Persistence was just a loophole created to give men more room and ways of disregarding their responsibilities as heads of families
BY BRENDA VIOLA
There he stood, a couple of tears slipping from his eyelids, tears of joy I supposed. In his well pressed black tuxedo, he stood tall above the rest. His bow tie in place. His pocket square sat seamlessly in the breast pocket of his suit.
From where I was, he looked contented, eager, and even hopeful; a look every bride wished to see on her groom as she walked down the aisle to meet him on the other end, an expression radiating joy and ecstasy. He was the very epitome of a perfect groom.
A long standing joke between my friends and I was that the good Lord definitely took time with him. Walking to meet him, I couldn’t agree more with my friends. Beside him stood his father. I tried my best to send a smile his way once our eyes locked. I didn’t know where to place his mien. Was he happy that his last son was finally settling down or was he disappointed at the choice his son made? I couldn’t trifle myself with such thoughts, at least not today.
From the other side, I saw the smile and pride radiating from my mother’s eyes. She finally got to tailor her kitenge and tie her head wrap like how women from the west did. Earlier in the day, she told me that the greatest role a woman can play in marriage was holding the family together. Perseverance is the term she used; a virtue that a woman needs in marriage.
I completely understood the gravity of her words. In my opinion, persistence was just a loophole created to give men more room and ways of disregarding their responsibilities as heads of families. However, expressing my views on the same seemed fruitless at the present time, it would only lead to more counselling sessions and I was honestly not up for another. Beside here were my aunts, all with the same pride and joy. All that was enough for me seeing my family happy.
By the time I was completing my train of thought, I was already standing at the altar, holding on to my parents’ hands as they gave me away. I was anxious, grateful for whoever invented the idea of wearing gloves with a wedding dress, for no one would feel how sweaty my hands were. The marriage counselor we were seeing said this was common. Besides, it wasn’t every day that we agreed to be conjoined to another human being and become one with the person. I chose not to look at his eyes, a move the rest of the congregation dismissed as me being shy.
I recalled all the moments he showed me his love. His true self, as I told myself ever so often. For status, he agreed to all this. I mean, he picked the location of the church, the dress I was to wear for whatever part of the ceremony, the theme color of the wedding. All these he did with love, right? When we first met, he was insistent on calling me his wife, a title I loathed at the beginning but with time, saw it as an endearment. A title he used before his family, friends, and colleagues to show how proud he was of me. The many gifts he would give me, for occasions as meaningless as arriving home safely from work, or finally completing a task I had previously set my mind on. As I said, he was the epitome of the perfect groom, and husband.
We took our respective seats for the procession to begin. What I had previously described as pre-wedding jitters was finally getting to me. Perseverance, I kept on reminding myself as the seconds went by. I wondered how perseverance turned out for her. The universe has a cruel way of teaching you necessary life lessons. A lesson my mother was insistent on not learning. I almost laughed out of bitterness as I remembered the amount of makeup I used to cover the darkened parts of my skin, the heavy bags under my eyes. The pain the corset caused as it crushed my already broken ribs. Persistence. According to mum, this would all go away some day, so my duty as a woman was to pray for him to stop his obnoxious ways.
The thought of walking out of the church toyed in my mind. Nonetheless, I wasn’t as brave as my sister, living my days as if they were my last. I questioned where she got her traits from, certainly not from either of our parents. Father was too reserved and mother was too insistent on maintaining the family’s reputation. I scanned the crowd looking for her, perhaps I’d telepathically wire an ounce of her courage to my system. She sat a few benches back, listening to the words of the preacher. After a few seconds of incessant staring, she finally looked my way, eyes squinting at me, as if asking me what I needed. I felt some warmth in the remaining bits of my heart. At least she cared. Our clairvoyant communication was rudely interrupted by the priest calling out my name. He was talking about how wives should carry themselves both at home and in public. A conversation I have had at least ten times in the past few months. After he proceeded to the groom, I turned yet again to look for my sister. She no longer sat at the same place. If only I could leave like she did.
Flashes of how he hit me in the past flooded my mind once more. The number of times I lied that I had joined karate classes hence the bruises. I was well aware that mum knew of what happened but said nothing about it. Father saw no crime. To him, I was the property of my groom. Therefore, if he saw the need to punish me then it was up to him! The absurdity of his reasoning angered me beyond words, yet I still stayed. Hoping and praying that he would one day change, that he would regard me as his equal and nothing less. That he would go back to being the sweet and charming man I met years ago. Surely there was light at the end of the tunnel, and perhaps mum was right, perseverance is key.
We now stood before each other, waiting for anyone to speak against the wedding. After a few moments of silence, the priest continued. Turning to me, he started reciting the wedding vows. It was time!