This is the first of the epistles I promised myself I would write. I wish to preempt what anxieties you may soon have and, perhaps, anger too. But this letter was torn out of me by the same force that forestalls your arrival. The events now unfolding in the country seem to have eclipsed the turbulent relationships I have had with women, women I’d hoped would nurture you into a being, into that priceless gem that I shall never forsake.
I will start with them, the women. I will start with the one I named Baby. She’s named after you because she did things like you soon will: Fragile, quick to tears, she was a babbler, too. No, she didn’t totter; she was obsessed with putting on airs, and the gait of a cat. We parted ways. I know that you wouldn’t be impressed by her as mother.
Actually, I didn’t leave her because I could not put up with her, but because another woman, one I considered more suitable to nurture you, appeared. She was a foreigner, an American and she was black, in a shade referred to as ‘ebony.’ You will one day know what tourists do; you will gather tales, whenever you do arrive. My friends said she befriended me just to have me as her guide in Nigeria. Yes, the country was unsafe, and an alien needs a dependable guide in a hostile place. When she left, she had our nascent love. She wheeled it across the floor of the departure lounge in that faded, green travel bag. That was the end.
I mourned our love as I would a dead beloved. But, being a wanderer, I soon chanced upon this religious lady who tried to turn me into a bigot. She was so fond of Islam that she thought those who practised other religions were headed for certain doom. She harangued me, ‘a sinner’, as though she was the mouthpiece of the Creator. She said that addiction to western clothing and lifestyles were a curse, that the people of the book had joined hands with the accursed Satan to destroy me. I asked her about Science, she said that the West got it from the Qur’an. I asked her about Western Education, she said she had had no option but to acquire it. I asked about technology, she said it wasn’t western. She nagged me, oh, she nagged me, every day, until I let slip that I knew of Christians who were fond of God than her, just as there are Muslims more spiritually attached to theology than Christians. She said I blasphemed. She quitted.
After a few more experimental relationships, I met a Christian girl whom I rechristened ‘Reverend Sister.’ She was fond of mocking my beliefs, so vocal was she that she offered that ‘apostasy’ was the only possibility of her being your mother. Any religion whose original, unadulterated practice didn’t hurt others should never be ridiculed—those were my words to her. She publicly lived in praise of the lord, but her life, in her closet, was the opposite. I wondered what she understood by ‘true religion.’
I met this other lady, another American, whom I mistook for an agnostic. Two years into our relationship, she felt I was too conventional to be her spouse and so set her friend to educate me about her belief, Totemism.
‘Totemism is a powerful cult. A sect. An ideology. We believe that the spirits of specific beasts in this world are here to guide us, and that with true joy and true understanding comes the merging of our souls with our personal guides. It’s the reason why I never call my friend by her birth name—to me, she’s Lupita, the little wolf. Not Martha, that stupid, empty shell. We’re amiable but loners. Ferocious, sensitive, and we practice avoidance. We hold none dear, not for long anyway, and that’s how, I believe, she lives, as well.’
So, I felt sorry for myself, for you, whose arrival continued to be delayed, unnecessarily. That Muslim Lady of Piety, who seemed to have met the criterion of my kin, had left my world. But trust me, I tried to woo her back by hooking up with her best friend. The trick, a simple psychological manouvre, was meant to stir up some jealousy in her. I know it is foolish to fake love. The said friend welcomed my advances, and what happened is too tragic to relate to your tender heart, son. However, while it lasted that friend and I became a popular couple. And soon the pretence became the truth, so true to the strings of the heart that we contemplated having you. But, I wasn’t ready. I was afraid. I didn’t know what marriage was.
And this fear drove me in my ventures into relationships with the ladies that came after her. Ladies who had all grown beyond the age when young women seek sexual adventures, they were at the point where only ‘Mr. Right’ would do. I was not such a one. And when I at last decided to choose one to settle down with, all the good girls were taken. Some smarter men had the woman who would have been your mother.
When I couldn’t bear the torture any longer, I spat on any offer to become a compatible mate. I swerved southward. You will understand what this means whenever you come. The ‘northern’ girls are considered conservative, even though that is very untrue. The ladies in the north, unlike their fun-seeking counterparts at the South of the country, are hypocrites ever playing the religious adherent in order to live up to the expectations of the society, their parents. But, they are all deceivers. I know.
So, I ran to the ladies from the south. The decision was to live my youth with women who knew the music of the time. Life became a circuit of partying with the real women. But, that came with a cost. All I earned was invested in them. This continued, until a certain thespian appeared on the scene of my life, took away every bit of my pride and turned me to a programmed being at her beck and call. The last time I scrolled through her phone book, my name was ‘ATM.’ People said she cast a spell on me, and I was indeed less than wretched when I gathered my polythene bag, and returned to the conservative pretenders.
After a season of dysfunctional relationships, your mother showed up. We met at a mall in the process of one thing that truly excites her: shopping. She was not Baby, as she never wept whenever I stood up against her ruses to emasculate me. The only time she did flare up was when I had to run an errand for my boss on the day her 33-year-old sister had chosen for the feast of a silver age! I missed the birthday. It took interventions by our friends to have her retract her vows to part ways with me.
Now, son, the decision to have you is in the recycle bin. But, if by a stroke of destiny she refuses to return, I shall have to do the ‘try your luck’—that’s what dating is—with my Indian friend-turned-lover. She is pretty, prettier than those divas in sari seen in Bollywood movies. But, her parents are racists. They think black men are devils. Those weren’t their exact words, but judging by their daughter’s depression on the day she told them I had proposed to her, their remarks may have been darker than my skin. But, I love my skin! Your future will be forged in my contest with a handsome Rajput suitor chosen by her parents.
We agreed on elopement, but I realise that I don’t have the resources to build a comfortable home with a foreigner. And I don’t want to destroy anyone’s daughter. That’s why I devote these days to making money. I’m upbeat about a promised government contract. And if that comes, you will have to learn to live with the stigma ‘half-caste.’
Dear son, read this in whispers: if either of the two ladies, your potential mothers, turns me down, I would have no option but to resort to celibacy, perhaps lifelong celibacy! I know, son, you are scared. I know that this letter may get you upset, make you go berserk. I know… but, please, do not be angry. Join me in the search for your mother. I’m tired of searching alone!