Friday, May 21, 2010

That Which Ought Not To Be (5)

Life is a wonder sometimes. How can this be happening? How can I be in this situation. I, the wife of a Pastor? What will they say? What was I thinking? It was simple really. I was thinking about loneliness. I was thinking about emptiness. I was thinking that, right then, at that moment, I did not care what I was thinking. It just felt so good. Even if it was only for a moment. It provided an escape. It made me feel OK again. I didn't care if at the end of it all, once the feeling was over I felt lost. I did not care. I just relished the moment. Lost could wait.

People never tell you that sometimes life is not really always black or white. At least no one told me. Fred was never meant to become a pastor. In fact, he always shied away from any church activity that brought attention to himself. I was the one that encouraged him. Even prayed about it. I was the one that wanted him to be a true Man of God. If only I had known what that really meant. And the worst bit is that its not even his fault. He did not anything wrong. He only became what I had spent countless nights praying about. Even fasted for......I am the one that could not step up to the plate I had placed in front of my husband. I was the one that began to dabble into that which I ought not dabble into. I was the one that sought relief from the empty life of being a pastor's wife as I was faced with the truth that I was not really a true woman of God. Somewhere I had missed it. And I could not hack it.

The really bad things usually start off very innocent don't they? Just that one glass of wine. Just the one! I was tired and lonely that night. I was weighed down by all the emptiness my life as a pastor's wive had become. I was overwhelmed by this position I had been thrust into as the first lady of a church. It was so hard trying to be this person, this paragon, this, this....perfect picture of holiness. It never occurred to me that no on was asking me to be THAT. No one expected me to be holy like that. Well, it did not matter, I did. I expected me to be holy like that. And it has finally driven me to that place I ought not be in. That place where reality blurs and false things begin to twinkle. Fears and sorrows ebb away steadily carried on the deceitful wings of spirits. Spirits that flow into my being, my system as I sip them from a sparkling wine glass.

Yes, I, a pastor's wife, had become an alcoholic.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


As I look at the alert on my phone, informing me that a huge sum of money has been wired into an off-shore account, I am happy and sad at the same time. Happy, because of what this deposit like other deposits, mean for my future and that of my children. Sad because if you had told me, when I was a young idealistic youth that this is what I would become if I held public office, I would have said "over my dead body!"

I do not make to defend all public office holders in this country. I cannot. But for myself I have to admit, that the fear that drives me is strong enough to blur the edges of my conscience (though not able to deaden it). When I think back on my youth, the poverty. How we did not know what and when our next meal will be. How when our uncles came to the village from Lagos, and gave us N10 (Ten Naira), my mother will collect it and use it to buy stuff, which she put on a tray for us to hawk that week, through the process, she somehow made the ten Naira into thirty and it kept us for a while, until something came up, our little sister fell ill, books were needed in school and all the seed money will need to be spent then we will be back at square one. I remember all the hand-me-downs that made up our wardrobe, there were items of clothing that all 5 of us wore and even those were handed down to us by other families. I remember some nights when we were hungry and mother will soak the garri in a big bowl and ask us to go outside and play (on our empty stomachs), she will call us in 20 minutes later to a full bowl of garri which we then shared. She used to say Jesus multiplied it while we played. I remember nights when after we had eaten all the garri, and she thought we were in bed, she would sit by the window of our shack, crying. Crying for her husband who died, for youth lost too early, for the burden of raising 5 children on her own and being unable to ask for help from her family, who had cast her out for marrying an Osu - an outcast!

I remember most especially when our little sister fell ill, Ada, she was the crown on my mother's head. She was beautiful and full of life. She somehow managed to look like sunshine even though she was wearing rags. Mama had secretly hoped, that she will one day fetch a good bride price, and marry well, so that she liberates the entire family. A lot of responsibility on a little girl's head I know, but when you do not have plenty, what you have, you use.

