There was something wrong about the men who came to seek her hand in marriage, Christie was convinced. It was not that some of them did not pass the superficial test of good looks, how many people would scale that anyway – especially now that pot bellies have gradually come to be regarded as sexier than ripped abs – nor was it that a good number of them were mere primary school graduates; people who had chosen to veer off the path of education in favour of their quest for the golden goose that laid eggs of diamond, gold and every other precious stone.
There was something else. Something deeply ingrained in them that troubled her. Something innate in a sense.
When she got admitted into the university, the men had come. But something in her fathers’ eyes had kept them away. It was a look that said “my daughter must be a graduate first” and then “she is underage”. Good thing it wasn’t some other part of the country, or someone would have been pregnant with her third child now. They had stayed anyway, circling like vultures waiting for the perfect moment to zero in for a piece of the kill.
Now, she is back home and months after her graduation they still wouldn’t stop coming. Calling. Stalking. Anything at all to get her attention. So her bed room had become a haven of sorts. The one place she could lay on her four-post bed, cocooned in shades of blue and gold as the light filtered in through her window, and surrounded by all her favourite things in the world displayed in clay jars and on wooden shelves.
She stared at the ceiling fan whirling overhead and wondered if this, the circling blades moving in perfect unison, never meeting, yet forming an endless, indistinguishable, interconnecting loop could be the answer to time travel after all.
And she travelled.
Edward had been sweet to her. He was also the only fully literate man who had come so far, and she’d enjoyed having actual intellectual conversations with him. With Chinedu, it had been different. All he did was stare as she picked at her salad and chicken all day with glowing eyes and a toothless grin. She had become his investment. No, that wasn’t the right term: investment; it was more like a winning ticket– the one that took you a step further ahead of your peers. He had kept bringing gifts even when they were rejected upfront, paid for her fares just as she made to open her purse, and even transferred mobile top up cards at will to her line. He appeared to be paying more attention to what he could do for her than what she wanted.
But she did not want to become like Chioma her friend who had settled down with a rich business man from the South. She seemed happy enough boasting about the latest cars he’d bought her to the other women, but everytime he opened his mouth at a public function, you could see her eyes drop to the ground and an invisible blush creep into her dark cheeks.
So she had sat with Edward when he took her on their second date. She had laughed as he spoke rather excitedly about his latest escapades with his terrorist of a boss, who gave hell for all the meager salaries he ‘dashed’ them, and when the waiter came to take their orders, she had given him leave to pick for her. The young waiter had looked at her with expectant eyes when Edward had said, “how many scoops of ice cream would you like?” And she had been unsure what the look meant.
When she had requested for just one scoop after a brief hesitation, he had regarded her with furrowed brows, written down their order and walked away with a little less gait than before.
None of that had made any sense until an old friend Kunle had asked that she accompanied him to the market. He was in need of a new sweater, but since men are colour blind, he needed a woman with good eyes to help, that was his reason.
Off to the market they had gone, poking their way through rows of fine knitted sweaters until she found a perfect navy blue one.
“How much for this one?”
“5,000 naira,” the shop owner said. “4,000 naira last.” He glanced over at Kunle who was contemplating a pair of chinos.
She had begun to bargain a reasonable market price when the man lowered his voice and said, “My sister help me sell market, your boyfriend go pay,” in her local dialect.
Christie reached for a drop of sweet from a jar and began unwrapping it. Things had become a little clearer than they had ever been. She now understood why Chinedu had accused her of chopping his money without marrying him. And why all those girls in her class preferred to marry men who had made something solid for themselves, irrespective of educational qualification and public persona.
Everyone of them spoke one common language. The men sold it to the women, who in turn sold to their children and one another. It was one endless, indistinguishable, interconnecting loop. She wondered the genesis of this scripture.
As she got out of bed to go fix supper for the rest of the family, her eyes caught sight of one of Thomas More’s finest works, Utopia, and the shadow of a smile danced upon her lips as she remembered her favorite line:
“If you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners corrupted from infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?”