SURVIVAL By Abdulkabir Olatunji It sounded logical Then it became…
By Aliyu Jalal
My elder brother Mahfooz told me his first night was full of doings. But he didn’t tell me about the undoings. He didn’t tell me about the curiosity I was seeing in Meema’s breaths. I saw it in her eyes. I saw it on her lips. I saw it from the way she handed the mug of tea to me when I said I was chill. There were words all over her that were dancing from her neck to toes; words blanketed with heavy emotional attachments. Words that deciphered the calmest roar of a hungry tigress. She kept moving from one room to the other while I pretended to be watching the wedding pictures Mahfooz sent to my email. It was a chain of phenomenal wedding programs that were too consuming.
I planned not to rush things that night, there was no need. Because the 9-month courtship period presented lustful opportunities that we all defied and maintained ourselves for the first wedding night. I didn’t arrange that with her but I knew she would understand. I wanted her to understand without telling her. I wanted to show her there was something about marriage that’s beyond what the society had taught us not to talk about in public. That feeling we were socially forced and chained to assume was irrelevant, that part of our existence we were psychologically programmed to assume it didn’t exist. That activity my parent warned me never to try fantasizing till I get married. So I wanted to prove Meema that there’s something about mutual union of male and female beyond orgasm. Beyond deep breaths and pleasant mourns. Beyond the friction of two metaphysical spaces.
“Love is physical, it accounts to nothing if you do not show it. Sex is metaphysical, it’s an abstract stuff that doesn’t exist if you do not feel it.” Said my Grandma.
It sounded ironical when Grandma told us that the time we went to seek for her marital blessing an hour ago. It was the last place we went after the wedding dinner. She called me back and handed a small ground herb wrapped in a nylon. I knew what she meant with it. She knew that I knew what she meant. There are words that are too cheap to be spoken; that was one of them. But I didn’t need any extra stimulant. I was virgin. And I married my heartthrob, that was actually stimulating enough. I thought. But I collected and put into my pocket anyway.
“Which room would you sleep in?” Meema finally asked timidly.
I knew it must had taken her 300 years of internal contemplation to say it. I put down the tea on the table and fixed my eyes on her glittering forehead, smiling lavishly. There’s something compelling about Meema: a raw personification of a newly-dug pearl.
She quickly adjusted her standing posture, lowered down her gaze like a kitten, and said again, “I mean which room should I arrange for you?” It was evident the word ‘sleep’ she had earlier used sounded erotic to her perspective. And yes, myself felt it sounded weird and demeaning to the ears of a First Nighter.
“Oh. Anyone would do,” I responded trying to appear not very serious.
I knew instantly my response wasn’t enough. She wanted to hear more. And I wasn’t ready to give more. I was only ready to unveil an amazing sexual suspense neither my conscience nor consciousness knew where it would end.
There were only 3 bedrooms in the house. Her family I heard filled all of them with things. My sister Maheesha whispered that in my ears two days ago. She said I was lucky to have generous in-laws. Yes my in-laws were generous but to their daughter. Now I needed to be generous to her too. And it had to start with this night. It had to be from this night and many nights to come. That, Brother Mahfooz told me too. He almost warned me fully knowing I didn’t like taking things serious. He said marriage is one of the things I must take seriously. And a wife is above the marriage itself. I didn’t understand what he meant. I didn’t also ask. But to me marriage is man’s last hope for eternity. And my eternity was to begin today, that night, with Meema.
The clock ticked 1:37am. My phone rang, it was Mahfooz again. I knew he wanted to know if everything was going well. I was shy to admit nothing was going on yet.
“We are still arranging the rooms,” I stopped and then continued, “you know we need to choose which room to…”
He bursted into a strange soft laughter that queered in my being. Perhaps I sounded childish for I always sounded childish to him. He always told me so even when I did not. But was I wrong? I was afraid I didn’t want to be wrong. He told me first night was the most important night in marriage. He said I must be conscious of everything. He said it was the saddle of marriage so the way I placed it determined the steadiness of marital journey in numerous years to come. He said I shouldn’t play with it.
We bade goodnight and hang off.