Ada started running a temperature one evening, mama suspected that it was malaria. She went into the bush as usual- yellow mango leaves, the skin of a coconut, scent leaf, the bark of the eucalyptus tree and a few other things, she plucked and put in a pot to boil. She gave Ada some of the portion to drink, rubbed her down with water and a cold cloth and even made her inhale some. This time unlike other times, Ada did not get better. By the third day, she looked half her size and mama began to panic. She had sold all her wrappers over a year ago when she bravely decided we all had to go to school, her jewelery followed, she had even sold her pots and pans. There was nothing more to sell. She had borrowed and begged for food so that we could eat, it was so bad that some people started to avoid her in the market place.

Mama managed to get Ada to the general hospital by day four and waited on the long queue to see the doctor. Consultation was next to nothing, but even nothing, Mama did not have. She begged the nurse to just see the doctor, the doctor heard her voice and came out to say it is ok, he would pay. Ada saw the doctor, he made a diagnosis, it in deed was malaria. He wrote a prescription, and handed Mama the five naira note to go and buy the medicine and mama cried some more. "How will I give this medicine if she has not eaten, the other 4 have not eaten as well, " she wailed. The doctor said he could not help with that and gently reminded her that he had paid for all the consultations in the past year, even when Kelechi had measles and we all come down with it, she had to pay it off by agreeing to scrub the hospital floors after we recovered.

I really tried to help in that time, I started to rummage through the dust bins in our neighborhood but when Mama caught me, I got a serious beating, she said hough we were poor now, we would not always be so. she will make sure we go to school even if she has to sell herself and that we would one day be important people and we could not have them say, those were the children who used to eat from our bins. As you can imagine, she nearly killed me the day i came home with stolen bananas.

Ada did not recover from that malaria. That she was malnourished could not have helped! The day Mama buried her own daughter was when I saw the resolve. It was not long before strange men started to visit our shanty and we would be asked to go outside and play, sometime we leaned on the window and heard strange grunts from the men. We did not know what happened in there but we knew that we suddenly started to eat more. We started to go to school regularly and over time we were not wearing tattered uniforms.

Fast forward, 33 years. I am 45 now, a Director in one of the Federal Ministries in Nigeria and since I got into public office and into positions where money passed through me, some has always gone to me personally. I know that this is bad, I realise that there are a lot of children whose lives are now the way mine was and I try to do my bit to help them but fear propels me. The lack I knew, my children must not know (even if on a different level). I feel a need to hoard, hoard, hoard! what if I fall ill, what if the hospitals here can not treat me, what if it's my children that fall ill, what if the EFCC takes all I have or the government in power does not like me (I have honestly seen "rich" men start to beg for food under a year after they lost their jobs- No living from hand to mouth for me).

I know, I even stopped paying my tithe in church because I knew God would not approve of the source. This is something that I really should not do but when think of my past, of Ada, when I hear (as if i am standing by the window) the sound of men grunting in a room with my mother. It really does not matter. I look at my phone and smile. This alert for me, means security!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This REALLY Ought not to be (3b)

His head lay cradled in her laps. She soothed him like a baby, gently cooing into his ears, telling him over and over that it would be alright in the end. That he will be OK. That everything was going to be alright. Pamilerin looked to the skies and silently asked God if this was really his plan for her. Here she was, a bride of less than 2 years soothing her cheating husband who was in the throes of yet another break up from one of 'his girls'. She was not sure but she could almost swear that she heard a voice telling her that THIS was not God, this was 'Pamilerin pure and simple'. But she could not believe it. She felt deep down that she as doing the right thing. As she had always done it. Closing her eyes to the obvious. Pretending not to see, not to care. Because she loved him. As far as she knew and understood these things, that would be enough. Is that not what being a Christian wife was all about?

