The Internet Union
By Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema (Nigeria)
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Onyeka knew what she was going to do. Her resolve was as constant as the northern star. Reason was prostrate on the floor of her love - steeled soul.
But in the period called night - morning she cried silently. She quietly moved out of the arms of the snoring silhouette beside her on the bed, wondering if it was possible to have a head swimming simultaneously in both love and hate. Something extraordinary stopped her from puking on the chocolate - complexioned face that beamed with love and satiation even in repose. How she had allowed him into her a few hours ago was, to her, the eighth wonder of the world. There had been no way of fending him off: the igba nkwu had taken place; he fulfilled tradition’s requirements and thus was entitled to the fruits of his labour.
He is your husband, a voice whispered at her elbow. He married you honourably.
''Shut up,'' the strong voice of dark love retorted. Onyeka started; she did not know she had spoken aloud. She cast a fearful glance at Madugba. He was far gone in the land of sweet dreams. Quietly she eased out of the bed, slipped into her robe and sneaked into the deluxe bathroom. She paused before the gold - trimmed wall mirror and wiped her tears.
Chris, oh Chris, she thought. So near, yet so far. The round Caucasian face; the smoky green eyes; the tousled blond hair peppered by flecks of gray; the worship in his gaze which had melted her soul overwhelmed her heart. The union forged over the World Wide Web had bonded their souls, and now as she washed her face in the sink, Onyeka swore that what the Internet had joined together, not even flesh and blood was going to put asunder.
They met in one of the chat rooms at www. lovespice.com. At first sight they were mutually exclusive. She was a tall, slim, dark twenty - four year old beauty; the first of eight children of a semi - literate carpenter who must have signed a pact with poverty, prejudice and an ultra - orthodox Christianity. Penury had cut short her education at Ordinary Diploma level. He was short and stocky at forty - five. Originally from Texas, he had spent most of his life in Europe, returning to Stateside only two years ago. The only child of a sinfully wealthy businessman who worshipped the G.O.P., Billy Graham and Jesus Christ - in that order - he had committed the ultimate crime: turning his back on all his father stood for and becoming an agnostic academic. He had married twice and divorced once; the second wife died during child birth, taking the baby along with her to the Elysian Fields. She had had only two boyfriends all her life.
But Aphrodite was not known to stand on ceremony when she did her deadly sweet work. Onyeka knew she was a goner when she became miserable on the days some demons made Internet connection with Christopher Jessie Bowie Harrington impossible. When she was employed as a clerk at a local factory in Owerri, a quarter of her meagre salary ended up in the bowels of cyberspace. Chris came to her rescue by sending her enough dollars to buy a PC, install an Internet service provider and a telephone. Strangely Onyeka was disinclined to fleecing the Texan. He could have become her passport to economic reconstruction but Onyeka already had what she wanted: his heart.
And Chris gave her all of it: muscles, blood, flesh and all. Behind the smoky eyes was a man who had finally found the harbour for his wave - tossed ship. Matters should have reached their logical conclusion. Chris was ready to board the next flight to Nigeria at the drop of a hat. But other Olympian gods, jealous of Aphrodite’s success, compelled Zeus to hurl the apple of discord.
Papa Oji and his wife looked solemn as their daughter sat opposite them in the almost bare bedroom. It was the hour when spirits took a break to survey the sky and decide whether to have one last rampage before the onslaught of dawn.
''My daughter,'' began Papa Oji. He had decided to contain his feelings. Onyeka could be a mule at times; that was the problem with women who had book in their blood. But she was still their daughter.
''Nna anyi,'' replied Onyeka respectfully.
He took in a pinch of utaaba.''A blind man doesn't play with the aroma he chanced upon. Who knows if another will come his way?
''We've gone through hell to raise you. Shall we live by the riverbank and wash our hands with asummiri? Why deprive us of sunlight while we are still alive?
''Madugba Izuogu is a good boy, from a good stock. We know his family here in Akokwa. He is comely of aspect, a rich dokinta and lives in America. What more do you want? Don’t you want a good father for your children?'' Papa took in more snuff to choke down his anger. What a brat, he thought.
Mama Oji focused teary eyes on Onyeka' s deceptively placid mien and called her thrice. Onyeka answered calmly. ''My daughter, don’t be misled. A woman needs a good man. Madu will give you all a woman desires. Make us proud like the good girl you have always been. Don’t let our enemies say we are cursed. Who will train these little ones? You with your wretched salary or your immediate junior, Jideofor, who’s an apprentice at Ariara Aba? Save us, save yourself. Love will come.''
