Shea butter popularly known amongst the Igbos as okuma and amongst the Yoruba’s as ori , because it is medicinal in nature, it serves so many purposes. People like me use it as body cream, for treatment of wounds or scars and as hair cream. Some time last year I thought up a story, it was inspired by shea butter and I told my mum about it. I quickly jotted the outline of the story in my phone memo and since then I have been writing it bit by bit. Since last year! Lazy, I know. Last week, a classmate asked me to send her a story based on the theme “relationship, betrayal and endurance”. Knowing that I had the story ‘Okuma; because it heals all wounds’ in my memo, I quickly edited it and sent it to her. I feel bad that I had been writing the story with a very lazy attitude because I really wanted it to be ‘pregnant with impact’ but I believe it still is anyway. I even had the perfect picture I would have used as the image attached to the story but Its on my mums laptop at home and I had to make do with one of a pregnant woman silhouette and blue butterflies. Anyway, Here’s the link to the blog it was posted on…. Enjoy 🙂
* * * * http://irishsugar.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/clown-okuma/ * * * *
Here’s the story again on my blog , just in case.
From the second the stick turned blue and I knew Nella was on her way, I was overly anxious and I froze.
I debated whether or not to scream for joy or just hold it in and accept that she was actually coming. After seconds of indecision I just smiled to myself. I pulled up my cotton panties, stood up from the toilet seat and let my maxi dress fall to back its place. I looked into the bathroom mirror as I leaned over the sink and I splashed some water on my face. My eyes had this unfamiliar look in them. I felt elated and yet terrified. I mean I knew I’d receive her someday but not this soon. Besides my supposed ‘co host’ was no where to be found. I gripped the edges of the sink , made a funny face at myself and grinned. It was at that moment, the anxiety gave way to a positive amount Of energy sort of like a dam that burst and sent forth charged waters that had been held back. I can’t forget it. I pranced around my Ikoyi service apartment. I told myself repeatedly that I was not dreaming just so it would sink into my consciousness. Nella is on her way! I began to transform. My ‘twins’ as deji used to call them,when he nestled between them, they swelled a tad. This made me smile, I had always wanted them a little more naturally swollen but puberty wasn’t in a generous mood when dishing out my portions to me.I couldn’t decide whether or not to find a way to inform him. Deji was not my first love but he definitely was my first mistake. I had a couple of flings during my school days but I never let anyone of them get me irrational enough to make me spread my legs. I felt we were too young and too foolish to understand the deep mysteries of mutual intimate investigations of mortal frames. With Deji , to my surprise , spreading my legs was no challenge. We met at a mutual friends place. He got my contact details from the friend and was persistent on being a part of my life no matter what part it was. It took a while but the very first day we had a serious conversation, he ignited a spark in my heart and things changed from that moment onward. He was a doctor at a high brow hospital from a long line of doctors , lawyers , Engineers , basically professionals. He teased me about how much we were designed for each other because my not so busy job as a teacher coupled with his did not make it hard to have a relationship with him. He would sneak out of his office when he could and stop by at the teachers lounge during break time or take me out for dinner shortly before resuming for his night shifts. The day we first did the deed, he had just dropped me off before going to resume his night shift. He said he wanted to step in for a little while before he went to work and since the next day was a public holiday he would ensure he came back to see me because we would both be free. He followed me upstairs and we shared childhood memories. He told me about his Igbo Lawyer mum and Yoruba Doctor dad. About how his mum was very learned but still had a few of her Igbo beliefs that she tightly held on to like using okuma because it heals all wounds,that is the igbo name for shea butter, she used it to treat everthing she could think of. Even his hair. He also spoke of how she ensured his igbo was fluent.I told him about my life as a daughter of wealthy Benin parents. A house wife mum and A politician dad. I mentioned how I always wanted to be a teacher and how I instantly fell in love with social studies in primary school and studied sociology at the university level. He used the tip of his index finger to ‘draw’ my eyebrows as he told me how distinct they are and similar to those of his beautiful mother. Needless to say, that contact did a lot more than it should have and before I knew what was going on we had clothes and minimums strewn all over the sitting room. He rushed off to work a bit late and he did return as promised. we spent every weekend at my place. He knew all my friends and was familiar with all of my family members. In fact he insisted on meeting my mother and she was so excited that I had nabbed what she called a ‘good catch’ for a husband.I always told her to calm down. Then she’ll laugh and reply “Nosa my Nosa, you won’t understand till you are anxiously awaiting your first daughter’s wedding”.I met a couple of his cousins and his only brother. I felt he was too shy to introduce me to his parents because he told me a couple of stories about how girls had taken his love for granted and when he told his mum, she was pretty hurt so he wanted to go slow. I decided to play the role of the understanding girl friend and so I did not mount any pressure on him. whenever we had the chance, we traveled to different states for sightseeing and picture taking some weekends. We made it a point of duty not to be boring with our relationship. He told me he had big plans for me and saw a future with me every time he closed his eyes. He got upset when it seemed I was getting to close to any of the male teachers and he did not hide his jealousy at all. There were definitely other women in the picture. The ones who called at odd hours and hung up when I picked up and the ones who would send funny texts asking why he loved traveling so much meaning they did not know why or who he was traveling with. But I knew how much he dedicated his time to me and how devoted he acted towards me so never for once did I nurse any doubts about him. After a year and some months, I felt it was time to ask him what his plans for us were. Somehow, he avoided the discussion. I refused to read his avoidance as a red flag I guess accepting that I had wasted the twenty fifth year of my life, which I should have used to court the man I hoped to marry, with someone who had no plans to marry me would have hurt me too much. So I tried to accept that he was not