So yes, she was the one he ran home to when the other woman had had enough of him and kicked him out. For Soji had become a soul-less. He even cheated on the woman with whom he was cheating with his wife! But unlike the other woman, Pamilerin was prepared to stand by her man. No matter what. For when he was happy with the one outside, he was happy with her. When all was well with his 'outside project', all was well in the home they shared. So she had come, as stupendous as it may seem, to 'appreciate' his projects and to hope they went well. For Soji lavished her with love and affection when they did. Oh dear but when, like now, they went pear-shaped, it was she, upon all her faithfulness and tolerance who still bore the back-lash. If she was not soothing him, she was the subject of his wicked tongue as his system worked on ridding itself of the pain of rejection the other woman had dealt him. Yes, it was incredible but true. And yes she knew, in her young broken heart that this REALLY ought not to be. She knew it then....and as she wiped the tears off her face and brought herself back to her 'now', to the present times, after almost 6 years of marriage, she knew it still. But she didn't care right now, Soji was kissing her. He wanted her. That was enough....for now.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Always more than one side to a story (1)

If I had not married Pamilerin when I did, I probably might never have gotten married. She is the closest I have come to loving a woman. But is love ever enough? Ever? I mean ever? Walking away from the balcony, I watch her silhouette as she bends to pick up Semilore’s teddy, Gizmo. Even her silhouette still has the power to rouse me. . .

‘Who was on the phone?’ Why can’t this woman just let things be?
‘Oh, that was Femi - Reporting his wife again’. I slip my hands around her and kiss her neck and then her ears. I know what she likes, she knows what I want. ‘Busy?’ She slips out of my grasp holding my left hand captive.
‘Ohhh, Sojiiii! She exclaims. I notice wetness at the sides of her eyes and we both stop transfixed. She looks away first.
‘Its nothing. It’s the fumes from the generator… I went out to the back to get something and I got the fumes in my eyes.’ She smiles unconvincingly and rubs her face against my stubble. ‘You were suggesting something…?’ she suggests as her grasp eases. I smelt her hair and remembered my original mission.

Pamilerin is imperfectly perfect. Her smile, her face, her body, her thinking. Perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect. She has a great career, she is a wonderful mum, a social diva, a star with her friends. Everything about her is a perfect symmetry and that had been my first point of attraction.

Nine years before, I had gone with my friend Femi to the Law School to scope a catch when I literarily walked into Pamilerin and upset her takeaway, spilling rice and chicken as Femi’s date, Nkiru walked in. Apparently, they were friends.
‘Oh dear! Food is a big deal here at Law school- especially at the weekends.’
We had apologised and insisted on taking her back to Munchies with us to get another pack. She sat quietly with me at the back of the car and answered our questions with soft smiles and monosyllables. She was so proper. I liked it. Small wonder I kept going back.

Pamilerin’s family was like her- perfect. Upper class, third generation moneyed family. Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and three baby bears living quietly in a mansion. I noticed her father’s initial reservation the first time I had visited her at home. Her mother snubbed me outright. I bet she saw me as the tramp that ate their porridge and slept on her daughter’s bed. Once it turned out that I was upwardly mobile, their attitude changed and they actually made an attempt to introduce me to their social circle. After a year, I realised she was too perfect for me and tried to shed her off. Her family had been a part of the chase for me. It seemed once I had conquered her parents and she had given in to me, I needed more – and perfection was not it. I did not want perfect – I wanted woman. Whatever that was, I still cannot yet figure it out. Perfect women are hard to shed off. Pamilerin is a classic case. Nothing shook her. She had set her sight on me and was worse than a bulldog and a bone. Since she would not bulge, I started to see other girls – along with her. Something shook me though.

Pamilerin had come visiting at my flat while I had a girl over for the weekend. Picking up the spare key from under the flowerpot, she had let herself in and had come straight to the bedroom where we were lying in bed talking. I had brazenly said hi to her and introduced her to Ify – my weekend date. She had muffled some form of greeting and had gone to the kitchen where she made chicken stew and jollof rice from scratch and then left my apartment without a word. She scared me. Caught me off my move on the chessboard. She never referred to it - Never seemed to blink over it. I wanted a confrontation at the least. Zilch. Nothing I did shook her. I did eventually see a chip in her armour – I caught her crying in my bathroom at 4am one morning. I knew why. Surprisingly, it broke my heart. My compromise was marrying her.

