The Candle Night
A short Story by Debo Popoola
Tonight as I look straight to your eyes, I see stripes of happiness contouring your face. Your skin glows at the reflection of the candle light between us. Real lovers should never take for granted, a love dinner as this. Three white candles for three lovers – you, me and our unborn child growing in your belly.
Each time our eyes meet tonight, it brings back the memory of how it all started, at the shopping mall.
As I wheeled the cart to my car, I saw you at the park in your car. You looked so worried and tensed as the engine would not start each time you started the ignition. I saw sweat streaming down your beautiful face as you opened your bonnet, gazing aimlessly at the engine with no particular idea of what to do.
You looked around for help but no one was around or willing to help. You did not see me; I was already in my tinted car. I watched you. You brought out your cell phone from which you made a call. From what I could conjecture, you called for help but your countenance suggested help was not coming from whoever you called that day.
Your face dropped in sadness. You went back to the engine and tried to fiddle with what you obviously knew nothing about. And when you turned to leave in frustration, you were shocked seeing me already at your back. I saw in your face hand-writings of discomfort. I told you I had been watching you for a while in my car while you fiddled with the engine and how you had tried calling someone but you looked more worried after the call; and that I came to help fix your car.
When I told you that I am an Engineer, there was a bit of relief in your face and it evoked a beautiful smile. You suddenly had confidence in me – even as a total stranger.
After spending barely two minutes with your engine, the dead car came to life and you did same. Happiness wore you like a wedding gown. Like a newly wedded bride, your smile came from a happy heart. You looked at me like a super-hero, I felt like one too. The cream of the crop was when you hugged me. It was heavenly; my body shivered. My heart popped with excitement. It was a genuine hug I had not received in a very long time.
It was after this that you asked for my name. I told you my name is Tade. You told me your beautiful name. It was pleasing to know that you share a name with a beautiful flower. Rose is a flower I have always cherished. I once had a Rose in my life but it got withered during the harmattan . Since then, I have not got another one. It seemed you were the new rose I had always waited for.
We exchanged complimentary cards. You promised to patronize my workshop soon to do a thorough servicing of your car. It was badly in need of servicing. I told you not to hesitate any further, that the engine might develop a new fault afterwards. It was a lie; I exaggerated just because I wanted to see you again. And my scheme worked. You promised to come the following day; I was happy.
You entered into your car brimming with happiness. The happiness of a beautiful woman can never be hidden; the whole world knows it by her actions. I stood as you drove off, leaving fumes of a reinvigorated machine behind. The smoke from the exhaust pipe trailed behind you like the rope of a lost ram searching for its home. I stood gazing as your car disappeared into a turning, and I knew you kept a look at me through your inner mirror.
I went home with happiness. On my way home, I couldn’t stop reminiscing about our meeting. Like scenes in a movie trailer, accompanied by flickers of lightings, memories of the event ‘montaged’ in my head. But it was soon subdued by the memory that had stayed rooted in my subconscious which only subsided temporarily when I met you: the memory of my dying wife who was the reason for my coming to the mart – to get the medicine that will keep her alive, at least for a while.
I could not wait for Ladi to die. Not because I hated her, but because I wanted her suffering to stop. Also, I had spent too much on her for the past six months, and I was at the verge of bankruptcy.
I sold two of my three cars just to raise money for the operation to remove the cancerous cells in her brain. The operation was carried out, but the cancer returned to her brain after some months. The Doctor said she only had six months to live, but they gave us some drugs that might help elongate her life. She had lived nine months already. She didn’t want to die and I didn’t want her to suffer.
But even with the drugs, it was just a futile effort to delay the best medicine that would have totally cured her pains – death. She was living like a ghost already. Sometimes she looked at me like a lost alien from another world. Sometimes she called me names that I never heard anyone in this world call before. Sometimes she was very active, doing the house chores as if she had never fallen sick. Another moment, she felt dizzy, vomited and her vision ceased. These were the routines in her life. At a point I got tired of everything; I got tired of her sickness; I got tired of having a wife that was half dead; I got tired of being the husband and the wife at the same time; I got tired of staying married to her, I got tired of not having sex for a long time.
Our marriage that had not lasted a full day when the shocking discovering was made: the first day after the wedding, I saw her trying to hide some drugs from me. I soon discovered she had been undergoing treatment for her sickness all the while. Through our three months of courtship, she didn’t tell me about her sickness; but I had already taken the vow to be there with her for better for worse, in sickness and health. Marriage is sometimes a black market in the night when you can not see what you are buying. I never enjoyed the marital bliss that was promised in marriage.
But my Love, I do not intend to bore you, at least for now, on how I met this woman. Tonight is a night for a new beginning of a love that will last forever. I am already feeling the bliss that I was deprived of at first. Tonight is the candle night to usher our love to a new morn of blossom.
When you appeared at my workshop the following day after our first meeting, I could not hide my happiness. Then without wasting time, I embarked on dissembling the faulty engine. I did a “pimp-my-ride” job to your car. And when you returned at my call to pick your car, you saw a refurbished ride that blew your mind away.
I knew you loved that car, and I understand that the best way to a woman’s heart is to treat what she loves with the same kind of love she will treat it. I fixed your car perfectly, but I wanted to fix you too…
You lost control of yourself, everything was beyond your head. How fast women can be easily intoxicated by love. The sight of a happy woman is pleasing to the eyes. When you looked at me to appreciate what I had done, your search for words was fruitless. Tears rolled down from your eyes to speak your gratitude. You felt they were too small. Then you rushed to me and threw yourself into my opened arms. I felt your two breasts reaching for my heart; my heart stopped work for that moment. We were deeply into each other in my lonely workshop.
