OBIDIYA: A DYING VIRTUE
Willkomen in Deutschland” — the overhead speakers had repeatedly barred as we taxied to our gate. I love flying Lufthansa — more so because of the Deutsche language that had a striking semblance to English.” Ich hatte tee als Kaffee” I had practiced this phrase overtime in my bid to warm up to air hostesses, flaunting my Deutsche prowess as I put my feet in the water, positioning myself as always to have assess to unlimited fine wine. Lufthansa had the best drinks, I must tell you.
I was meeting my childhood friend after a seven-year hiatus. We had been talking for a good two years via phone and today’s trip was a dream come through. Though a short hop from my base in London, the logistics of this meet were choreographed to accommodate Martin’s asylum conditions. He had fulfilled his asylum requirements eleven months prior but had just jumped right from a frying pan into the fire, as he had just fallen in love with some “Ann-marie” that he had met at his first job posting. “Alovurum nwa m” Martin would always tell me over the phone. I could tell he meant it from the way he gushed over it. He must have found his queen. I also loved the way he interjected the English language with Igbo. Trust the Owerri Man “ Ana rima ngwo, na nkwu na abia”…ever hopeful for a better tide.
Martin had arrived at Frankfurt airport, a good two hours after I had cleared customs. I would not forget my friend’s van in a hurry. It had inscriptions on its body that I would call a word salad. The largest of the inscriptions had “Feinste Rinderfilets in der Stadt”. Nothing else made sense as it was all written in “Deutsche”. The other catchy feature were the shades of red paint and hues that I eventually learned were dried blood and remnants. It was the most rickety van I had also seen in recent times. I had only seen such vans yet again in Moreno Valley California. He had driven down from a city that was over two hours away and had vehemently refused my pleas of finding my way to his house “ accordukwalam privilege ipickikwa nu manu m” (accord me the privilege of picking my friend)..he had said, once more with the effortless interjections of English and Igbo.
A better reminder of my arrival moved away from the van as Martin pulled over, got down, and had a half run to come give me an embrace. He was in the bloodiest stained coverall I had also seen…If I didn’t know Martin, I would have considered yet another means of transport to convey me to Dortmund. I knew this man, we had grown up in the same city and had a friendship that had blossomed over the years, he was not a killer or any of that sort. For Christ’s sake, some of the blood on those coveralls were in different stages of caking. A blend of red hues with a bouquet of brown and outlandish splash struggled for prime spots in this ensemble, the most recent ones majorly looming around the helm of the suit.
Nwunne , eshi m Oru….. as he stretched out his hand, all covered with a leather “once black” glove….dodging “our welcome hug”. We hadn’t seen each other in donkey years but I was sure not in the mood to ruin my freshly worn “Thomas Pink”.
Road trips have been serving mankind since time immemorial. Bonds and unions are strengthened each time by road trips. My two and half hour trip to Dortmund with Martin filled me in on happenings around his welfare and travails in his sojourn to Germany. In the very few minutes that we got on the “Autobahn”, I had asked him what was the finest in the state that his van supplied “”Feinste Rinderfilets in der Stadt” …..Pally, I am a butcher…he said as he moved the manual gear knob to number three, “O wu finest beef loins in town”. I was relieved to have decoded the clear source of fresh and caked blood. It was sure, not easy in Germany. I had asked Martin if the ghastly fresh wound over his right eye was also a result of his job intricacies and he had gone ahead to fill me in on “Life”. It had come from Jonas. Jonas was Anne Marie’s sixteen-year-old son. He had earlier requested two hundred euros from Martin to enable him to get a tattoo. Martin was not forthcoming “ One blow, 7 akpus” had landed on him as a backlash from the refusal. He also had thought it was more than a blow as he reportedly was lucky to have escaped with his head still resting on his shoulders. He was living and treading on eggshells as he had six more months to finalize his “papers”. The rest of the trip bothered on his long-term plan for his longtime girlfriend that still resided in Owerri. We practically went through on four or so different wedding plans, he was gushing on how he wanted to repay Ifeyinwa for her steadfastness and doggedness over the years. “Ma Ifeyinwa ga so eme traditional anyi”……He had hinted and had gone on to elaborate on the investments over time he had put in place to make sure he got a soft landing when he got off the contract that he was bound to Anne. He was also glad that Ifenyinwa was in her final year in the university and all other plans were in full gear to solemnize the union once he touched foot in the motherland, Nigeria. Iwuso my best man ( you are my best man)…with a thunder of a laugh that shook the van as we veered off into Brauhausstrabe… a final stretch into Dortmund.
Thirteen months afterward, true to talk, Martin and I reconnected in Owerri. We had a rendezvous. The wedding was in two weeks and we had to hash out a few plans over some “few bottles” We were six in total, sitting on a freshly laid table in a cool joint that made the airwaves in Owerri. It was called the “ Channel O”, stemming from the fact that young lads came out here to watch the new music channel from cable giants “Multi-choice” of South Africa. Chanel O was a joint. It was the “to go “ joint. You have not visited Owerri if you never stepped a foot inside.
Ifeyinwa, Martin’s fiancé was seated next to him and three of her friends were nestled in between this divide and me. The evening was going on very well. I was in a chit-chat mood with Martin, gisting about any and everything, chipping in on any suggestions as brought forth by Ifeyinwa or her friends. It was a wonderful night. We had ordered the chicken suya, intestine pepper soup, and a variety of drinks. Prominently placed on our orders were several bottles of the “Legend stout”. The Nigerian Breweries, makers of the Legend stout had just put up a promo. The catch was to find a Hyundai sonata beneath a crown. The first and only time I had won a prize during such promo was when Fido Dido was the reigning mascot for Sprite. I had found the “eagle” beneath the forty-sixth crown. My dad had a surplus of drinks from his chieftain coronation the previous months all stashed away in the garage. I had popped each sprite drink in that garage till luck shined on me….albeit to say I had drunk about fifteen bottles the previous week but to no fruition. The coveted prize for finding an eagle was fifty Naira while the big bounty…” three of such eagles” was a Daewoo racer car. I had settled for money as I could not risk more damage to my dad’s stash nor run a risk of awakening an age-long family visitor, Diabetes.
Would you want one? …I had overhead Martin ask Ifeyinwa just about the same time I had flung yet another “please try again” crown farther away into the darkest part of the joint. I can share one with you…She had replied without batting an eyelid, they were engulfed at some comparisons on their phones. They were giggling so much without alcohol…how much more when the potent Legend came home to roost. Martin got the go-ahead to order yet another round and I could tell he had sinister plans per sharing “a legend” with Ifeyinwa “ala arinma , wu uru ndi nze. The drinks came just as I crushed yet another “ please try again” crown in between my clenched teeth, the same way a metal crusher would do in a junkyard. I had crushed it with a bit of finesse, first, folding it into two, then biting hard into it…. transferred aggression upon a mere crown. Martin was on his way to the bathroom when the round of drinks came. What happened next became the highlight of the evening and a testament to what friendships should be.
A loud squeal had shattered the relative peace that we enjoyed. Ifenyinwa, half knocking over our table, had run out of this joint screaming. Her friends followed suit in that frenzy, pulling off their sandals as they pursued Ifenyinwa. I was in a state of “not knowing” what to do as all I could make out in the backdrop of the scream was “ Moto m o, moto m o”…Martin had heard a lot of noise while in the loo, but he hadn’t the slightest idea where it was coming from. He was walking calmly towards the table where I sat, looking towards the direction that all the girls had run to, with a look of confusion, he asked “ Ify nwunye m kwa nu? as “Hyundai, Hyundai, Hyundai was sung in unison probably thirty meters away. Martin had put on a sprinter’s boot when it dawned on him that Ifeyinwa was the one screaming the most “Hyundai”, Hyundai”. The screams seemed psychiatric, less an inch psychedelic as Martin tried to calm her down without a headway. She was uncontrollable. A pool of people had gathered around these girls, everyone trying to get a glimpse of what the car beneath the crown looked like.
“Hyundai m o, Hyundai m o”…she had kept at it, just as martin kept asking her what was going on, trying to calm the storm. Ifeyinwa’s storm had left the shores, it was a category four at this point and potentially lethal to cause damage. She was jumping in solidarity with her friends, just as Martin took a back seat to allow normalcy reign…The storm took a quiet breather and a window opened among the surrounding gathering as Ifeyinwa had rushed towards Martin, screaming and jumping at the same time.