I meant my wedding vows when I made them – forsaking all others. And I did try for a while…

Friday, April 9, 2010

That Which I Ought Not To Do (Part 3)

Yes, ignoring it was her preferred option. What else could she do really? She looked at her perfectly manicured nails and sniffed. Men! Sweet Jesus, please give me the grace I need to deal with this she prayed silently as she re-applied her makeup and made to go back to her desk at work. Pamilerin was a rising star. Everybody said so. And everybody thought she had it made in the shade. Great looks, Great smarts , Great-looking husband and children as cute as buttons all of them living in a mansion of a house on the Island. She had it all! If only they knew the half of it. As she walked back to her desk, eyes followed her. Both male and female. For different reasons. She knew she looked good but she could not for the life of her understand all the brouhaha about her looks! Mom had always said she was just an ordinary looking girl with long legs. Yes, mom loved Rere more than any of her other children….but that was another story and she was not going there today!

Back at her desk, she saw the flashing that meant she had a new mail. Another commendation from a Senior Partner. Pamilerin was a lawyer and a good one. No, a great one and everyone knew she would be making Partner in the coming year. The writing was on the wall. She read the mail and smiled wryly, composing a ‘thank you for your kind and encouraging words' reply. If only they knew that she would trade all of that in for just the knowledge that her man, her husband was truly, really hers. She had felt that once. In the first month of their marriage. That was 7 years ago. Father in Heaven, why did you send this man my way? And why oh why do I still love him so? This cannot be life as you intended. This really ought not to be.

Her BB buzzed. She smiled again. This time her smile was genuine, reaching her eyes. And it really should not have been. It was Biyi. They had worked on this last case together and had done a fantastic job of it. As she turned round gracefully to get a file from the cabinet, she sensed his presence even before she saw him.

‘How did you get here so fast? She asked him smiling. ‘I just got your sms’.
‘You know me, I am ‘everywhere’ he said it like a ghost trying to spook someone. She smiled some more. He really was heaven to behold. Like Soji her husband but in a different way somehow.

‘Anyway, congrats to our team. We hit a home run on this one, abi?’ ‘Let’s go celebrate over lunch’ he invited.

She declined. Too quickly. He knew why.

Pamilerin and Biyi worked well together. Too well . They seemed to complement each other. The only reason why the office grapevine had not started churning out rumors about them was because everybody knew how committed to her faith and marriage Pamilerin was. She talked about her husband as if he was some kind of King. The cattier women called her a sap. She called herself a Christian wife in love. But the truth of the matter was that one night while working late, trying her best to shove aside the thoughts of Soji and his latest love interest so that she could focus on the work at hand. She crumbled. It had all come to a head and as God (or was it the enemy now) would have it, Biyi was on hand to lend a shoulder (a very muscular, Paco Rabanne smelling, comforting one) for her to cry on. It felt good. It should not have. But it did. And since then she could not get these truly un-christian thoughts out of her head. He was nice after all and if Soji was doing it, had done it all these years, why couldn't she? Did she not deserve to be happy?

But Pamilerin knew the Truth. It was this Truth that had kept her sane all these years. It was her Strength. She took a deep breath and looked up at Biyi and told him plainly.

‘You know we cannot do that Biyi. Not anymore. Because I am a Christian.‘

If that statement had come out of some other person’s mouth, Biyi would have laughed. He knew loads of ‘Christians’ and he knew what they got up to and how they behaved outside of church. But Pamilerin? No, she was the real deal. He had worked with her for 6 weeks and knew enough about her to know that her was a woman trying to emulate Christ in all she did. It only made him like her more. Respect her more. Be more sad for her. For he knew a little about the real situation at home. She had let him into her world a little. So he nodded and moved away promising to catch up with her later.