The dam collapsed. Onyeka bent her head and teardrops rained. If only her parents knew that her rainbow was in another sky. Their approach was the type that usually broke her barriers. But the appeal in those smoky eyes, his broken words over the phone, held her hostage:
''Honey, I can’t stop you if that is what you want. But my heart will always go with you. You're my only chance to live again. In and with you, but... Make the right choice for us, darling.''
She had wept, knowing at that moment there could be no other.
She looked up. Emboldened by unalloyed hundred - karat love she knelt down.
Touched, Papa Oji took her by the hand. "Nnodu odu, Onyeka. "She has seen the light, he thought.
Onyeka opened her mouth. ''Madugba is a good man. But I love another.''
Total silence. Papa and Mama looked at each other. Papa Oji took two big helpings of utaaba to digest the information while his wife silently raised her hands.
''Who is he?'' asked the household head.
Courage made Onyeka answer calmly. ''He is a white man called Chris...''
''What!'' screamed both parents.
''Yes, I want to marry him. And he wants to meet you.''
Papa Oji roared like an enraged spirit. ''Taa!'' He rose to his full height.
''Unless another man sired you, you will not marry any white man. Not while I am still alive.''
''Think, Onyi,'' sobbed her mother.
''But why?'' cried the distraught Onyeka.
Oji was in no mood for long speeches. He pronounced his verdict. ''Marry Madugba and remain my child, with my blessings. Go to any other man, and you cease to be an Oji. If the leper darkens my doorstep nkita aracha ya anya.'' He stormed out. Mama was about to follow but motherly pity compelled her to look at her sobbing daughter.
''Mama, talk to Papa. I love this man.''
''What do you know about love, eh? A man who’s not of our kind; who talks through the nose? Child, a stubborn fly follows the corpse into the grave. Ekwuchalam.''
Onyeka did not sleep a wink that night. First light, she left for Owerri.
Yahoo Messenger was their rendezvous. There they poured out their hearts. Twice Chris broke down, asking himself for the millionth time what he saw in this black - a Nigerian, for God’s sake - woman. The sun shone in his soul when Onyeka declared in a soft - steeled voice: ''It is only you.''
''So what do you suggest?''
She told him. Chris hesitated for only five seconds. The alternative was unthinkable. So they hatched the plot.
Madugba was a cock that had gloriously mounted a hen as he boarded the train to work that morning. Onyeka was a jewel. Her optimum utilization of the bed had kept him happily busy for most of the night. Her attention in the morning, her near tearful goodbye as he prepared to leave, convinced him that his decision to leave the freedom - loving wenches of Uncle Sam, including Nigerians who had become oku elus just because they lived on Oprah Winfrey, and fly home for an authentic Igbo wife was right. He would have a very short day at the hospital and rush home. James Kwame and Tim MacGraw, his assistants, could comfortably hold the forte.
Colleagues and patients congratulated him. He took jokes with a smile, deliberately ignored the quiet coldness of Dr. Maryam Diouf. The sultry Ivorien had had high hopes after she ended up in Madugba’s bed thrice in two months.
He ran through his e - mail over his PC the second time for the day. The fifth one had no subject. It was from Onyeka. Sweet bird, I will be in your nest soon, he thought, smiling as he recollected the juicy text she sent him forty minutes ago.
The mail was not the composition of a love - hungry new bride:
You do not deserve this. You are a lovely man, and I believe you really
love me. But I cannot be false to both of us. Maybe you heard the rumour
back home; I love another. His name is Chris Harrington. He is white and
we need each other.
As you read this we have left New York. With all my heart I free you of
all obligations you have towards me. Should you commence divorce proceedings I do not want a cent from you. Chris and I contracted an Internet marriage two weeks before the igba nkwu, with credible, living witnesses. You may want to press charges - I am not strong on American marriage laws - but I will swim or sink with the man I love.
Everything good will come to you. But not with me.
Igba nkwu (Igbo): traditional Igbo marriage ceremony, the highlight which
is the presentation of a cup of palm wine by the bride to
Nna anyi (Igbo): Our father
Utaaba (Igbo): Snuff
Dokinta:Corrupt form of Doctor
Ariara - Aba: A popular market in Aba, Abia State, Nigeria
Nnodu odu (Igbo): Sit down
Taa (Igbo): A word used to hush someone when he speaks or acts
in an unacceptable manner
Nkita aracha ya anya (Igbo): Dogs will lick his eyes
Ekwuchalam (Igbo): I have finished speaking
Oku elu (Igbo): An unconventional, undomesticated woman
Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema