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In the weeks following Màmá’s visit, Adéòtí didn’t change his mind about getting his own place in town. He still speaks of a future that is vague and full of castles…the kind that can only be built in the air.
I was now used to his words… empty when it counts the most. I told myself his imperfections were ones I could live with… ones I have to live with so I could get the final approval of my people.
I’m aware they all expects me to bring home a man… soon… they say that I’m a woman without a crown… that no one would respect me…until I drop my Father’s name and bear that of another. Even Ba’ami once told me that I do not have a room in his house… he said I’m a guest in his house and my room stays empty in the house of the man who would be my husband.
You see, I have always liked the idea of marriage… I wanted the kind that Ba’ami and Màmá had… maybe even better. But beyond my wants lies the expectations of my people… and the need to get their approval.
And although in Adéòtí, I saw no glimpse of the kind of marriage I wanted… I had to take what I could get… for they say I was past the age to choose. So, I stayed…and held on to Adéòtí for he was the only one in sight.
As days rolled into months, I learnt to mask my worries with a smile… and even a laugh. Whenever Màmá asks of him, I assure her all was well… but all wasn’t…. the nagging feeling of the wrongness of it remained my loyal companion… yet the fear of being alone… an old maiden kept me quiet.
Then I got news that Ba’ami was ill… so I returned home to help Màmá care for him. Abísóyè came as soon as she heard I had come.Màmá had told her about the ‘angelic’ Adéòtí who had come to take away my ‘shame’…she wanted to know when he would come for my hand. I solemnly told her of the nagging feeling that would not leave… I told her all that worries me, and of all my doubts.
But Abísóyè looked at me in confusion,
"Akínyẹlé wouldn’t talk to you about himself, Adéòtí talks too much but only of himself. Perfect men don’t exist, you know? Stop looking for one"
I felt reprimanded… and long after Abísóyè left, her words lingered on in my mind. As I lay my head on the mat that night, I asked myself if I was indeed looking for what does not exist.
I thought of what I wanted… of the kind of marriage I’ve always wanted. I’ve always just dreamt of marrying a companion… a man like Ba’ami who respects me as much as I respect him. I’ve always wanted a love that gives as much as it takes. I wanted a marriage than had laughter… even more than the one I grew up with.
So, I thought of Adéòtí and how good he has been to me… I thought of how much I admire his sharp mind… and how much he has taught me.
Then, I thought how less my laughter had become… how unlike myslef I am whenever I’m around him… I thought of his blind stubbornness…of his rigid view of life… and of how critical he is of people. I thought of the secrecy that still cloaks his past… and the plans for the future that only involved him.
So, at dawn, when Màmá came into my room, I told her all I’ve kept hidden… I could no longer hide… I told her of all my worries and doubts.
She was quiet for a bit, and then she asked if I love him. I told her I was no longer sure… that unlike the beginning, I could no longer catch a glimpse of the future I wanted… not with him by my side.
She then asked why I stayed for so long… and why I kept quiet. I reminded her of my age… that everyone I grew up with all bear new names… and some have even suckled their own children. I reminded her of her constant cry for me to find a husband.
Màmá said it is true that I’m no longer a child… and that her joy would be full once I’m married, but that her full joy would easily become empty if I’m miserable in my marriage. “No matter how long you bear your Father’s name, you will bear your husband’s for longer. So, do not settle my child. You have my approval…you are my child… my joy, and seeing you happy is my happiness”
I cried at Màmá’s words and gentle counsel… then I asked what I should do.
“Speak to Adéòtí, listen to what he has to say… then follow your guts, it will never fail you”.
She said I shouldn’t be afraid to let go… that letting go will open me up to other possibilities.
So I did… exactly as Màmá said. I spoke to Adéòtí as soon as I got back to the township. He saw no problem… he said things are as they should be… and he will marry me when he’s ready… he said he doesn’t know when… that one cannot plan everything.
I know Adéòtí is a good man, but his words confirmed that he is not ‘my’ good man so I told him it was time to part ways… and I walked away.