably absent but if there is another class next Saturday, I will be there.”
“Will he let you come next Saturday?”
“I beg your pardon?” A cold feeling of dread descends slowly down my spine.
“I know you heard me. I had a dream last night and I saw you had a star on your head. Most people who are born to be stars find their destinies derailed early in life. It is never easy getting them to commit.”
“I don’t know who you think you are but…” My legendary temper has unleashed itself like a rottweiler that smells blood.
“Ndo Nne. Enjoy your weekend and come to class next week. I pray the angels of God protect you till you are ready to take the leap. Jesus loves you.”
“He ended the call! What is it that gives this man airs, biko nu?” I fume when he cuts off. “Who told me to attend that church and even come forward and write down my name? I should never have.”
If I had been tempted to cancel on Stan, the thought perished when he sent me flowers in the morning with a handwritten poem telling me how much he looked forward to our outing. By the time I got off the phone thanking him for the flowers, a package arrived for me. It contained the most decadent lingerie, my favourite perfume, chocolates and red wine. I had had great boyfriends but this one surpassed them all.
Which girl in her right mind would ever give up all that for a bible study class? Am I the first girl to get born again? I know a number of born again folk who live double lives; they have the right lingo, attend church regularly and go through the motions but when it is time to party, they take no prisoners. That is more my style. Not for me the life of the miserable minority who actually give up their former lives when they get born again.
“That just sounds so unnecessary.”
Chichi invited me to her church. I know she is supposed to meet up with her boyfriend Moses, who plays guitar in their church. Moses is “the one”. Of course he doesn’t know it yet but his life has been planned for him. He is not tall enough but he is handsome and kind and he doesn’t ask too many questions. What more does a girl need in a husband? Money? No, money is for the desperate, thirsty girls out there who want to eat their cake and have it. Chichi works in an investment firm and handles the portfolios of the richest men and women in Nigeria. She has a sugar daddy for career advancement, one for trips abroad and another for high-end expenses. Moses is the one who will marry her and give her the title “Mrs”. I envy him. He is getting a great girl.
Their church has a very fancy name; The Shepherd Centre. I like it. I have only been here twice but the music is always great and the guys drool-worthy. What our native wear does to men; only God will deliver young ladies!
She drove us there in her humble car, the car that she used when husband-hunting. Moses has never seen her G-wagon. He doesn’t know of her 2 houses and property in Port-Harcourt. As far as he is concerned, she is a secretary in her firm and earns N200, 000.
That is just her basic salary, however. Last night she spent double that amount on the champagne alone while we clubbed. It was the birthday of a mutual friend and we threw her a party complete with male strippers, sex toys, weed and a few other substances guaranteed to lift our spirits from the dreariness of the Lagos hustle.
“Didi help me put on my bracelet,” Chichi asked.
She has called me Didi rather than Ndidi from the first day we met. She wanted our names to rhyme. Fortunately, everyone already called her Chichi rather than Chizitere Onyema. We met during NYSC (I’m sure you have heard about the compulsory 1 year service to the nation that gives the Nigerian government the right to fling you to the far corners of the earth and pay you a pittance for teaching children who have no intention of learning anything). During the orientation in Nassarawa state, she was the toast of the camp with her fair oval face and brown eyes, her figure that was just at the edge of being voluptuous and her ‘come-hither’ voice. We became friends when she rescued me from a soldier who was harassing me for avoiding the parade. He was already raising his voice when she slid over (I was hiding in mammy market) and said in that her ‘come-hither’ voice “Officer, please excuse me!”
He turned to stare at her like he was on puppet-strings, mouth-agape. Since then I have seen her do this to many people of both sexes. Her voice is so soft and sweet that when she speaks you feel sorry for her. I have seen her end quarrels just by saying “Hello”. (Like I said earlier, Moses is a lucky man). Anyway, the soldier pointed at his chest like a child and said “Me?”
She nodded and made a sign for him to come to her. He smiled sheepishly and followed her. I didn’t wait to find out where they went but ran back to the parade ground. A few minutes later, I saw her join the parade. I later found her and said thanks. She waved away my gratitude, smiling.
“What did you tell him?” I asked.
