I ran into Nonso yesterday.
I saw him last about five years ago, at his wedding. I still remember how he looked then. He had the self-satisfied smile of a man who had finally found what he had been looking for. And who could blame him? His bride was young and pretty. And she was from Awka.
I knew how important that was to Nonso. I am also from Awka, and Nonso had pursued me relentlessly while I was still a student at the Enugu campus of the university of Nigeria. He worked in the Enugu branch of Standard Trust bank then, and unlike most young men, he was quite responsible and wanted to get married quickly. We met when he came to our school to write ICAN exams. He stopped to ask me for directions on how to get to the venue of the exam. He wanted to know my name, and when he found out that my surname was Enekwe, he asked if I was from Awka.
That was it. Nonso came after me with an intensity that was exciting and frightening. He is a handsome man and I was tempted on a few occasions to give in. But I was too deep in love with Asuquo. Nonso lived in Independence Layout and attended a Pentecostal Church close to his house, but when he found out that I went to a Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church in Trans Ekulu, he promptly changed Church. He found out that our house was a House Fellowship center and started coming there as well. He became quite friendly with my mother and brother. He turned all his charm on the poor woman. She doted on him, and tried to make me see why he was a better choice than my Calabar guy.
Nonso wanted marriage. He had already taken two girls home to meet with his parents. One was from the north. The other one was from Benin. His parents wanted nothing to do with both girls. It had to be an Awka girl. They refused to even talk about the girls. That was why Nonso wanted me. I would have been an instant hit with his people. An added feather was the fact that mine was a well known and prestigious family. Unfortunately, I already had Asuquo.
It was my brother who first told me about Amaka. Nonso met her at his friend’s wedding. He was the best man, and she was the chief bride’s maid. She was a first year student of Civil Engineering, which meant she was in Nsukka Campus. And she was from Awka.
It was a match made in heaven. Nonso’s parents took to Amaka. His mother adored her. It was “My daughter… My daughter…” to anyone who cared to listen to her. After the second week, Nonso was sure Amaka was the one for him. I must admit, I felt a slight tinge of jealousy. I was not sure I was making a mistake. My mother did not say anything to me directly, but she made several insinuations. She tried to talk Nonso out of getting married too quickly. She told him to wait, and get to know Amaka well. I do not think she was just looking out for him. She also had me in mind.
But Nonso’s mind was made up. He wanted to get married. They were married two months after they met. I went to the wedding with my mother and brother. It was a lovely affair, a wedding any girl would die for. That was the last I saw Nonso. That is, before yesterday.
I got married to Asuquo two years later and had to move to Lagos. When I had my baby a year later, my mother came over to Lagos for ‘Omugu’. It was then that she told me all was not well with Nonso. After the wedding, he had taken his wife to Kenya where they had a blissful honeymoon. According to my mother, Nonso told her that those two weeks were the only time he had peace in his home.
Amaka showed her true colour once they got back from Kenya. She had to go to Nsukka immediately. The plan was for her to spend most weekends in Enugu, until she was done with school. The first weekend she came over, Nonso found used condoms wrapped in tissue paper in her handbag. When he asked her about the condoms, she got angry and asked him what he was looking for in her bag. She got lots of calls from men at night, and he would listen to her talk about explicit scenes with impunity. The explanation she gave at first was that those were old friends and that there was nothing between them. Then she told him that she was used to men taking care of her, and that since he was stingy with money, she had to look for alternatives to maintain her lifestyle.
My mother told me Nonso came to see her. She said he cried his heart out. Amaka did not even want to see his parents. She told them to mind their business whenever they called. He wanted children, and was angry when he found contraceptive pills in her drawer. She was also very lazy, and left all the cleaning in the house to him. He wanted to dissolve the marriage but two things held him back. His parents were so ashamed and he did not want to cause them further shame. In addition, he was a Christian and believed things would turn out well eventually.
Then he lost his job. It was probably because he had so much on his mind. He credited a Customer’s account with 15 million naira instead of 1.5 million naira. He was sacked immediately and could not get any other job in a bank. That was when Amaka left him. She moved out of the house and went to stay with another man. That was the week before my mother came to Lagos.
Yesterday, I went to the site where my husband is building our home. One of the workers called my name “Chimela”, and I turned round, wondering who would dare call me with such familiarity. I did not recognize him at first. He called me again, and I almost fainted from shock. It was Nonso. Not the clean shaven, handsome, and lively Nonso I used to know but a stranger; gaunt, heavily stubbled, dirty looking and aged.
He told me later that he had come to Lagos the year before when he could not get any job in Enugu. Even in Lagos, he had to make do with laborer-type jobs, and had jumped at the opportunity to be the foreman at our site.