I finally rose. The two other rooms were shut but the middle one was left narrowly ajar. I knew that was where we would sleep. I went in silently – almost tiptoeing. I shut back the door behind me carefully. A powerfully scenting Arabian perfume had illuminated the room. Only a dim light from the bedside lamp provided a source of vision to the large bedroom. It lightened the other side of the bed opposite to where she almost hid her body in a curly shape. Eyes closed; head thrust under pillow; her knees almost touching her face.
I sat on the bed. One of my legs straightened on the bed while the other on the floor. I was looking at nothing. I was thinking about nothing. There was in fact nothing. Only Meema and I and the air-conditioning system that provided a hushing sound in the large decorated bedroom. I rose and switched the A.C. off. It wasn’t needed because Mahfooz told me his own first night was sweet and sweaty. I wanted mine to be sweaty too. It had to be sweaty, hot and steaming. That’s how it should be, according to a book I had read.
“Meema, Meema,” I called in whispers. I didn’t want to frighten her. I was told a meat is sweetest if the animal wasn’t frightened before slaughter. She turned her face without moving her body. I could see her eyes; they were full of questions. Questions she knew both of us had to work together to answer. A complicated mathematical equation we needed each others efforts to solve.
“Today is the beginning of an endless lifetime journey. We shouldn’t begin it on rough edges,” I began, she moved her body slowly trying to uncurl herself. I was happy she’s interested.
I continued: “therefore we need to know each other very well, we need to tell each other our deepest secrets so as to live with it and to curb any possibility of judging each other in times to come.” I concluded
She sat up and rested her back on the bed’s headboard. She began: “errm…I really wanted to tell you this so I shouldn’t disappoint you. But I don’t know if you would be ready to understand,” She raised her eyelids to see my face. I was indifferent, looking right back at her, only paying raft attention.
There was silence for a moment. Then I realized she was awaiting my response to go ahead. I began to move on the bed, sit-walking to her side. I held her fingers, they were warm and shaking and oily and soft.
“Trust me, I’m yours forever, I’m ready to accept and never judge you for anything I might hear from you, and would tell you mine, all of mine.” I emphasized.
“Masroor, I’m not virgin. I was raped two years ago by somebody I thought genuinely loved me. He asked me out to a hotel room where he demanded for it. I told him I’m preserving myself for our wedding night. He refused to understand. I refused him and he went violent and mad and did it by force,” she began to sob at this point, I said nothing but let go her hands that I was holding.
“…he later apologised and I forgave him, but he told me he couldn’t marry me but would get somebody better than him for me and that’s how I met you.”
I sharpened my eyeballs and widened my sight, I even began to distrust my ears for the first time in my life. I became restless with hypertensional curiosity. There was another passage of silence as I didn’t know what to say. My eyes fixed on her to finish.
“I wasn’t going anywhere the first day we met at the airport, it was solely a conspired setup to get your attention and you luckily fell for me,” She carried part of her nightgown and wiped the tears that had reached her mouth.
“Who is that person?” I asked, my voice deeper, darker and blunter than ever.
“Your brother, Mahfooz,” she said.
“Mahfooz?!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, Mahfooz, the same Mahfooz,” she reiterated.
I could barely see the road as I drove out of the gate in my car. I didn’t reply the gateman’s safety wishes. The bar was lit and lively as usual. I bought a packet of Benson & Hedges cigarettes and two bottles of Vodka. I didn’t know how much I paid the bartender. I didn’t care as well. I never smoked or drank before. But I wanted to try it that night. Wanted to feel how it actually felt to feel one didn’t exist.
I parked the car back in the compound and staggered towards the room, where Meema was. She was still there – where I had left her. I sat on the floor and lit my cigarette and opened the alcohol and began drinking, trying to think about nothing and about nobody including my blood immediate elder brother Mahfooz. And instead of looking into the room or Meema, I looked outside through the narrow curtains of a window close to me. Outside the moon was still bright and the birds were singing from their nests. Meema stood and turned the dim light off. The room became totally dark. She came and sat before me on the floor.
“Masroor. Masroor. Masroor.” she kept calling my name while I ignored her and continued smoking and drinking. When she got tired, she began to weep deeply. She wept and wept until I joined her. We wept for the truth we now had to decide whether to live with, or without.
Aliyu Jalal is a young Nigerian poet, fiction and nonfiction writer from Zaria, Kaduna State. He holds Bsc in Political Science from ABU Zaria. He dreams to be an influential sociopolitical activist that would help in reforming crude social and political norms in the society. Email: email@example.com