My father is a very funny man, funnier than all the comedians of the world put together. He wants me to get married to a lady from my hometown. In fact, without my knowledge he always arranges my marriage to this or that girl behind my back.
“Do you know Chief Nnoli?” my father asks.
“You know I don’t know any family in this village!” I retort, feeling very tough.
“Chief Nnoli has this beautiful daughter, well-educated,” the old man says evenly as though he did not hear my somewhat harsh reply. “I believe she will make a good wife…”
“Not again, Papa!” I protest as a matter of right. “I’ve told you I can only marry a girl who has been my friend for some time…”
“And where is the lady?”
“Give me time…”
“But I have been giving you time since you graduated over a decade ago?”
One thing I cannot deny is that my father is my friend. In fact, any friend of mine instantly also becomes his friend. It’s the same way that his elderly mates also share jokes with me, and end up becoming close friends of mine.
A very close friend of my father, Chief Okosisi from Awo-Omama in Imo State, is fond of drinking 33Export lager beer. He insists on both my father and I sharing the same brand of beer with him. For Chief Okosisi, sharing the same make of beer is the perfect bond of friendship.
While drinking with Chief Okosisi and my father in the rich man’s sitting-room in Awo-Omama, my old man suddenly raises the issue of my refusal to get married.
“He has not taken enough bottles of 33Export to get married,” Chief Okosisi says, laughing. The chief can knock down beers at will but remains quite sprightly.
“Stop indulging my restless son,” Father says, not laughing at all.
Chief Okosisi whispers something in my ear, but I can’t hear him clearly. I urge him to repeat what he whispered but he only laughs on.
Then Chief Okosisi’s daughter walks in. She is tall and dark and sexy. She sashays across the room in her rainbow-tinted mini-gown and greets my father.
“Papa Maximus, is this the wahala Maximus, your son?” she asks my father, pointing at me.
“Yes, he has come to marry you!” my father suddenly says, and the girl and her father burst out laughing.
I am so shy I feel like disappearing into the floor. The lady unabashedly sits by me on the aquamarine settee.
“Let’s leave for them settle their differences,” Chief Okosisi says and stands up, leading my father by hand as they depart the room.
So many thoughts run through my mind. But my father wants me to marry from my hometown. He wants me to marry from the Catholic Church. I do know that Chief Okosisi and her daughter are Anglicans and they are from a different state, Imo, as opposed to our Anambra.
“Let’s be friends,” the girl says, flashing a smile at me.
“But what’s your name?” I manage to say when I find my voice, after many moons apparently.
“Stacy,” she says. “Stacy Okosisi.”
“Well, you already know my name…”
“Who does not know troublesome Maximus?”
In my awkwardness I fall from the settee. She helps me to stand up, and I get weak in the knees with her soft touch.
“I understand you will be in Enugu next week,” she continues, still holding my hand.
“Who told you?” I am intrigued, puzzled.
“We shall meet in Enugu,” she says.
I am in Enugu for the Enugu Trade Fair, and I meet up with Stacy at the Polo Park. All my wild plans of romancing Stacy collapse as she is all over her tall and hunky boyfriend whom she introduces as Berry. There’s another lady in the midst, Judith, a buxom lass, Berry’s sister.
“Write her a poem since you say you are a poet,” Stacy says, shoving me in her unabashed manner towards the personable Judith.
It’s while drinking at the 33Export “Friendship is a Festival” Stand of the Fair that I write the poem.
Judith tells me that there are many suitors asking for her hand in marriage, and these suitors would not let her father rest. She doubts that she can hold them off for much longer…
Now I have to make my move.
I dash home to my father, and I holler: “Pop, I’ve found a wife!”
“What?” my father is thorn between excitement and confusion.
“I plan to go see her father this evening,” I say as my mother saunters out of the backyard to be with Father on the frontage.
“Who is this girl?” Father asks, taking no notice of Mother.
“Judith Nnoli,” I blurt out.
Father looks at Mother and silence arrests the moment.
It is a cool evening. As I make my tentative walk into Chief Nnoli’s ample compound dominated by two twin duplexes I can hear voices that are at once familiar and very unwelcome.
Chief Okosisi is sitting with Father and Chief Nnoli under a lush mango tree by a corner of the compound as I walk in. It’s the longest walk of my life – on very unsteady legs.
As Chief Nnoli motions me to the cane chair by his side, Judith walks out from the house, followed by Stacy. Before I can even say a word, Stacy delivers my 33Export-inspired poem:
Darling angel, the living goddess,
Siren of sweetness, my eternal friend,
I’m intoxicated you’re all mine,
I’ve been caught by your timeless trap,
And freedom is the least of my needs,
Now I rock the prison of your bosomy embrace.
You fill in me the cream of blissful tomorrows,
Your juice soothes the innermost of my marrows.
The sun and the stars, the moon and the skies,
They all worship on the Altar of Beauty,
And what is beauty if not you,
My fount and finale of friendship.