The first time I met her, I felt nothing.
It wasn’t like what most people say they feel when they meet their partners for the first time. I was at a meeting for intending choir members and I wondered why she was so vocal (pun intended). We were waiting for the existing choir team to finish their post-service meeting before they’d attend to us. Betty was literally shouting at the top of her voice. I squinted my eyes to hear what she was saying, ‘No, no no. Sadiq don’t say that! We corrected it at the last rehearsals na. It’s’ Ah-bout’ not ‘Ay-bout’. We are educated and we have to know that our audience cares ah-bout things like that.’
I smiled. She was so tiny, and yet her voice was so loud. But I felt nothing.
The second time I met her was at the next rehearsal. She was sitting beside me, drinking Fanta. As the meeting started, she brought out a notebook and started drawing music notes, transposing the song. I was in awe. And yet I felt nothing.
The third and fourth times we met, we were at one of the school cafeterias. I paid for her food and she paid for my drink. I asked her if she was a feminist and she said she didn’t need to be. I asked her what she meant, she shut me up with another bottle of Fanta, smiled and walked away. I felt nothing but amusement.
The fifth time we met, I was in high spirits (I cannot remember why). But when I saw her walk past me, I hugged her tight and said, ‘Betty! How are you?! It’s so good to see you!’. She laughed out loud and said, ‘Get some rest!’. I felt embarrassed
But we got married. About the 500th time I met her. It was at the altar at St. Gregory’s. She looked so beautiful. And I felt something. Something I’m not quite sure anyone had ever made me feel.
Now I’m sitting in the gallery (that’s what they call it) in a high court at Ikoyi. My name is no longer Daniel, it is ‘Respondent’ . And her name is no longer Betty, it is ‘Petitioner’.
Nowadays, I feel like I can relate to her more as Petitioner, than Betty. With all the dirt she’s presented to the court. All our dirty laundry aired out in the stuffy court. All the things we whispered to each other at night; confessions we made and forgiveness we gave. All the concessions we made. All the quarrels we resolved. Everything.
The judge is reeling out sentences that purport to summarize our marriage with only the bad times we had.
‘Petitioner sufficiently proved that the Respondent committed adultery on 4 occasions, with 4 different women… ‘
‘ Petitioner proved that respondent on the 4th of April 2011 left their three little children to play by the pool unattended to… ‘
‘ Petitioner proved before this honorable court that Respondent being unemployed since 2015 up until the time of her last testimony has not been able to sufficiently provide for the family’s basic needs’
How can my entire existence as a father, a husband and a man be defined by negative evidence presented to prove that I’m so terrible a human to be married to? Where are all the good stuff I’ve done, all the good stuff I’ve been? Why are my mistakes been magnified?
Somewhere in the humdrum uneventful reading of her judgment, the judge ‘hereby declares that the marriage between Mr. Daniel Shisha and Mrs. Betty Shisha is dissolved‘. Or something like that. My mind was messed up.
I look over at my
wife ex-wife mother of my children wife, and I see her beaming with joy. She almost screamed in elation when the judge granted her custody of our children.
Now, we are out of the courtroom and in the court premises. She walks to her car talking loud with her best friend and I wonder why she’s so vocal. She gets into her car and zooms past me. As I get one last glimpse of her, I feel everything.