Thursday, 28 September 2017

A Twist of Fate

“I will love you wellu wellu, I must to love you wellu wellu, Maria don come for me oh. I will love you wellu wellu. Bread wey I no dream of oh, Don find me come oh, Make una come helep me shout oh, Wetin I go use thank Maria oh. I will love you wellu wellu, I must to love you wellu wellu, Maria don come for me oh, I will love you wellu wellu.” After singing this song on top of his voice, he cleared his throat and started his story while his son listened with keen interest. “Maria and I were friends from babyhood. We danced and rolled together in the sands of the village in pants and sometimes without clothing. Maria lived two compounds away from mine but you could not tell the household members apart. My house was her house and her house was my house. We followed adults to the stream and played in the stream waters like baby mermaids. We were like brother and sister.
We schooled together in the village. I remember my parents always used Maria’s results to tease me. She was much more brilliant. I only coped and fell below average most times. It was when we finished secondary school that it finally hit me that Maria and I would have very different paths in future. I failed my WASC woefully. Despite all the effort I put into reading, the results were a mirror of my performance throughout my secondary education. With a heavy sigh of defeat, I accepted my fate. Maria, on the other hand, smashed the examination. She earned a state scholarship to study Medicine at one of our Universities. It was heart-breaking to see her leave but I was happy for her. I mourned for days like a widower. Since I was not mature enough to tap palm wine, my father said I had to learn a technical skill. He spoke to a neighbour who owned a mechanic shop close to the market square. Soon afterwards, I humbly became a mechanic apprentice. Time passed quickly and I was growing nicely into a knowledgeable mechanic. Birthdays in those days were very modest. You had to always remind your parents, and if you got lucky, you ended up with an extra meat in your plate. So, finally I was twenty. I had started growing a beard and my voice had become deeper. Some days, I was left alone to manage the mechanic shop. Life was boring. I wanted something more but there were no alternatives at that point. Just daily routines and long nights of wishful thinking. Maria never returned to the village after she left. I heard she wrote home once in a while and sent her regards. I occasionally ran into her mother on her way to the market. Most times, I would ponder on what she thought of me now that her daughter was most likely a medical doctor. Some days, the shop went by without incident. Other days, there was drama aplenty. It was one of such drama days that turned out to be one of the most fulfilling. One of the engines I was working on had screws that refused to budge for hours. After several lavish baths of brake fluid which usually worked, these screws just kept staring at me without motion. So the waiting game continued until I slept off on a wooden bench under the shop’s makeshift shelter. I only had my jean pants on since the weather was quite hot that afternoon. My shirt helped to keep flies away. I guess I was enjoying my sleep because it took several pats to get me up. “One madam say make u come check her radiator for am,” said a young man in Pidgin English who came over from another shop. “E-e-h! Where de motor dey?” I asked in Pidgin English with eyes wide open. “The motor dey for yonder near market” replied the young man. I got up and put my shirt on my shoulder. With a whistling tone in my mouth, I picked up some regular tools and followed the young man. When people say things like “I felt like the ground should open and swallow me,” you should take them seriously. This was exactly how I felt when I reached the 504 saloon car I was called upon to inspect. Behold, standing beside the car was a young lady wearing a sparkling white robe over a beautiful dress. Immediately I greeted her and focused on her face, I was staring at Maria. “James” she shouted. I dropped my tools and only a whisper of her name emerged from my lips. I did not know how to react since I had never faced that level of surprise before. She ran and pounced on me. Not minding my engine oil stained jean pants and body, including my hands, she generously hugged me rubbing her spotless white robe endlessly on me. People around were shocked. I mean, who wouldn’t be? It was not an everyday sight. A nicely dressed lady with a car hugging tightly on a mechanic in his regalia. I really can’t remember exactly how I finally reacted, but I know I put some water into her radiator and we went to her house together. Work ended immediately. The inferiority complex I felt around Maria was tangible. It showed without ceasing. I stuttered in my speech and engaged in a calamitous flow of clumsy actions. I remember Maria had to keep telling me to relax. Well, how could I? So, to cut the long story short. Mariah had finished all she had to do with medical training and had decided to come home to establish a healthcare centre. It was the only healthcare centre at that time. She told me she needed a good and trust worthy manager. She also mentioned that all the men she met throughout her medical training in the city did not make her laugh like I used to. Yes, she really said so. I guess the many years of high level concentration and tedious examinations had given rise to the desire for an essential need, simplicity and a humorous partner. That is where I came in. We got married soon after her return and started that healthcare centre together. It has become what it is today because two villagers who took separate routes found each other at some point, fell in love, and built something together. If my story can change, yours too can change.” The old man washed his hands after finishing his plate of food and went in to sleep.