12 Mar THE AISLE
According to popular view, a woman begins planning her wedding at age thirteen, some women even start saving money awaiting their big day but that wasn’t the case for me. At age thirteen I was occupied with helping my sister take care of our mother whom our abusive father left. At age thirteen I had etched a mantra on my mind “love kills”. I had witnessed what it did to my mother and I decided then that I wanted no part of it.
To me love was the gateway to pain, so each time a person said “I love you” to me, my mind translated it to “I want to hurt you” but somehow Seun got me to hear the words “I love you” whenever he said them. He took off my engraved mantra and replaced it with love heals. His love helped me let go of the pain and anger I nursed.
Marriage was off the table for me too because in Africa, marriage is used to trick women into slavery, I had learnt that from my parent’s marriage. My mother lived everyday in service to my father but Seun made me break yet another vow of mine by convincing me to say yes to marrying him.
“You look beautiful my dear, you are indeed the perfect bride” my mother caressed my already baked face.
“I can’t wait to see you in your wedding dress” my sister squealed.
“Thank you mummy” I smiled.
“We should leave you to it, we will be back when you put on your wedding dress okay” my mother said.
“Okay mummy” I replied.
When they walked out of the room leaving me alone, tension crawled up my skin and settled on my chest. I was excited about marrying Seun, the thought of waking up to him and sleeping next to him everyday made my heart leap for joy. I never thought my heart was capable of leaping for joy till Seun came around. Seun awakened feelings I unknowingly locked in the basement of my heart. They all came rushing out anytime he touched me or kissed me and especially when he looked at me. When he looked at me, it felt like I was the only thing that existed in his world. He stared at me intensely like he was trying to see and understand all the layers that made up my whole being. Just like him, I was helplessly in love too. The thing with love is no matter how far you run away from its presence when it wants you, it finds you and consumes you. I fell for Seun’s eyes first, his brown eyes gave me a sense of peace. They were a window to his soul; his eyes reflected his every emotion. To learn him I had to study the language of his eyes. This was a study I never intended, it happened involuntarily.
The tension on my chest was making breathing a bit hard. Marriage is an institution plagued with uncertainties and its biggest enemy is change. How sure was I that he was going to still be in love with me in five years’ time? What if his feelings change? Like my father, what if he finds someone new? Or the most dreaded what if, what if he changes? I was sure my parents also felt hopelessly in love with each other when they walked down the aisle. My father was probably certain that he would spend the rest of his life taking care of my mother and she would always be the most beautiful woman in his eyes but the numerous hand prints on my mother’s cheeks and his shirts that reeked of different women told a different tale.
There is a surety you have when you are standing at the beginning of the aisle unaware of what the future holds, holding on to the past and clinging to hope for the future. I think that is what makes the journey down the aisle easy, the uncertainty is a double edged sword, a blessing and a curse. Marriage changes people. Living everyday with one person can become tiring and slowly you both fall into a boring routine that strip the color off your pupils, pushing you into the arms of whatever gives you solace. Alcohol, drugs or people. I guessed that was the case for my parents. Child birth snatches the curves the woman might have had before marriage, gifting her stretch marks and falling breasts till she’s no longer the most beautiful woman in her husband’s eyes.
I felt guilty for feeling this way, Seun was nothing like my father but then again change is constant. My sister told me the day before my wedding that it was normal to experience wedding jitters because marriage is a big decision and you don’t want to get it wrong. She said she also experienced wedding jitters but looking back I don’t think hers was worthy to be called a jitter.
I decided to check on Seun, since Kobiro said it was normal to have wedding jitters maybe he too would be having the jitters. We spent the night at the same hotel, away from each other though. We didn’t want to see each other till the wedding ceremony when I walk down the aisle.
I grabbed my robe and left the room in search of my fiancé. The door to his room was opened a little so I took a peek. He was surrounded by his best men. I couldn’t see his face fully but I could tell that he was smiling.
“You are really not scared about getting tied down by marriage?” one of the men asked him.
