She lights four candles and places them at different compass points. A green candle in the north, a red in the south, a blue in the west and a yellow in the east. They rest on a red piece of cloth she has placed on her bedroom floor. She lights two more candles and holds them in her hands, both of them pink. Then she faces the red candle in the south, clad in nothing but her Jigida.
“Powerful one, hear my prayer!” she calls out with emotion in her voice. “Lords of fire, burn my desire, three times over!”
She breaks, lifts her head upwards and shuts her eyes. Tears slide to the sides of her face. She continues with unsteady lips.
“Bring Jideofor back to me. Restore his passion for me. May the strange women in his life bring him nothing but pain. The same pain I have known. He will search for love but will never find it until he searches for me and finds me.”
She lowers the pink candles gently and picks a wedding gown on the floor. She slips into it. The gown has red blotches but she doesn’t seem to notice as she picks a surgical blade from a table nearby. The blade swiftly slices into her palm with one smooth motion, drawing instant blood. Maneuvering her way through spaces between the candles, she kills the burning flames with her blood as she chants on.
“Come back home, Jideofor. Come back to me. Home is here with me. Come back.”
The last flame goes out and so does the light in the room. She sits down and slips her feet into a pair of yellow heels. She will wait for him. She doesn’t care for how long. She must wait. Jideofor must come to her.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
It’s another Saturday…
And I’m immersed in a lady’s reproductive parts. This is life, I tell you. And it’s the one thing I do the best.
The woman whose legs are spread open before me moans and tells me she can’t take it any longer. I tell her to hold on. We are almost there. If only she’ll just let me do my thing.
She moans again and grips the bedsheet. Her legs shake irrepressibly. She’s swearing, saying things I can’t understand, speaking in tongues.
“Oh God!” she screams. I smile. We are almost there. Just one more…
The door flings in and this giant creature charges into the room with fire in his eyes.
“My husband,” she gasps.
Without realizing, I move away from her. The man looks like he’s about to pick me and dash me against the wall.
“Who you be?” he growls, pouncing toward me. “I say who you be?”
“Ah, Baba Patrick!” his wife replies as I search for my voice. “Na midwife be dis.”
“Abeg allow am make hin finish hin work before I die for here.”
“Middle wife?” Goliath looks at me from top to bottom and back again. “Man dey do middle wife?”
“Oooh-oh-oh! Baba Patrick!” His wife cries. “Dis pikin wan commot o! Leave the man abeg!”
Goliath still doesn’t trust me or his wife as he glowers at both of us, but because it is unimaginable for us to be doing something immoral when a baby is on its way out of her vagina, he lets me be.
I take my former position between her legs and I’m glad to see that all on its own, the baby is making its way into the world. All it needs is a little help.
“Okay, madam, one last push.”
Mama Patrick gives it all she’s got and a beautiful little girl slips into this world with a quiet cry. Usually, I don’t immediately sever the umbilical cord until the blood has balanced between the placenta and the newborn, so I lay baby on her mother’s chest for warmth, placing a clean cloth over them. From the corner of my eyes, I see the look of sheer incredulity still impressed on the father’s face. I know that expression too well. The ‘why would any man want to do a woman’s job?’ look.
Well, the answer to that question is because of all the places in a woman’s body, the vagina is my favorite. Lord knows how many lady parts I’ve seen in this life, but let’s not dwell on that. The second reason I do this is simply because I can, so give it a rest, dude.
I eventually clamp the umbilical cord, sever it, and take baby away from her mother. The little thing protests with a “Waah! Waah!” and breaks into a full cry. I place her on a table in a corner, which I previously made sterile as best as I could, and clear mucus from her nose and mouth. I don’t believe in washing off the vernix that comes with a newborn until after twenty-four hours. It’s the best natural moisturizer for babies, and it doesn’t stink.
I pat her dry, wrap her in a fresh, warm blanket and hand her back to her mother.
“Madam, I’d love to stay around and take care of you two, but I can’t, unfortunately. You’ll have to go to a nearby hospital to make sure all is well.”
The grateful woman nods. “How much I dey owe you?”
I laugh. “Nothing, madam.”
She is touched. “Thank you very much, sir. God bless you, sir.” She gives her husband a stern look, and he mutters off cheerless thanks but continues to stare at me as though he really caught me screwing his wife. Funny how people reason. If I had told him I was a doctor, his attitude toward me would have been different.
