Recently, I ran into an old friend at a local Grocery Store. After all the hugs and ‘Oh My God(s), it’s been a while,’ exchanges, this old friend asked about my children and how they were coping with not living with their father. Her eyes rounded just as her lips pursed to repeat the question in the event that I didn’t hear her. But, I heard her loud and clear. The glint in her eyes told me she couldn’t give a hoot about my children’s wellbeing. She was clearly molding the next round of offensive bites to start off her weekend gossip. I let a counterfeit smile ride my face to change the ugly countenance that had begun to press against my unmade face.
“They are doing great actually! Growing up fast too. My oldest is almost as tall as I am. God is good. Thank you for asking. You look great!” I mumbled on. “How are you and your family?” I asked her almost immediately. The smile I had crafted had frozen up, and my facial muscles had begun to hurt.
My question to her went unanswered. And here was why: I had to clear the huddle she had placed before me, if I didn’t want the one-sided barrage to continue. The compliment about her looking great didn’t matter; she couldn’t feed that to her ardent listeners. It was flat, and she needed something that has humps; cold cuts, munchies and a crap load of gritty meshes sweetened in a cauldron of witch-brewed juices. What was I to do? This babe was on a roll! I thought maybe she was going to talk about my recent live television interview with Emmy Award Winner, Fox 26 News Anchorwoman; Melissa Wilson. Nah, nah! She fired away, burying me deeper than she had dug the grave.
‘Nkem, I am very disappointed in you. As a matter of fact, you should be ashamed that your children do not live with their father too. A woman has more dignity in the community and amongst her peers when she has her family together, especially considering where we come from. So biko (So please), when asked, do not take pride in telling people that you are a single mother. You ought to be ashamed of yourself and not be seen in public.’
I stared at her and was appalled at her audacity. Rare? Yes! But when you find it, the bearer is usually a plutocrat. Gagged? Indeed I was! In the middle of a Grocery Store, I was stripped, flogged, and hung out to dry. When the initial rush of anger receded, I took that deep breath, without making it obvious. She stood in my face like Rhoda of the Nile with all her teeth exposed in a Fu Manchu smirk. How could I respond to such vapid utterance; the ignorance and stupidity that rode on her condemnation of me was a high-wired act, and I didn’t think I had enough of 4th of July fireworks in my repertoire to knock her silly. What I had was lame and neither fully esoteric nor powerful enough to make the kind of dent on her impudence and douse her down like a bowl of sopping oatmeal. The only option available was to knock those teeth out. That would have been great. You see, she is a practicing dentist, and wouldn’t have too much trouble putting her teeth back. However, any physical engagement would have worked, if I were bigger. If only looks could really hurt! However, I am glad I am neither violent nor abusive.
My spirit soared above the metal awnings holding the roof up. Does she know the hell I had been through? We all go through stuff no matter the persona we each wear. But then again, being educated doesn’t mean wisdom is applied intelligently.
‘Oh, let me have women around me that are shy and thoughtful. Sleek-headed, over schooled brats as Bellisimo here are mean and selfish…such women are dangerous,’ my heart wailed.
Physician heal thyself, I thought.
“Doc…” I began. “I hope that you’d never see the day come when you’d pack and leave your husband. Being a single mother is not a disease. It doesn’t lower or degrade your status, nor would it depreciate your value as a human being. And being married does not appreciate your value,” I finally managed to say.
We should do our best each day to improve ourselves. What we say to one another must be carefully measured, thought out before we release that first salvo. Clearly, my Doctor friend did not have a moment to bite on those words to soften their impact before she spat them out. Here’s another thing she failed to do; she couldn’t have been so dumb not to know that my feelings could be hurt. Then again, it could be the plutocrat in her or the carriage of her, the stinking persona she wears like an over-made Barbie doll, that compels her to thumb her nose at others.
Even if I had wanted to lash back at her to even the score, I wouldn’t have been able to; my frozen face and the smile it bore like a crazy woman’s visage wouldn’t let me. So, I held my tongue tight and branded her unnecessary and irrelevant at that precise moment. I literally shoved her into the realm of those, especially, them that walk hollow, think blandly, and would always dress in borrowed robes as a way of bottling up my rage. There were other cheap contraptions on this woman. I will spare you those to avoid any further, meaner construction of her being. But know this; she must be de-cluttered and her inadequacies reshuffled and rebranded. And I know exactly how to do that.
Events happen in our lives to make us better, stronger, tougher, and wiser. And at the same time, there are other things that happen our way to destroy and weaken us, only because we allow them to take place.
If being single, divorced, or separated are all diseases, then there should be an over-the-counter remedy to right them. And, it’s neither an abomination, or is it? I am not kidding you: Exactly ten weeks after my encounter with her, the Doctor packed up and vamoosed; she packed up alright…with her two kids in tow, and left her husband and the home she had lived in for the past fifteen years. Dr. Do-no wrong, sighted irreconcilable differences like I had done. However, her own gist tapered wickedly; he had pulled the wig off her head, grabbed the natural web and pounded her frontal lobe against the wall to knock her out. Believe me, I am looking forward to having an intimate lunch with this woman. I will buy her a drink…no juices, unadulterated concoction.
Whatever I have them serve her must pack a wallop. You see, I must loosen her up to listen to her yarn. Oh, I will pick up the tab too. And right after she had had that first sip…bang!!! That will be me firing the first shot to see how the staccato would ring in her ears, and how her body would hang after the barrage hits her. Hello?
Remember: The past is only a memory. The present is here and now. Never be defined by the challenges that life throws at you, nor by the forces that weaken you, nor the people whose mission is to make you just as miserable as they themselves are! Be your own success story. ~ ND
Nkem DenChukwu contributes to Trendy Africa Magazine.