ready. Who was I fooling though? I really wanted that chunky diamond I knew Deji could give me! I wanted to wear that immaculate white dress and be joined to the man I did not hesitate to open up to completely. Besides, I did not want my biological clock to start working against me I had always wanted a daughter to cradle and rock… One I would name Leonella because her beauty would be dumb founding.Deji was a beautiful light skinned, dark haired , Thor figured man and I am not so bad myself. Yes, Leonella would be the perfect name indeed she would be a lioness in her academics like her parents . The weekend after I could not take the uncertainty any longer, I cooked Deji some mushroom soup and served it with red wine. It was his favourite meal. I set the table nicely and we ate happily, laughed and joked. I summoned the courage and asked him again how he planned to bring to reality his plans for us. He looked me in the eye and with these words he tore my heart , stabbed it and let it bleed to death. “Nosa you have made me lose my appetite”. I was shocked beyond expression let alone words. He said “I can’t understand why you women can not “chill” and take things step by step.” This was coming from the same lips that would cover mine and never allow me complete any sentence that implied we should take things slow…. He made for the door , then he looked back and added. “My mum has warned me not to try marry anyone that did not read a professional course, you studied sociology or psychology… Right?”. Then he shrugged and walked out. The weeks following the news of Nella’s fast approaching arrival, I would just wake with a slight headache and what I started to call ‘morning madness’.It was this excessive amount of energy and spring in my step. It took me by surprise because I lost the spring when dearest Deji walked out. My mother surprisingly took the news well and she tried to act strong for me because of the perceived emotional condition of my heart. But I knew she still hoped for a son-in-law in Deji.Every now and then I’d pull back my curtains to watch the sunrise as I rubbed my well rounded tummy, it didn’t lag behind in the swelling competition with its twin superiors. I felt the life within respond to my touch and every word I spoke. After a few visits to the hospital and even signing up with my neighbourhood gym to keep the transformations in check, I started to speak to her.I mean directly to Nella. No not through calls or text messages, I’d just literally open my mouth and speak to her since she responded to words I spoke anyway. I asked her what she thought about my choice of outfit before going to work or what she thought of my dinner choice and she would reply somehow. I was in a world of my own and the only people there were Nella and I. I must have looked crazy. I was Getting sore all over, yet overly excited and constantly engaging in dialogue with my hand on my belly. The obstetrician I was assigned to, despite my condition, he didn’t hide his interest in me. He would insist on taking me to dinner and then drop me at home or back in school depending on the time of the day I paid a visit to the hospital. He knew I was single and took it upon himself to be there for me. I smiled at the thought of his concern. I wondered whether it was affection or pity and the fact that I was uncertain about what it was did not even help him score any points. I just wanted to focus on my Okuma which was Nella and I excitedly awaited her arrival. The day my water broke, I was marking social studies scripts. The Olive Primary school, the school where I taught, had closed for the day. I was very calm seeing as I had read every book and every magazine on pregnancy and mother hood and so I did not panic. Mr Lawson, an Elderly teacher , was the only teacher in school at the time.He even taught me English when I was in secondary school and always did a bit of preaching before he left the class. Seeing as I was one of his best students at the time, he would always pat me on the head and say “stay wise”. I knew he meant ‘be good and stay away from those boys’ that was the message he echoed after every class. He was not so glad I was pregnant before I got married, in fact I saw it in his eyes. Although, He never condemned me I guess with the wisdom of old age, he understood that life happens to Everyone.All the other teachers particularly the married female ones and a few of the single ones that acted like ‘goody two shoes’, did not hide their holier than thou disgust. I shouldered the insult that my dearest mistake had caused me and I always smiled at them.After all okuma was coming. I never hesitated to greet them first. All that was a mask for the hurt Deji had with so much ease shoved into my heart. I headed to Mr Lawson’s classroom and greeted him calmly before explaining the situation at hand . He leapt, yes leapt up and almost had a panic attack before I jokingly reminded him I was the one who had cause to be alarmed and he should be calm. We laughed and he told me to sit while he organised an ambulance to the hospital. I also texted instead of calling Doctor Ayo my obstetrician because I really did not want to have him feeling obliged to do anything. I also felt he would complain about me excluding him totally. After a few minutes of debating, I sent him a text thinking he would see it late and I would have at least told him. To my surprise the ambulance not only arrived in good time but the Doctor appeared with it. I just calmly climbed in with Mr lawson’s help and I watched the events unfold. So much drama followed. There were para medics , nurses and all of the necessary medical personnel running tests and check ups here and there. I was woozy because an oxygen mask was on my face. I fought sleep thought because I couldn’t miss any detail of this unfolding story for the world. On arriving the hospital I was told I had dilated enough to start the arrival process! I was excited , knowing Nella wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see her. She laid in my arms. Tender, dependent , trusting and extremely beautiful. Her hair, Eyes, skin and fingers just like her fathers. Tears flowed from my eyes. Trust that my parents caught the next flight and somehow arrived the hospital to herald the arrival of their grand daughter. I rocked her and refused to let anyone hold her. I remembered Deji and imagined what his reaction would have been. it was hard to hate him or be bitter towards him because he planted the lovely seed in my garden and had blessed me with the best blessing.I must have broken Doctor Ayo’s heart. I told him I did not think I wanted anything other than being with my baby. Maybe I still nursed the hope that Deji would walk back into my life, or maybe not.As far as I was concerned I had the best gift life had to offer in my arms. When I was asked what I’d like to name her I smiled and said. “Leonella Okuma, okuma because it heals all wounds naturally and beautifully. She’s my Okuma for the scars Deji left me with”
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