I help the woman birth out the placenta and clean out her uterus. Currently, neighbors are already waiting in the living room, most of them women. I wonder where they were when she was shouting the entire neighborhood down in agony. Even the Papa Patrick, where was he?
Walking out, I pick my suit hanging off the door and stare at the Armani shirt I have on, stained with blood and whatnot. Bobby will kill me for showing up late for his wedding.
I walk past a group of women on my way out of Papa and Mama Patrick’s home. I get approving stares. A couple of them recognize me.
“Oh, it’s the new neighbor,” I hear a chubby one say in a whisper that is clearly not a whisper.
“The one that packed in day before yesterday?”
“Yes. That lives in Baba’s compound.”
“Oh! So, he’s a doctor.”
I’m almost at the door now. I should leave them to their little gossip and be on my way to my friend’s wedding, but I can’t help it. I stop and turn.
“Midwife, not doctor. I’m a midwife.”
I leave them in the wake of my stunning revelation and kiss the fresh air outside.
I arrive at the wedding and meet them midway. My friend, Bobby, and his wife are making their way out of the church hall when I slip in. I pick a chair in the last row, skirted by two Christian mothers that smell of camphor and talcum powder. With their heavy head gears and shimmery attires, I pray I am well hid from Bobby’s bespectacled eyes. And he is not the only one I’m hiding from; friends that I abandoned for a long time are on the premises. Most of them are mad at me. After some heartbreaking event in my life five years ago, I packed a box in the middle of the night and moved to another city where nobody knew me. I cut off communication for the first three years and when I finally reconnected with everyone, I did so meagerly. Social media was off limits for me and whenever any of my friends popped into town and suggested visiting me, I often gave one silly excuse or the other.
Now I am back, quietly, as I had left. I am not expecting a hero’s welcome. Only Bobby would be glad to see me. He is still my closest friend and the only one with whom I’ve kept the line open. He is going to be upset about my showing up late and would think I opted out of wearing the Armani shirt he bought for me. I have chosen a Ralph Lauren in its place and it is shades off the yellow and grey theme of the wedding.
I lower my head as Bobby and his wife approach. Bobby, the ever-jovial fatso delights the crowd with his clownish dance moves. I am missing the show, but I dare not raise my head. As I count the seconds, waiting for the procession to be over quickly, I feel a heavy knock at the back of my head that sends a shooting pain down my spine. I jolt up. It is Bobby. He has stopped in his tracks and is staring at me with the heaviest of frowns.
He doesn’t let me finish as he picks up where he left off and dances past me with his wife. Following closely behind them are my friends. They have all seen me. Their reaction surprises me as all I get are smiles.
Looks like it’s going to be a good day after all.
I wait for the bridal procession and a good number of people to leave the church before I find my way out. It’s a fine weather outside. No sunshine, no rainfall. Just a cool draft of air blowing in all directions. The crowd that has just exited the church is scattered around the premises in clusters of yellow and grey. The place looks lively and I am affected by the contagious spirit of happiness. I hear laughter behind me and I turn. A group of bridesmaids is smitten by some dude who has just announced his coming with a sleek ride. He is the ladies’ man type, and they seem to know him.
I smile at the scene and breathe in the air. This is my town; I have missed this place. It feels good to be home. Wait till my mother finds out her favorite son has returned. Surely, she’ll slaughter the fattened calf. I’m glad she’s not in town presently. I can use the short time fixing up my new apartment before she returns and my freedom is taken away.
“Jide!” a familiar female voice calls and I turn, only to be smothered with a hug from one of my closest friends. I hold her and warm memories fill my head. I used to love this girl to death. I still do.
“You came,” she says, looking into my eyes. I know she is about to get emotional.
“Don’t,” I warn her with a finger, but I’m too late. Tears fill her eyes.
“I didn’t just come for the wedding. I’m back for good.”
My statement has a positive effect on her. A smile fills her round cheeks. “For real?”
I nod. She hugs me again. This time, she lingers.
“Mary, I’m sorry.”
It is my first sorry for the day. More are to come.
She frees me and hits me weakly. “Don’t ever leave me again.”
Our moment is broken by the appearance of a couple of my friends’ wives and their kids. There are hugs and introductions to children I’m meeting for the first time. They leave after I promise to visit them. More people recognize me and stop by with their “longest time!” “Where have you been?” “You dey so?” greetings. So much for slipping back into town quietly.
“Bobby and the guys are looking for you.” Mary takes my hand after everyone is gone. “Come.”
