To pluck a flower

 

The unusual sound startles me awake. I listen with premature crust in squinted eyes, then I yawn a chuckle at how some things in Naija never change. It reverberates, this melancholic cry of something like a baby. The shudder in its echo affirms it is indeed a goat, a village goat, wailing in our suave gated community. This goat is defiant, weeping through midnight as if to foreshadow the guillotine come morning, unwilling to compromise with the festive backdrop looming–Cleo’s marriage introduction.

I’ll tell you how it’s often done. First there’s the introduction; a dramatic prelude to the traditional wedding. It’s basically our version of an on bended knee’s I declare my love to you proposal. The groom-to-be you see, the boyfriend, he shows up at the house of the girlfriend–as though they weren’t the ones kissing yesterday at Silverbird galleria over movies and ridiculously expensive popcorn. He shows up at her house with his kinfolk to tell her parents how he just happened to be walking by and saw a beautiful flower in their compound, a beautiful flower he must come and pluck because he has never, ever, ever, in all his life, seen such a special flower.

I attended an introduction once with Cleo, the man used the term “beautiful goat.” We laughed on the backyard floor after this.

“Veny, that’s what some tribes say.” Cleo explained to me later. “Some people see goats, others see flowers.”

“Which one are you?” I had asked as we shared chin-chin off a chipped soup bowl.

She scoffed tucking her thick hair behind her ear. “Girl, do I look like a goat?”

She didn’t. She was a beauty. I liked to believe within me I was just like her. Maybe not by our physical features, but the true me tucked far away inside was Cleo’s twin, the me that was special. That me was Cleo because she lived all the exact dreams of my heart. She did as an unobserved habit, things I had never gotten the chance to do. She had let go and forgotten men I would never get to love. Jaiye would call her flower come morning.

The introduction doesn’t end there. When the boyfriend arrives with a few relatives or intimate clansmen, and the in-laws to be ask what he has come for as though the date for the introduction had not been set by both parties, the boyfriend bows and explains about the flower.

Then they all act as if they do not know it is their daughter he speaks of. Next, other females of the family emerge one after the other and this is accompanied by a monotonous, “A flower? A flower! Who could it be? Is it this one?”

And the young man–poor guy, has to reply with even more embellished vigour, “No Papa, No Mama, it is not this one.”

Until his girlfriend finally ushers herself out and then with dreamy eyes he gasps, “Aha! Yes Papa, Yes Mama, it is that one! I have seen my flower.”

The Parents grant their permission after this and traditional etiquette commences: breaking and sharing of kola, verbal agreements, champagne popping–preludes to lengthy toasts and prayers, cheers, music, laughter, awkward borderline-vulgar jokes from that one elderly Uncle, while yesterday’s sulking goat sizzles a delicious anxiety through everyone’s throats, as smoke from the barbeque grill outside curls to heaven. This, is the fate of the goat.

Banter meets the evening with mouthwatering Jollof rice and chicken chunks. Side dishes of salads dripping with Bama mayonnaise escort the skewered untimely goat, peppered to taste. Bellies brim fill as official dates are finalized. Everyone is happy.

The traditional wedding will come with its own grandeur, enchanting ankara and delightful aso-ebi. And then the final step–the white wedding, glimmering with soft fuchsia bouquets and that delicate poof of fairytale lace. This, is the fate of the girl.

Afterwards Cleo for instance, will go on to live happily ever after … I grab my Blackberry, slip on my earpiece, and pull the duvet over my head. Then I scroll through playlist 2: Jamz. Tuface is singing to me now, I feel a little special. In that fleeting silence between the end of one song and the beginning of another, I still hear the goat, crying.

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