“O, he’s a teddy bear. I told him I needed help learning to march. He assumed I was offering more,” she said and laughed. Even her laugh was alluring. The way she threw back her head and opened her mouth very slightly such that a gentle ringing sound came forth; I knew I had to enroll in her school of seduction.
8 years later, I think I have done well for myself. This morning I am wearing an Ankara print shift dress but it was made by one of the big names in Nigerian fashion so it is remarkable. My nude shoes are louboutins, my make-up is great (I paid a lot of money for professional tutoring after all), my purse is chanel and my fragrance is Versace. I may not be as pretty as Chichi but the package is alright. Maybe I will get noticed by one of the brothers in the choir as well. The current boyfriend Tolu , is not saying anything that sounds like “Marry me”. I am not going to keep waiting for him to choose me from his myriad of girls (Yes I know he is unfaithful but there is this saying about a bird in hand…).
I help Chichi put on her bracelet and we get down from her car. A quick check in the car mirror and we start walking into the church, bibles in hand. She is wearing a yellow dress that clings to her in ways help you appreciate her flat abdomen (if you can take your eyes off her figure). We were 15 minutes late. The ushers in black smile at us, shake our hands and guide us to seats on the 2nd row to the right. I drop my possessions on my seat and rise to join the singing. The songs are new to me (I grew up catholic but I have attended many Pentecostal churches these past 4 years in Lagos). I fix my gaze on the screens so I can learn the lyrics or at least mouth them so I don’t look disinterested. No brother in this church will give me a 2nd glance if I don’t look spiritual enough.
It is actually not hard to get caught up in the emotion of the music. I spot Moses on the stage, strumming his stuff but I can’t concentrate on him. After a while, I am in my own world, Chichi, Moses, the crowd fades away. I find myself raising my hands to worship, swaying to the music. One song in particular keeps ringing in my mind long after we sit down and the pastor begins to speak. I barely hear him. I find myself distracted, not by the fashion of other attendees as used to be the case but by thoughts I cannot explain their origin.
“Turn to Psalm 33 verse 11,” the pastor was saying. “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Nothing can thwart God’s plan for your life, not your mistakes, your stubbornness, your pride, nothing! He sacrificed his son on the cross of calvary. That gives him a right to your life. You think you own it but you are living on borrowed time.”
I felt a stab in my heart. A wave or tremor or something went through my stomach. I glanced at Chichi. She was chewing gum, her face impassive. No one else around me looked like they felt what I was feeling. I sat up and crossed my legs. Maybe it was the moi-moi I ate in the club that caused the rumble in my stomach. Flicking my hair over my shoulder, I took my gaze off the pastor. Suddenly, he was too intense for my comfort. I brought out my phone and began to check twitter. My timeline provided the much needed distraction. Soon, the disquiet eased and I relaxed.
“ Maybe I ought to find the restroom after the service.”
The service was over but the music director wanted to speak to Nedu.
“Good job bro!” he gave him a hi-5.
“Praise God! I thought my voice would be cracked after last night.”
“No, it was fine.”
“Why did you drag that song for so long though? It went on forever. I asked Veno to start a new song on the keyboard to give you a cue but you didn’t notice.”
“I did notice but I don’t know why God just wanted me to keep singing that song. Each time I tried to change it, I felt I should stick with it.”
“Okay, I won’t argue with that. Thankfully, it didn’t get boring.”
“I have to go. Moses wants to introduce me to someone.”
“He does? That spiritual brother? I didn’t know he has a girlfriend,” Teni laughed as he spoke.
“Neither did I!”
“I want the full gist…with pictures, my guy.” He extended a hand for a handshake as Nedu laughed and turned to leave.
To be continued
Kindly comment, like, share and follow me on twitter @nenabekee
I hope to post 2 drafts every week.
My post “You flatter me”, reminded me of this story. This man was a CEO and an old patient of a hospital I worked in years ago. It was my first time meeting him though. He was brought in by the trembling ‘Mrs. Know it all’. Do read that post if you haven’t. I was surprised someone could make her cower. She was usually on her A game.
He was pleasant enough, as we got chatting about his health. That was before his phone rang. I could make out some of the conversation.
“Hello, let me call you back”, he said.
