I met Grace some months back on a flight from South Africa to Lagos. My seat was beside hers in the business class cabin. By the way, that was my first time of being on that side of any flight. I am an ‘economy’ passenger. I thought she was a snub for not participating in the discussion on Nigeria which was generated by an article about some presidential aspirants in the newspaper. Of course the degeneration and possibility of reinventing Nigeria is always a hot and passionate topic any day, especially by people who are not willing to do anything about the situation. I had so many surprises on this particular day.
One; I did not know that even passengers on business class talk so much (loudly at that) to one other on board. I used to think everybody was always busy, minding his own business, glued to their laptops and would only exchange business cards after sizing each other up.
Two; Grace, gracefully dressed (just like her name) was wearing sunglasses – ah, even on board! I had thought this was the exclusive rights of ‘poverty- minded wanna bes’ who wanted everyone to know they could afford ‘designers’ brands.
Three; the discussion about Nigeria was no different from the discussion I usually have with ‘ordinary folks’ – all talk, no direction, no solution, everybody blaming the leaders (I used to think business class passengers were part of the leadership of this country). After about one hour of the ‘state of Nigeria is not my fault’ discussion, we all went about other businesses. I had no other business, so back to Grace.
Grace was reading a magazine – with her sunglasses. I picked up a magazine too and then I realized Grace’s page was wet. I looked intensely until I saw a tear drop from her eyes. What? I focused on the magazine and I realized Grace was shedding tears. Really? In a business class cabin? Well, it didn’t take me time to get Grace to talk. She wondered why God would allow her go through all these mess she found herself in. Was she kidding me? She was in business class; would she trade places with me, so she could be flying economy the next time she flies – didn’t bother to tell her that anyway.
She had been married to Dapo for fifteen years after dating for two. They were both Christians and in fact Grace had been a virgin, so her chastity and values were never in doubt. The first year of their marriage had been somewhat turbulent. Being from different cultures and family settings had beset its own problems, but they had come out unscathed and grew closer. They had a very good relationship; Grace’s work life was progressive and Dapo’s business was thriving. Everything was working fine except for one; they had no child. It was about the fourth year, that they both had to admit that there may be a medical situation, so they started seeing gynaecologists. Over a period of four years, they went from A to Z, tried every known fertility treatment that was, yet no result. It was financially challenging and emotionally traumatic for the couple, but they kept trying. Dapo was very supportive, always assuring Grace that God would keep his promise and bless them with a child. When the third IVF (intro vitro fertilization) failed, even the gynaecologist had to advise that they adopted a child, as they needed to give Grace’s body a break from the fertility treatments. The only thing they could do was to collect Dapo’s sperm for storage for future use – just in case.
They adopted a child in the tenth year of their marriage. Of course warding off family intervention on this issue was another matter entirely. Most of the family members accepted the child, but some others were very cynical. The couple decided they owed nobody any apologies and they stuck together drawing strength from each other.
Until one day about a year ago! Grace was trying to create a group for all members of the family on facebook so she started checking out everyone with their family name in order to invite them to the group. And she came across Mabel who was married to Dapo. The same Dapo! Her own Dapo, if all the pictures she could see were anything to go by. They even had a two year old daughter. How could this have happened? When did this happen? Why should it happen? The only answer Dapo could give her was that it indeed happened; he was sorry, he just didn’t know how to tell her. Did his family members know? “Yes,” he said, “most of them know.” Grace was shattered. For how long had she been living this lie? No wonder they’ve stopped bothering them about having kids. But why hadn’t Dapo told her, at least he could bring his daughter home to be part of the family. Dapo said Mabel would not allow that.
“Are you still seeing Mabel?”
“Do you still sleep with her?”
“Do you wear a condom?”
She didn’t need any other response after that. She tried to make sense of everything, but it was just too much for her. Dapo, the guy that had promised to love, protect and cherish her, in health and in sickness, for better and for worse had done to her what she could never have imagined doing to him. She felt betrayed, cheated, battered and humiliated and there was no one to fight her cause. It was a difficult time for her, but she knew she had to move on with her life. She was a fighter and was not about to lose her husband to any woman even for the sake of a child. Was Dapo still interested in the marriage? “Yes.” But, apparently he wasn’t done with Mabel yet. So they went on with life if one could call it that. It was torturous; not being able to trust Dapo again, never sure of where he was; and the most traumatic was each time she had sex with Dapo – she always felt she was sleeping with Mabel and that made her feel dirty and so many things she couldn’t even find words to express. After a while, Dapo encouraged her to try the IVF again, which is what took her back to South Africa for about a month. It failed, and the Doctor confirmed yet again that she just may never be able to have a child naturally. She couldn’t remember all the medical jargon he had used to describe her reproductive organs. Well, nothing new. At least she did her best.
Just a few minutes before she boarded the plane from South Africa, she received a call from Dapo, hysterically informing her that he had somehow discovered that Mabel’s daughter was not actually his! Grace had not had time to digest the news before she settled down in the plane and that was when the tears started flowing: Tears of joy? No! She couldn’t even be happy that Dapo didn’t have what he thought was his anymore: Hopelessness? Probably, because at this stage she has had about enough of all these sapping conception processes: Confusion, disappointment, despair?
What do you feel when you just discovered that an event that stole your joy for so long and destroyed the fundamentals of your marriage never happened?