That was the number of ceiling boards in Martin’s room.
He had spent the last 2041 seconds counting the 144 asbestos ceiling boards of his elegantly furnished bedroom.
While his newly wedded wife lay beside him a thousand miles away…
His friends had warned him, his elder brother and even his father had hinted something to that effect- these things didn’t always turnout right not in this era anyway. But he had made a solemn promise with Onome when they were 16 to wait until after marriage.
His father was initially proud of him. Such discipline, his father said, was what made a man a man. But after he graduated from the polytechnic and got a job, his father began to worry if his son was really a man. Weren’t they engaged to be married? Hadn’t they been faithful to each other for the past 10 years? Then what was the problem? The poking and prodding ad been relayed through his mother and eventually ended up in uncomfortable confrontations from his father. He solved the problem my moving out of home.
Then there was the issue of peer pressure. Some of his acquaintances had been disgusted at what they believed to be his childish decision. “What would I be doing with a hot pastor’s daughter for 10years!” they cried. She had not been spared either. Her fellow female choir members had warned, “life is not a fairytale and you don’t even know whether he is impotent sef.” Sometimes, they would exchange the stories and laugh off the tension and even find more strength in themselves in the process.
Their decision had not come unpremeditated, young as they had been when they took it, if anything their resolve only hardened over the years. It wasn’t without reason either. It seemed everyone around them who had done the deed before marriage ended up heart-broken, even more promiscuous, unlucky with finding love or HIV positive. Religion aside, they loved themselves too much to risk ending up like the others. They believed their decision would pay off in the long run.
But staring at his wife, a thousand miles away with her back turned towards him he was beginning to wonder if he’d made the right decision after all. His friends had warned him that the biology that went on in the bedroom was different from that which he’d aced in exam halls. He’d assured his friends that he knew enough of biology and had enough of urge to make love to his wife. He’d tried his best not to hurt her as she too was a virgin like him. Had he gone wrong? Had biology failed him at last?
Yet if he was to describe what he’d just shared with his wife, words would fail him. It was sweet torture, trying to be careful and patient for her sake while explosions ricocheted through his body. Onome had been sweet and giving, she made him feel he owned her. It wasn’t just mind blowing, it was spiritual- he felt his spirit bond with hers even further than it had all the 10 years they’d known themselves and he felt spasms of pleasure consume him. There was no guilt of breaking a covenant with God, maybe a lot of shyness once it was over, but definitely no guilt. He’d actually exclaimed “thank God” when it was over and fell back to the bed to savor the feeling of unadulterated joy that warmed his heart. It was then that he realized she hadn’t said a thing. She’d turned her long delicately spined back to him and he was left to wonder what was on her mind, hence his insecurities. So he counted the ceiling boards waiting for her too speak-up.
“Are you okay now?” came her tiny shy voice from the other side of the bed, startling him out of his reverie.
“Wha..what… how do you mean” he stuttered.
She turned to face him with those big eyes that had gotten his attention 10 years ago. They were guarded now. “Well when you finished you were disgusted and you said ‘thank God’. I am sure the.. the…blood must have disgusted you. And I am sorry you had to-“
“Heaven’s Onome! He shot out of the bed in negligence to his nakedness and began pacing the room, unable to contain himself. “I have been counting the ceiling boards, scared of asking you how you felt because you turnover after we-“ he paused to gesture at the bed. “because I had the most expensive moment in my life right here in these sheets. You touched me even farther this night in a place I didn’t know existed. And all the whole while you were thinking…” he couldn’t even bear the thought. ”you thought…”
“I thought you were beautiful” she said as a wistful smile touched her lips at the memory, cutting him short with her words. “ you made me feel loved, owned…”she smiled down at the bed. “It was nothing like my friends had told me”.
Her words melted his heart and melted him down to his knees beside her. “ Please let’s not do this break-in-communication thing again” He pleaded earnestly “I know we were sailing through uncharted courses but there’s still going to be more strange lands and foreign seas to conquer …like children.” He added with a smile.
She laughed in that special way only she could. “okay”. Then she continued her soft laughter and it became obvious it was at him.
“What is it?” he asked still on his knees. When she refused to speak, he started tickling her the way he did when they were 17, and then she succumbed.
“You’re so shy for a guy” she claimed in amusement.
“I’m not!” he defended.
“But you are. At least I tried to fall asleep, but you just remained awake, counting the ceiling!” With that she exploded into soft silky laughter once more.
“Okay, I’d agree with you if you can prove right now.” He challenged, eager to prove her wrong.
“Fine.” She calmed herself and looked at him comically. “You are naked”.
“Jesus!” he shouted at the realization, diving into the sheets. Then he joined her long heartfelt laughter that had relieved them as always.
“They were wrong” she said softly, moments later as he cuddled her in the sheets and settled to sleep.
“Who” he asked not immediately understanding her.
“Our friends, your parents, everyone. Cuz this thing we have here…” she paused to kiss him on his forehead “Is priceless.”
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world. I’ve never felt so complete” he accorded.
“And there’s no guilt” she said as a matter-of-factly.
“At all”. He agreed “It’s just perfect” he kissed her forehead “You’re perfect”.
She smiled. “The wall clock reads 3:14am we should be asleep if we are to do any unpacking today”
“Well in that case, good morning Mrs Onome.”
“Good morning Mr Martin.” She replied her voice heavily laced with amusement.
“Well I’d like to inform you” he continued in his mock-serious voice “That we got married about 16 hours ago, and as newlyweds we have the small task of making babies.”
She laughed in thorough amusement.
He arched an eyebrow. “So are you in?”
“Of course!” she replied in a little girl’s voice that undid him.
Something shifted in Martin’s heart. He was beginning to realize falling in love with Onome into a newer depth and dimension was something he’d be doing every day for the rest of his life. He was thrilled and not trapped by the idea, he had loved her for the past 10 years, and surely he would love her a thousand more.
This story was first published on www.aspire.org.ng