I don’t know what the caller must have said.
“I’ll call you back. I’m in the hospital”, he said.
“What! Are you sick?”, she asked.
“Which hospital? Let me come and see you. Do I cook pepper soup for you? ”
“I said I’m talking to the doctor. You don’t need to come”
The caller kept offering to come till he snapped at her and ended the call.
“Doctor, why are girls so desperate these days?” he asked me angrily.
“I don’t understand”, I replied innocently.
“This is a girl I met in a club. I can’t even remember her clearly. She has been on my case’
I cluck my tongue sympathetically.
“No, really, what is happening to ladies? Can’t they just get a job like you and stop looking for a meal ticket?”
I laughed. “I feel she was being caring”, I offered tongue in cheek.
“Caring? I tell you, I have had it up to my ears with these girls. I don’t know how they get my number. Some even trace my house”
“You can’t blame them. See the kind of car you drive”, I smile.
I tell you, the man was drop dead gorgeous. Tall, dark, very handsome (not as handsome as my husband but a close 2nd. Lol). Do you blame the ladies for going babanas? Company CEO, mid thirties, suave, and courteous. What more could you ask for.
“I can’t imagine you behaving like that”, he snapped, still irritated.
“But I’m married. Do you know how I behaved when single?”, I tease.
“No, it’s not possible. At this rate, I will never get married. These girls are vicious”
His phone rang again. “You see? It’s the same number”, he said as he answered it.
“Hello. Yes, I’m still there. No, you can’t come. I’ll call you when I leave. Stop calling”
By now, I was laughing out loud. This girl was not playing!
“Doc, don’t you have younger sisters?”
“I have 3”
“How old are they? Are they doctors too?”
“One is an Engineer, who is engaged. The other is a lawyer. And the 3rd just got into the university”
“Does the lawyer look like you? ”
“She’s the prettiest of us all and she’s taller than I am”, I answer, rubbing it in.
“Give me her number. I think she’s going to be like you. I need a good girl”
I laugh like he is joking, though I know he isn’t.
“Seriously, I need her number”
“No, I will not give you her number. If you meet her somewhere, great. But, I will not play matchmaker, except I can vouch for you”
He spent more time arguing, pleading, and bargaining. In fact, he refused to leave till the nurse came in to throw him out, as patients were waiting.
“Why won’t you just give me her number? I’m a nice guy”
“Forgive me. I want more for her”, I stood to walk him to the door.
“What! You are pregnant? “, he exclaimed.
He was just noticing that I was pregnant with my first son. I laughed.
“I couldn’t tell while you were sitting down. Most pregnant women look disfigured. How come you are not? ”
I shake my head with more laughter.
“Now, I’m really dying to meet your sister”
I shoo him out while he continues to state his case. He promises to return the next day to resume the pleading and I laugh. Later, I told my sister what happened. Of course she asks why I didn’t give him her number. By now, you are also wondering why. The simple reason is that he was not born again. You may be the nicest, gentlest, handsomest, richest guy but, if you love not my Jesus, I cannot connect you to anyone I love.
Many Christians, male and female, flirt with unbelievers. We believe we can control them, convert them, change them, etc. Before long, we are sucked into their lifestyle. That is when you begin to hear excuses like
“All these born again people are worse than unbelievers!”
“I prefer unbelievers. They don’t deceive you”
How many girls have married a poor unbeliever? How many men have married an unbelieving girl who was not pretty and came with no family connections? Let’s call a spade a spade. They are great as colleagues, neighbours, acquaintances, etc. They are not for intimacy. Do not even start. If all your secrets, and intimate thoughts are for them, I believe you are on a slippery slope.
Not only in marriage but certain business partnerships, relationships and so on, are better within the kingdom. Yes, Christians who are immature, can hurt you (ask Jesus what Judas did to him). That should not turn you off. Just believe God for a kingdom relationship.
Another thing is that I believe a woman should have no competition in her man’s life. For me to put my dear sister in a situation where she is one of many rather than the only, does not work for me. Wouldn’t those girls come after her? Could she tolerate his ego? This “oga”, who is used to girls falling all over him? Eish! I cringed to think of my sister trembling at the sound of his voice.