You would not let go, neither would I. Two deprived bodies have found comfort in each other. Your starvation was same as mine. Our bodies craved for fulfillment and we found it on a platter of chance.
I closed my eyes to search for your mouth, but in my search, I met a mouth searching for mine and they found each other’s hearts. Your tongue suited me like a lollipop to a toddler. We exchanged breaths as we roamed in the air of lust. I reaped off the cover of the book and your hand had already found its way to my pen, flipping it out. I found your paper suitable to scribble the poetry that has stayed in my head for long. After much friction on the face of the book, the ink flowed on its surface as I wrote poetry of a life, the life that now dwells within you.
A journey of love started from there, from my little workshop that had seen dead engines come to life through my dexterity, a journey that has taken us to this beautiful night of love candles, these three candles are symbols of where we started, where we are at the moment and where we shall be, in the coming days and years.
In the midst of this journey you have shared with me your pains and little gains. You have shared the pain of love that was never requited, the pain of loving a man who never cares. Your husband that will soon be your ex, fits the description of the devil– any man who beats his wife is a devil, a papier-mâché Mephistopheles.
You told me how you lost your first pregnancy, a two month pregnancy when your drunkard of a husband gave you a kick in the stomach because you didn’t open the door in time when he had come home drunk in the middle of the night. He was such a devil!
I wondered how a beauty like you could fall into the hand of beast until you told me the circumstances surrounding your marriage to him. You told me how your parents forced you to marry him according to the tradition in the land. He was wealthy and he proved that to them by continually lavishing them with largesse. Your parents felt the best way they could repay him of his largesse was to give him a daughter in appreciation. And since he had been eyeing you all the while, you became an easy prey for him. You thought he would be a good man, and you followed the lines written by your parents willy-nilly because you dare not go against their wish; doing so would attract their curses, after all, female children have little brains to make decisions such as who to marry on their own.
I remember you told me how this man organized the most elaborate wedding party in the history of your Kungbe town, for you. How he had invited his rich friends from Europe and America to grace your party. You told me how those friends sprayed you with Naira, Dollars and Pound Sterling on the dance floor. You told me how the whole town was fed for the day at your wedding party, that even the king of your town removed his traditional crown when he saw these currencies being matched upon by the friends of your husband.
But after the merriment at your wedding, your marriage was a special kind of hell. You endured the agony of living in a beautiful mansion with an ugly devil. You lost sympathy from your friends who would rather look at you jealously, wishing they could have your luck of being hooked by a wealthy man. Even when you told them that all that glitters is not gold, they said whatever that glitters is pleasing to the eyes, and whatever pleases the eyes pleases the soul. But who can understand the pain of living in luxury with a beast, a devil? He was such a dare-devil beast!
I hate him and I will not hide it from you, that is why I insisted that you must leave him to come to me; we will escape together to the other side of the river where he will never see us.
Now that I have gotten rid of my sick wife… Yes I have. I forgot to tell you, he died peacefully yesterday. She slept and passed through the passage to her rest. She had suffered so much, and I put an end to her suffering.
But don’t worry about her; she will be fine wherever she is. Her last days on earth had been hell, so no hell for her again in the life beyond. But the love of having you is enough a consolation for me. I feel no bitterness in my bereavement because the one I used to love had gone to rest, a rest I enforced on her.
Why do you look at me like I have committed murder? Come on Rose! I would have asked for a help from death if I found myself in such condition. What value is in a life that is spent in pain? I know wherever she is, she would be grateful to me. She didn’t want to die because she did not know dying is a beautiful thing to do. I have not died before but I know it is a beautiful thing to die. If not, why is it a necessity for every man to die? I believe when humans die, they feel the same feeling of ease we feel after answering the call of nature. In fact, dying is like answering the call of nature. I am not afraid of death; I know we all must die.
Now you look less tormenting. Oh I love the smile you are giving me now; it has erased the feeling of guilt that clutched me earlier. Rose, my Rose, tonight is the night that will transcend to the world where love knows no bound. Tonight is the night of our love.
Rose, I can’t wait for the breaking of tomorrow where we shall escape to the other side of the water where no known face will see us. Europe is a haven, we will take our conquest there, after all, it has always been a haven to African looters. But it is a beautiful place to stay.
The baby growing in your belly will witness the rise of the summer sun and the chilliness of the winter air; autumn and spring will surprise us. My Rose, I can’t wait to live the rest of my life with you.
Wait! Who is that coming, looking ferocious with bloodshot eyes like a lion after its prey? Is that not the beast you live with? Is that not the nightmare you will soon escape from? Why is he here at our secret dinner? What is he looking for? See how he searches the crowd as if on a mission to kill.
Wait! He seems to have spotted us. How tormenting and puncturing are his eyes. See how he dashes towards us as if he will devour us.
Fear not my Rose, tonight I will show him I earned a black belt in karate for a day like this. Let him come I will wrench all his teeth.
Wait! Is that not a pistol in his hand? The bloody fool is going to kill you… oh he is now pointing it at me.
Somebody help! Somebody stop this man! He wants to…
BAAM… BAAM…. BAAM …..BAAM …..BAAM….BAAM…. BAAM
I fly among cloudlets. I am a bird, phoenix. My wings are wide and flexible. My feathers, so white like the winter snows of Europe. And I am heading towards that divine land where prosperity abounds, where money grows on trees, where golds are picked on the ground and where the grass is greener.
I fly among other birds, some red and yellow and black and brown. But I am the only white bird I see. Above me are the stars shedding their lights and below me are small moving dotted lights. The lights below move in procession towards the cathedral: a candle night procession for someone dead.
I see faces that I know; I see many faces that I don’t know. I hope the dead is not me, but I am never afraid of death. If I had died, I will come back to life again.