A young man in a relationship with the love of his life struggles with feelings of dread about marriage, and traces it to growing up in a dysfunctional family.
It was a hot and humid night, the air stood still and not a single breeze blew through the open windows. It was a dark night, not a single star could be seen in the sky and the moon had gone on a journey; the power holding company had held on to power too.
I lay on my bed sweating; my singlet clinging to my body. I had just woken up and the time on my phone read 3:20am, I had been asleep for just two hours.
The mattress beneath me was soaked with my sweat and it must have been the discomfort that woke me. I reached for the hand fan that was on the bedside table and fanned myself for a few minutes till my hand ached and I stopped.
I knew from experience that it would take a long time before I fell asleep but as I had a very busy day ahead of me, I decided to try to go back to sleep wishing that tonight would be different. I rolled over and lay face down on the bed and closed my eyes, banishing all thoughts from my mind.
Thirty minutes later, I was nowhere near sleep. I gave up and reached for my phone deciding to entertain myself with some music.
The first thing that caught my eye as I unlocked the screen was the picture of my girlfriend that I had used as a wall paper. She was wearing a pink gown with her hair pulled back with a pink ribbon and she was smiling at me. I smiled back.
I let my mind wander to the day we met and our relationship so far. It had been six months of bliss for me. And every now and then, I catch myself thinking about making a life with her, but those thoughts are usually followed by an unexpected feeling- dread.
Bosun was perfect in every way; well she was perfect for me. She makes me laugh, has just enough stubbornness to entertain me, and she was beautiful. I often teased her that she was too beautiful for me. She would look at me with narrowed eyes pretending to be miffed, and then she would smile in that special way of hers that made my heart warm. We were good together.
So I couldn’t understand why my heart skipped a beat at the thought of marrying her and I had been asking myself why the thought of marrying someone I called ‘’sweetheart’’ and professed undying love to was scary. But on this particular night, the answer came to me, crystal clear.
It wasn’t marrying her that was scary, I realized, it was the very idea of marriage that was scary. By now, music was the furthest thing from my mind, and my phone was lying beside me now. I was examining this new discovery in my mind.
At first I rejected the idea. I was a sucker for romance and the happily ever after, and I often fantasized about the type of marriage I wanted. It had passion, intimacy and companionship as part of it; openness and honesty too. And I had all with Bosun, so why would I be afraid of marriage? I loved marriage, I argued.
But the thought stayed. Why would I be scared of marriage? I mused. Then the answer came. It was something that I had not considered before, something that was real and I had lived with for as long as I could remember. I was a product of a disjointed marriage.
My mind had not articulated this thought vividly before and as I began to think about it, it made sense to me. My fear was a deep seated one, one that I had not considered before, one that had been repressed into my unconscious where it could not cause pain. But it had now reared its ugly head and was making its presence felt.
My mind wandered back to my childhood. I grew up in a family devoid of love and affection; I never saw my parents exchanging kisses or hugs, nor did they do anything together. They were just like two people living together in a flat. They did not fight each other too, but now that I thought about it, it was because he didn’t care about her for him to waste any emotion on her.
My father had numerous extramarital affairs and I was exposed to them at a young age. I remember one night when I was alone with him at home. We had slept in the same room, he on the bed and myself on another mattress on the floor. I had woken up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom when I heard movement and indistinct noises above me. The sound was being made by a female and the voice was familiar. I peeked from where I was lying down and I saw my dad and his secretary kissing on the bed. I quietly lay on the bed and pretended to be asleep; all thoughts of using the bathroom vanished. I think it was that night that I learnt how to rein in the urge to pee, something I’m still a master at today.
I don’t think I really understood what happened that night until later when I was a teenager and I had started to think about those years. Then all the other events too began to make sense. I couldn’t understand why father would do that to my mother.
I had asked my mother one day why she had married my father. This was years after he had thrown her out following the death of her first child, accusing her of being a witch, and leaving her in care of two children, and had run off with another woman- the neighbor’s daughter. She had sighed and said that she had loved him. But she also did add that she knew that he didn’t love her; he had married her as an obligation, because she had spent so much on him in financing his career. She said she thought that he would learn to love her after marriage, and initially it appeared that way but not for long.
Life as a teenager was rough. My mother did all sorts of odd jobs to make sure we stayed in school. When that was not enough, she begged for old school uniforms and books from friends and relatives, whose children had moved to the next class.
I remember following her on one such occasion to her uncle’s house. I was due to resume the following week and there had been no money to buy a new school uniform and school books. That was the day I hit an all time low. Here I was being asked to try on old school uniforms to see if they were my size. They were two sizes bigger but we accepted it and had it resized to fit me.
If I was humiliated that day, I could only imagine how my mother had felt. But she did it because she wouldn’t give up and wanted to give us the best gift a parent could give- education. She wanted us to have a bright future. And she succeeded. I became a doctor and my brother currently resides in the USA working as a software engineer.
My mother succeeded because she was a strong woman, not every woman could do that. I know lots of people who were not so lucky. No woman deserved to be treated that way.
That was the basis for my fear. I never want to be that man. I don’t want to be like my father, and I was afraid that I might do the same.
Irrational, you would say. But then you didn’t know that I look a lot like my dad. I am shy and introverted like him and have the same short temper. I possess the same wit, and analytic mind. I catch myself every now and then making a gesture similar to his. The only thing that I take after my mum is her complexion and face. So I wonder if I had inherited his philandering tendencies too. Maybe it is lurking, bidding its time, before striking and possessing me.
Now I know that what we become is a product of our choices, and that we do not become our parents just because we carry their genes, but the influences of our parents are usually profound and are seen in every facet of our lives. It is not news that children raised by aggressive and violent parents (father especially) tends to be more aggressive and violent as adults.
The sins of the father do continue in the sons and the thought that I would continue in the sins of my father scares me shitless.