One of my friends dated someone like that. He calls her on phone and shouts, “Be here in 30 minutes, or it’s over!” She leaves everything and dashes to his house in fear. No matter how friendly the cub and the deer are, when he becomes a lion, the deer will change from friend to food.
So, what do you think? Guys, do you think ladies are becoming too forward? Ladies, should I have connected them? What would you do, in my shoes?
Cheers, Dr. N
Laura was doing her make up in dim light in her room. It was 5 am and she had to be in school at 6am. Her plan was to eat breakfast and then walk to school in that time. She had a discussion group meeting before the 1st lecture at 7am. Of course, power was out as usual. Her rechargeable lamp was the only source of light. She hoped she would not end up looking like a scarecrow.
Satisfied with her efforts, she tucked her books under her arm, picked up her purse and locked her door behind her. Ikenna was her neighbour. He usually walked to school with Uche and her. This morning, Uche was absent as she was not part of the discussion group. She saw him locking his door as she stepped out and smiled.
“I don’t know why a young man like you cannot wake up early! You should have been waiting at my door, not rushing out with your hair uncombed”, she scolded lightly.
He put a hand on his head. “O! I forgot”
“Don’t bother! I have a comb in my bag. You can fix it while we walk to school”
Ikenna heaved a sigh of relief. Rushing to accept the comb, he joined her on the path to school. They lived in an off campus facility that was quite a distance from school. To save money, they trekked to school, then took a commercial motorcycle (bike) back. Flinching from the wet leaves brushing against their legs, they skipped the puddles on the footpath, as they discussed the events of the day before.
“Why did you tell Uche the guy asked you out?”, Ikenna asked.
“Guy, I didn’t know when it slipped out. All these teachings on faith…..”
“Ha! Blame it on Pastor Chuks!”
“No, really. He assigned that hunk of a greek god to me to follow up intentionally. The follow up coordinator was there, as well as several brothers. Why me?”
“So you saw it as a sign”
“But you need to see the guy! Handsome like……”
“I actually know him”, Ikenna interjected.
“He’s my cousin’s friend”
“And you never thought to introduce us?”
“See me O! Introduce, kwa! For what?”
“If you see something good, won’t you like it for your sister?”
“I wonder when my mother gave birth to you”, Ikenna mumbled under his breath.
“He’s not a bad guy but, I’m not sure he’s a Christian”
“I will convert him now! He will even become a pastor by the time I’m through with him. Put in a good word for me”
“But he has shown an interest in Uche”
“Uche has shown no interest in him. She has multiple toasters. Besides, she will feel guilty snatching him from me”
Ikenna fidgeted uncomfortably. “Can we just change the topic? Sometimes you girls think I’m a girl”
“O! Boy! Sorry O!”, she laughed. “How about that your babe?”
“Stop calling her my babe. She is a family friend. Her family told me to look out for her as she’s a fresher. I’ve told you severally”, Ikenna replied crossly.
“Why are you getting worked up? The girl hangs on your every word, stares at you like you’re a star, appears at your doorstep for no reason? You keep telling me nothing is going on”
“If you are jealous, say so”
“Jealous of? Please, I am only concerned for the poor girl. It is obvious you intend to remain girlfriend-less till you graduate. That was how you and Vicki lasted 1 month. What of Banke?”
Ikenna was mute. When she was in this mood, it was best to ignore her. He always wondered where women got their ability to talk from. They never ran out of things to say. Trying to keep up was futile. She noticed his silence and kept quiet.
“2 can play”, she thought. “Selfish somebody! I know how many times I’ve tried to hook him up with nice girls. He can’t even return the favour. Why exactly are we friends?”
They walked the rest of the way in silence. Soon, they were at their lecture hall. They spotted other classmates gathered at the back and made their way to join them. Already, Big J could be heard trying to dominate the discussion. He was a boisterous fellow, who took delight in proving just how many pages of the textbook he had read before others. Laura detested him. Moreso, because he had teased her once about being left Uche’s leftovers. The sight of him churned her stomach but, she refused to leave the group for his sake.
3 days later, Laura was having lunch at the cafeteria. Ikenna and Uche had gone to buy a textbook sold by their lecturer. She didn’t have enough money to buy hers yet, so she went to console herself with a plate of rice and stew. She was alone at the small white plastic table, left to her thoughts.