I won, I won, Hyundai m o…She continued yet in a state of euphoria and with a clenched fist, with the crown barely breathing in between her sweaty palms, she had given us a sneak peek. This was no joke. I had seen what seemed like the wheels of a car, while Martin saw what seemed like a door to a car… Ifeyinwa had turned I and her fiance, Martin, into the blind men that stood next to an Elephant.
Let me see Ifeyinwa, let me see the crown… Martin had begged Ifeyinwa, in those voices that would melt even the one that put you in cuffs. “ After all that is yours should equally be mine”, let me see”… he said while holding her wrist. All I could hear was “let me see”, another time I would hear “ okay see it”, then “I cannot see it well”(a frustrated Martin) or “wait first till I get it”. The crowd around were quite surprised to learn that both were intended to get married in a fortnight. The majority of the ladies in the crowd were nudging her to give Martin the crown to see and have a proper feel at least, others were berating her for being selfish, a tiny few were on the fence… they did not care less what came off this. The men were all for Martin. I heard the worst of arguments . “ but who bought the drink ?” some asked, “whoever bought the drink owned the car”…another said, “Why would she register the car in her name?”, “Weren’t they going to be husband and wife?”, “ The guy paid for the whole wedding and then this?”…an angry cyclist said while storming off.
It was a whole back and forth as Martin’s fiancé refused to bulge. She had refused to show Martin the crown in its full glare. She had maintained the sneak peek stance and had taken Martin aback when she gave the final sentence “ I will register the car in my name first”...then you can have it…she had chipped in just as she put away the crown in the deepest part of her purse.
The fight had started.
Martin had twisted Ifeyinwa’s arm a little bit too hard, all in a bid to wrestle her bag from her strong grip. “You are breaking my hand”, “You are breaking my hand o” she kept yelling until she had mustered a bit of strength, with her other hand, she had yanked Martin’s shirt, holding tight around the neckline, a tight squeeze and a strong downward spiraled pull, Martin’s top shirt laid in tatters. Martin had lost it. A temporal loss of insanity had overtaken Martin’s cool as he raised his hand and slapped Ifeyinwa. She had kicked and kicked frantically while breaking loose, ran back into the restaurant, and came running back with an empty bottle of “legend”.
Ifeyinwa stop, stop biko…. her friends were saying while forming a barricade as she came thundering on. The frontier could not hold as she pushed them aside and landed the bottle on Martin’s head. Twice in the head had martin received his payback for failure for acts of service. Twice had Martin beat a retreat to save the head. “Let us go” he had beckoned as he clutched his head in a pool of his blood and got into the car. We had sped off.
“I had paid for nineteen hotel rooms for her friends coming down from Calabar”, “I paid for the burgundy tafitha lace for all her friends”, “She wanted silverware and cups for souvenir handouts, I made it happy, She insisted on extra ten cartons of Moet and Chandon”…that I did, ‘She wanted her bridal makeup artist flown in from Lagos”…I did, “Her wall of flowers and balloon” …I made that happen, “I had made her life in general easy while in school, while I suffered and gave in my all… I had made sure all the little things that mattered to her were taken care of, even when she did not ask.
Martin was in tears as he reeled more acts of service he had rendered to the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with and he expected just about the same. It made perfect sense now. His love language was an “ Act of service. A free flow of love.
The act of service is a language of love. Dr. Gary Chapman had described “it is all about making the person feel loved by helping them in any way you can. It might be as simple as “how can I help you?” or “what could I do to make today easier for you?” For people like Martin, action spoke louder than words. Discovering how one can best serve a partner requires time and creativity. One needed to show that an effort had been put in place for whatever that needed to be done and not because it had to be done, however careful not to rub it on their faces because it loses its meaning.
Acts of service is an expression of love…they must be freely given.
Ifeyinwa had ruined this possibility of everlasting love by withholding a free flow of a loving act, an expression that removed the chances of filling Martin’s emotional bucket. The wedding had been put off for a mere “ Hyundai sonata beneath a mere crown” Service is the rent we pay for living……..Marian Wright Edelman
We are all potential Obidiya(s)….. We all have that rare breed that wants to do good. We all know what to do. Let us resurrect that dying spirit.