She drags me to one side of the building where my guys are. Bobby and his wife are seated in a car. Bobby has his legs out of the car, talking to our mutual friends. I hear a round of laughter that breaks off when they spot me.
“Jydo!” Ibro greets me first. He is the richest in our clique. A northerner with a taste for southern women. He is married to two of them.
“Mutumi na!” I greet back with a slap on his palm that passes for a handshake and a pat on the back for a hug. I face the others—Shadrach, Reno and Bright. They are glad to see me. All beef squashed.
They throw in some light questions about my welfare and the town I’d just left. I tell them all is well.
“But Jydo, the Bridemaker gist na true abi na just scopes you dey use enter chicks?”
A smile crumples my lips when Reno’s question hits me. I look at their faces and realize it’s a question they all want an answer to, a question I was hoping no one would bring up.
“Answer nau.” Mary nudges me.
“Come on, guys,” I speak up, “on this blessed of days? Haba mana? At least let Bobby introduce his wife to me first.”
And that is how I escape the Bridemaker gist. But I’ll share it with you.
Fable has it that any girl that sleeps with me ends up getting married shortly afterwards. To be frank, I don’t know how it started or who started it, but I can swear on my life that it is real. I didn’t believe it at first, but when a colleague at work pointed it out to me and we sat down and took inventory of the girls I had bedded and how all of them were married, I knew it was no longer a joke. I was ecstatic at first. More chicks to shag for free. No commitments, no hassles. Just go in, hit it and get out.
It was fun for a while until the lonely nights became hollow and scary. I’d be in bed with a woman and it would feel like lying on a deserted highway in the middle of the night. In addition, I met crazy women who lost it if they didn’t get married as quickly as they wanted. They’d haunt me and fight me. It was at that point I was dubbed the Bridemaker.
Men envied me, women just wanted to sleep with me. And there I was, in the center of it all, unable to stop myself from engaging in carnal pleasures. It felt as though I had been cursed.
Nobody had to tell me to leave that town and come back to family and friends. I’m turning a new leaf now. I have buried the Bridemaker.
“Kate, meet Jideofor,” Bobby introduces his wife. I bend my tall frame into the limo and extend a hand to Kate as Bobby stands and gives me some space.
“Our wife,” I address her as she places her hand in mine and I kiss it with a bit of theatrical flair.
“Ehn-ehn o!” Bobby objects. “Not our wife. My wife.”
“Okay, sorry. My wife,” I correct myself. The bride’s face lights up shyly. I have just discovered she is a virgin. Don’t ask me how I know. I just do.
“Nice to meet you, ma’am,” I tell her and straighten up. “You have a good man here.” I tap my best friend’s shoulder. “Have no fears. But if he misbehaves, just give me a call and I’ll set him right. A left uppercut always puts his brain in order.”
She smiles again. That virgin smile that makes me look at Bobby with a question in my eyes. He reads me and laughs.
“No mind am,” Shady comments.
We tease Bobby for a while, using terms the wife cannot decipher. She just sits there with her maid of honor, smiling politely at us. A crowd that has just discovered where the bride and groom are hidden is making its way to us. It’s time to leave.
“Nice to meet you, Kate.”
“Kate, Mommy is here,” Bobby announces the coming of his mother and launches off into Yoruba with the old woman. When I turn and see her, I lie prostrate to the ground.
“Ah, Olajide!” she calls me. “You are back.”
“Yes ma.” I rise up and hug her. My friends snigger behind us. After all these years, the old woman still doesn’t know I’m Igbo. I don’t blame her. She has never met my parents before and secondly, I come off more Yoruba than her son.
With a concerned expression, she asks me why my parents are not at the wedding. I tell her that my mother is out of the country and my dad is recuperating from a stroke. The second part is a lie. The old man is just being the grouch that he is. He made it clear to me over the phone that he won’t show up for Bobby’s wedding because it would be an embarrassment for him, seeing as his own son is yet unmarried and has no plans to do so.
I tire for the man. He has an older son that is married. Wetin come concern him with my own life?
And it’s not as if I don’t want to get married. I do. But I haven’t found the one yet. Cliché as that may sound, it’s the truth. All my close friends are married, Bobby being the last to walk down the aisle. My life is going to be shitty from now on. I will be the butt-end of their jokes. They and their wives are going to pair me with all sorts of women and I’ll be left out of family outings and such. When they’re talking about school fees, sexless wives and family planning, I’ll be brooding in a corner like an idiot.
Like I said, I’m happy to be back.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