“Hi, Lily”, she heard. The booming voice sounded familiar. Her heart skipped a beat as she turned and saw the owner of the voice.
I think one of the most dreaded tasks any doctor has to perform, is to deliver a positive HIV test result. The thought of the patient’s reaction, (people have been known to collapse), is enough to make one sweat. Usually, there is pre and post counselling. Also, I personally, try to guage the patient’s temperance, hoping and praying he or she is not given to fainting, or worse still, taking it out on someone. Some incidents in the past, have led to my deciding to do this post.
This is about a young man, no more than 30, who came in for a medical fitness assessment few years ago. Most Nigerian companies, ask for HIV tests. They claim that they will not discriminate against those found positive, but potenial employees doubt this. I’ve had a man go on his knees begging for his result to be falsified, because he believed it would affect his chances of getting a job. Unfortunately, the hospital can only recommend that the subject is fit despite being HIV positive, but cannot fight for the person.
So this young man in question was positive, and had come for the results. I held the sheet, wondering how to break the news. A handsome, well spoken, gentleman, I felt he would take it badly.
“As you know we ran several tests”, I was buying time.
“Yeah, I know”
“Among them, tests for syphilis, hepatitis B, and more. All the tests were negative but one”
“Really? Which one?”
“Before I tell you, I hope you know that having any disease is not a death sentence? There is….” he didn’t let me finish.
“Is it the HIV? I know it’s positive” he stated.
I let out a breath. Why was I so worried?
“You already knew your status?” I asked.
“No, I did not”
“Then how did you conclude that the result is positive? ”
“I just suspected”
“Why? Did you hear from a previous partner, that she is affected, or you noticed any symptoms?”
“No, I just had a feeling”
“Why?” I asked.
” Before I became a Christian, I was very promiscuous. I was in bed with a different girl every night, sometimes 2 at a time. Occasionally, I used protection. During my service year, after university, I did the test when an organization offered us free, voluntary counseling, and testing on camp. It was negative. I was so happy about the result, the next time someone preached to me, I gave my life to Christ”
I was by this time, leaning forward, eager to hear the rest of the story.
He went on. “I began to preach after camp.Everybody in my neighbourhood knows me as a preacher. I usually hold crusades, and so on. The truth is that I have been celibate since that time, but I just felt that I may not get away with the rough life I lived”
I was very sad. Here was a man who genuinely repented of his lifestyle, and still had to pay this sort of huge price. Was God unable to deliver his own son? How would the people he had converted take this news, if they got to know? Would they believe he had been celibate, or assume he was living a double life?
“I am not even worried for myself, what do I tell my fiancee?” he added.
I was dumbfounded. “You are due to be married?” I asked in shock
“Yeah, we’ve fixed a date, informed my parents. This job was supposed to cement everything. I don’t know how she’ll take this news”
I thought for a while.” Ask her to come in for a test. You can tell her it’s a pre marital tests since most churches demand genotype and HIV tests. If she is positive, we’ll break the news to her and decide what next. If not, you will decide how to tell her that you are infected”
“We have never had sex” he informed me.
“Really? That’s great news! I’m so happy to hear that. You have to think. What kind of a person is she? Does she believe in you? Is she a tale bearer? Can she keep a secret? If she can, then open up to her and follow it from there. On the other hand, if she is the type who will go and tell the world that you are HIV positive, just break up with her, without telling her why”
“I can’t imagine living without her, I love her so much. I’ve been looking forward to our wedding night, keeping myself for her. How can I leave her?”
“Well, this does not mean you can never marry.There are ways to protect partners who are not carrying the virus” I chipped in
“No, I can’t do that to her. I can’t take the risk”
“I don’t want you to give up. Don’t decide that you deserve this diagnosis because of your past. You have to appeal to God for healing based on his word that any man in Christ is a new creature. Old things are passed away. Can you practice what you preach? ”
I will end this story, here for I never saw the man again. Please write and tell me how you would have handled the situation. If you were his girlfriend, would you rather not be told? Does repentance exclude us from the fruits of our mistakes? How do we break the cycle?