He laughed. “The only thing I am scared of is not being able to spend forever with Ejiro”
That would have melted me some days ago but now it only added to the guilt pangs. Seun always had his head straight, he knew what he wanted and got it. He knew he loved me and he spent the last three years showing me that, from the littlest things like him watching all ten seasons of friends just so we could have something to talk about to asking me out over a candle lit dinner with a red velvet whipped cream cake that said “Will you be my lobster?” to the big things like the exotic trips and birthday dinners. I hated the word goodbye, to me it was a way of saying I am leaving you, that was the last word my father uttered before deserting us. He knew I hated the word so he stopped saying goodbye till the word left his vocabulary. He replaced goodbye with see you later. Many people at one point decided to take a course on me but they all got frustrated and dropped out but Seun stayed till the end. He paid attention to the details so it was easier for him to pass the course
I went back to my room, my best friend was there, she was my maid of honor.
“We don’t have time, where have you been?” she half yelled.
“I don’t want to get married” I announced and fell to the chair behind me.
“What!” she exclaimed.
“I don’t want to get married Tayo” I repeated.
“Okay, calm down you are just having the wedding jitters, that’s normal. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to get married” she comforted.
“It is not a wedding jitter, I don’t want to get married” the room was suffocating now, I was having a panic attack.
“I can’t breathe” I managed to say.
Tayo noticed I was having a panic attack, luckily there was a paper bag in the room. She gave it to me and commanded me to breath in it then she ran out.
Few minutes later, I heard a knock on the door.
“Babe, it’s me. I know we are not supposed to see each other till the ceremony so I am going to come in with my back so I don’t see you”
Tayo held the door for Seun to enter and true to his words, he had his back to my face.
“I am sorry baby I thought I wanted to go on this journey with you but I don’t. I am sorry. I just couldn’t stop thinking about what the future. What… if… if you stop loving me? What if… I… I stop loving you? What… if ….you leave me? What i…” I struggled to breath breaking down
“Babe” he called.
“Babe, you are having a hard time breathing and this might sound crazy to you but you need to calm down okay. Let’s try this, you are going to inhale and I will count to three then you exhale. We are going to do this three times okay” he suggested. Worry was present in his voice. The first time he witnessed my panic attack, he was so scared. He didn’t know what to do, he just kept calling for help but over the years he had learnt tips to help me when I have crisis, this was one of them.
“Let’s go. Inhale. One. Two. Three. Exhale” we did this three times.
Breathing became easier and my hands slowly stopped shaking.
“Are you better now babe?” he asked.
“I am a bit relieved” I answered.
“Okay, good. Now, I want you to listen to me and know that I mean every word I am about to say okay”
“Okay” I mumbled.
“Two days ago, it hit me for the first time since we started this vigorous wedding planning that I was getting married. Settling down with one woman for the rest of my life. The same questions bugging you now bugged me too. Will I love you the same way in ten years’ time? Would we still be together in five years’ time? Yes, there are a lot of marriages that go wrong, you experienced first hand what it means for a marriage to go south and I experienced what it means for a marriage to go right. I realized the difference between your parent’s marriage and my parents is choice. All relationships and marriages thrive on choice. The reason why we are still together, why our relationship is different from so many failed relationships out there is because we chose to stick together through it all. Marriage is scary, it is dotted with uncertainty, there will be storms that will knock us over but, in the storm, I choose to love you like I have been choosing to everyday in the last three years. I choose you even when child birth stretches and reshapes your body. I choose you even when time replaces your black hair with gray hair. I shouldn’t have asked you the usual will you marry me question. I should have asked you will you keep choosing to choose me because I choose you Ejiro, I Choose to keep choosing you. So, do you choose me?” he asked.
I ran to him and threw my hands around him wailing.
“I choose you Seun. I choose to keep choosing you”
He released a breath I didn’t know he was holding.
He kissed my hand still with his back to me.
“So, do you choose to walk down the aisle to me now?”
“Yes, I choose to walk down the aisle to you now” I responded.
That day I found three words better than I love you, they were I choose you.