Pamilerin did not know how she would overcome these evil demons dancing around her head tauting her, making all sorts of suggestions to her but she knew one thing. She had someone on the inside of her who would always help her. Two wrongs never made a right. She would not become the madness. She would not succumb to that which she ought not to do.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

That which I ought not to do (2.2)

Pamilerin always knew. She never let on. Like that time when he bought the Bvlgari box with the Omnia collection and the Corona pendant in 18k white gold with the ‘because you make me smile’ post-it. Soji never liked shops. He couldn’t stand it when they met or during their honeymoon or the last vacation in France.

She knew when he started using the key code on his BlackBerry and the time he could not turn up for Farouk’s school play because of the ‘silly people in Abuja who called an impromptu meeting’. She knew in the way you knew the legislators spent time doing a lot of nothing and there was nothing you could do about it.

Pamilerin knew Soji was seeing someone else. She even knew who someone was. Initially she had hoped it would go away. Sometimes she cried, sometimes, she worried. Most times, she ignored it.


“Good night babes, I can’t wait to see you tomorrow”, “Neither can I.” Silence. “Babes, hang up!” “No you hang up” “It’s always like this isn’t it? No matter how much time we spend together it doesn’t seem enough! I’ll see you tomorrow, dream of me” Kirsten says hanging up.

With a smile on her lips she turns in her bed, the smile fades slowly as she imagines Soji walking in from the balcony where he tells her he takes her calls, and going into his bedroom to his wife. Though she will never suggest it, she sometimes wished he’ll leave his wife or even say something bad about her! Soji is a ‘Lagos Big Boy’ you see, always in the social pages of the newspapers with his beautiful impeccable wife! And while it works for her (sometimes!) she cannot imagine how he does it.

How he always seems to be with her, in her apartment that he rented and furnished and still spend quality time with his wife. How he goes on “business trips” with her and gets her to buy jewellery for his wife! How he seems so in love with her and yet she knows that she is not the only “her’ outside his wife. His capability for deceit must be amazing!

“Good thoughts Kirsten”, she says to herself. After all, she did not set out to date a married man, they worked in the same office and sometimes met over lunch, there was always a crowd of people at the table, but she found that in most discussions and arguments, they seemed to be on the same side and more and more she looked forward to lunch. She didn’t know he also felt the same until she went on an official trip for a couple of days. The next time he saw her at lunch, he said he’d missed her and would she go outside the office for a proper lunch? She agreed. 2 years later, they are still at it, lunch led to dinner, dinner to regular dates, where she was amazed by his wit and the fact that he noticed everything, her hair, her smell, her moods! But most of all she was amazed that such a great guy was married and faithful to his wife and able to have her as a friend without wanting more.

Soji felt the same. Kirsten was fun to talk to, beautiful, articulate and knowledgeable about very many things. He found her fascinating, in fact one of his major attractions-when he thought about it- was that she reminded him of his wife, so it all started in a good natured, good intentioned sort of way.

Until the day she got into an argument with her father and he met her crying in the corridor and decided to take her out to lunch- just to cheer her up. And one thing led to another, and another to a nice hotel room, which he remembers little of, because the passion was blinding. Two years later, they are still at it!

”This works for me” Kirsten is thinking, “when he is with me, he seems totally with me. He shows me love, we go out together- to our own spots, we travel together; in many ways I feel like part of a couple, I have companionship, money, a lovely home that we have furnished together. Maybe someday if I ask, we’ll have a child. In fact the only thing I lack is the status of a wife and what good is that if he’ll have a “me” outside.”

Then she feels that inner disquiet, “will I ever have my own real home though? Be able to show my man to my friends and family? Go out with him in this town without fear or feeling his discomfort? To stop ordering delivery and take-outs, will my children bear their father’s name? And if I decide to get married, would I ever have peace? Would my husband’s business trips not remind me of this time that I was someone’s business trips? Or of family vacations where the wife and family flew economy and I flew business class and stayed in the same hotel- flattered that he said he could not be away from me for two weeks? Will I trust my own, knowing what I know about my nature and the abilities of man?” the disquiet is too much to handle.

Kirsten turns one more time, “good thoughts, Kirsten, good thoughts” she says to herself and her smile slowly returns, she’ll see Soji tomorrow...