For the first time I’m in love. For as long as I can remember I have anticipated this occurrence. While little girls and boys went through a phase where they detested the opposite sex and the idea of marriage, I never did.
It was a lively street I grew up in. I still live there but it is no longer the same, with families now less communal. At the time, individuals did not have the luxury of generators. Once night falls and ‘NEPA’ seizes power we would all come outside. The parents would lounge in wooden reclining chairs which almost every home owned while they enjoyed the fresh air. Sometimes they relaxed as a group, inside of our corridor, which is the largest and closest to the street, hence more breeze. Other times they just sat in their respective corridors and watched the kids. We, the kids would play every game conceivable.
‘London Bridge is falling down’ bored me easily. ‘Orioma, Danger’ held my attention a bit longer due to the heady feeling of letting myself go completely and being caught before i hit the ground. However the night was never complete until I had played at being a bride. I would tie my scarf the way we were taught to do in block rosary; holding the scarf vertically in front of my face, I would pass it round my face to the back of my head and knot the two edges then lift the hanging part of the scarf covering my face over my head. This was the best way to achieve length and I would have my veil no other way.
Any one of my neighbours usually held my veil while a visibly bored boy would act as my groom, walking me down the aisle to the voice of kids singing ‘Here comes the bride’. I remember now that the boys never liked the wedding games. They preferred ‘catcher’ or ‘police and thief’ but Nnenne, who always played the officiating minister, was a bully and always got them to co-operate.
Way into my teen years, my fantasy continued. “State wedding” was what I told everyone I will have. It had to be, because my groom will be prominent just like the princes in my story books.
After most of the families moved away and more private families moved in, I had become too old to play wedding games. After meals I would make a hole in the middle of my meat, pass my wedding ring finger through it and wear it for the rest of the day. Once I slept with it and while bathing the next morning felt great pain on my finger. Rat had had a feast.
Soon the kids I grew up with started getting married. It began with Fatima. While other kids were shocked at the news of her wedding, because we had yet to leave secondary school, I was upset. I was meant to be the first bride on the street. Everyone knew. Not long after she announced her wedding and stopped coming to school we were taught about VVF in GEM club meeting and they played a movie clip for us to watch in the school auditorium.
“We need to save Fatima.” I suggested to our GEM club matron once the movie ended “We can’t let her get married and have VVF.”
I don’t believe my concern was as noble as I presented it to be, but for some reason my fourteen year old self felt it my duty to reclaim my place as the first bride.
Then Zainab got married and Awele followed. I received all their wedding cards and treated it dismissively. Ugly card! What kind of name does her husband bear? Their wedding venue is not even nice. It’s not even as stately as mine would be… I would think as I tossed the wedding card aside.
Soon I began actively searching for my prince charming; every outing my parents took us on was an avenue and rather than bond with my family, I would walk away making friends with the boys. Sadly these friendships never blossomed into proper relationships because of Dauda.
Dauda is my father’s faithful driver. He has been with us now for over twelve years. My father would always joke that Dauda keeps to time because he is from Togo and Nigerian time doesn’t apply to him. Tell Dauda that you have an event for 5:00 am and he will be there ahead of time. Lagos traffic never held him back. He was also very loyal to my father and followed his instructions without question or conscience.
“Once lectures are over, bring her back home immediately.” My father had instructed when I got into the university. He answered by blinking his eyes. He rarely spoke. My mother says it is because of the way he was mocked when he newly came into Nigeria and tried speaking English. He spoke it so badly that the entire ‘umu boy’ on the street teased him. Since then he mostly blinks or gestures.
Perhaps it is because he doesn’t speak that is why I can’t get through to him. I would try to bribe or cajole him into letting me stay longer after school to chat and he will simply stand holding the door ajar and looking at me with a straight face like he was dumb. Once I defied him and stayed on and without a word he drove off and returned much later with my father, looking thunderous.
Sometime in January, a week after Christmas, I had a test in school. Dauda had travelled to his home country to spend the holiday and was to return before school resumed however I got a call asking us to return to school earlier for a test. I had to call for a cab to take me to school.
It was a cold harmattan morning and the red cab arrived late, to my annoyance. I was used to Dauda and his timing that the three minutes delay seemed unforgivable. I scolded the driver as I got in and nagged him for almost the entire journey from Victoria Island to Yaba. He was silent, occasionally glancing at me through the rear view mirror. After he dropped me at school he inquired if he could come pick me after wards. I agreed grudgingly. He began arriving before time after that first incident. When Dauda returned I begged my father to ease Dauda’s stress and leave him to drive my siblings while Anthony, the cab driver, drove me.
It was my final year and I needed to be in school at odd hours and for longer periods, so he agreed. Anthony was a ‘guy man.’ He would let me stay after school and even drive me to visit friends, soon I made many friends, most of them male and because I could not share my adventures with my siblings for fear that my escapades be reported to my father, I shared with Anthony.
I would give him the full history of a boy and he would tell me if the boy really liked me or not and logically give reasons as to his conclusion. Soon we formulated a game. We would both lean against his cab when he comes to pick me and each guy I point at he would give me a history. He was almost always correct.
“Play boy!” he exclaimed when I pointed at Chukwuemeka. He was right. Every girl knew Emeka’s reputation, yet yearned for him. Too shy, he said of Godspower and he swore to me that Akpabio was a cultist and warned me not to go near him.
A day before my final exams were to start, I called for Anthony not to bother coming for me since I was ill. 9:35 am, after my parents left for work and siblings for school, he was at the house.
“I thought I told you not to come” I said to him as I let him in.
“I couldn’t stay away.” He answered sympathetically handing me a black nylon bag. “What are you doing falling sick? Don’t you know your final exams starts tomorrow?” He knew my calendar that well and knew about my exam but rather than answer I was looking uncomfortably at the content of the bag.
“Why did you buy me stuff? You know you don’t have money!” I scolded him and he laughed so hard that I was laughing too, not minding that it worsened my headache.
“I know you are an undergraduate of banking and finance but surely you haven’t started spying on my bank account.” He spoke English so well for a cab driver and I had mentioned it to him earlier. He explained that he had the hopes of completing his education and reads a lot of books in his spare time.
“I know you are an undergraduate of Philanthropy but you shouldn’t start your charity work with me.” I teased, then added “How sweet of you.” I kissed him then, briefly. Then again, deepening it.
Our relationship began that beautiful day, two years ago. In two months’ time, Anthony and I will be married. The invitation cards in my hand are proof of that, but I am having great issue addressing the cards and deciding on whom to invite or not to.
I know my friends and even my parents’ friends. They will want to know who I am getting married to; what he does, who his father is… and many more questions of the sort. I know because I had asked similar questions from friends when they gave me their invitation card. For the information too inappropriate to ask an intending bride, I gathered from the gossip mill and the final ones, like whether he is handsome and his personality, I decided for myself by attending the wedding.
I never liked attending people’s wedding. It reminded me that I was yet to fulfil my own fairy tale dreams, but I did all the same, just to satiate my curiosity. Now it is my turn.
I am proud of Anthony and though he has vehemently refused to quit his job just yet, I know the best of him is yet to come and it doesn’t bother me that he is a taxi driver. I hope everyone else will mind their business and not care too.
If you marry taxi driver, I don’t care. As I have chosen to marry a taxi driver, just let us be.