by Aniefiok Udoabasi
It is a lie to say men don’t cry. It is a lie told to boys again and again so they grow up becoming men who doubt themselves if they find out that they do cry at times- even in private.
I have cried many times. And it does not make me any less a man. Or less human.
I cried when my grand mother gave up the ghost as I dashed off to get her a glass of water . I cried when our JSS 3 results (‘junior waec’) came out and no score or course was entered for me because the school registration officer had made a mistake while submitting names to the ministry of education. I had to repeat a class. I watched as friends and classmates moved to a new class- a senior secondary class for that matter. That day, as I walked home, I cried.
I once cried over my married female friend. It happened many years ago when I was in my twenties. She should have been 28,29 or 30. A very good looking mother of three beautiful daughters. The youngest, a toddler. The oldest in nursery school.
I first met her while distributing church leaflets in a bus. She honoured the invitation and showed up at our church service. At the end of the service, she said she enjoyed the church and we said our goodbyes that day.
I soon got to know her story -and the story of her husband. He was a Navy officer in his forties. They were living happily in a good, large house in Lagos. The man soon started saying he just feels like returning to his home town. The wife thought it was a joke. Then one morning he said they were leaving Lagos and they left. He left without properly resigning, which meant they could not work his gratuity. He left a thriving career and came back empty. He said a voice kept calling him in his spirit to come home and he obeyed. From a palatial home to a ‘face-me-I-face-you’ 2 rooms. From a well paid job to carrying blocks for bricklayers. From rich kids to kids drinking garri regularly for breakfast and going hungry for most of the day. Everything went down so fast. The woman was in deep shock and sorrow but nothing seemed to bother the man.
Very soon, communication and fellowship between husband and wife ceased. The man simply did not want to be talked to or touched. He stopped sleeping on the bed with his wife. He slept only on the couch in the palour. For a whole day, they would only talk once or twice- usually when he wants to know if there is no food for him.
He had no money for food. He hardly went out for the block carrying work. The wife got food from her very supportive mother who was in town . Almost everyday,she would go to her mother’s house, pick anything she saw -garri, foofoo, pepper, fish, soup, kerosine…anything. My monthly allawee from my parents was also of great help. I was in the university and living alone – for the first time. How do you watch your friend in such agony and do nothing when you can?
One surprising thing was that the man did not mind or complain about my visiting their home. Even when he comes back to see me, he betrayed no anger. Some days, he would answer my greeting, sometimes he goes mute. But this same man would absolutely stop his wife from having or talking to any female friend, even in their compound. Once, he came back and saw his wife discussing with a female neighbour and went into a fierce rage. So it was kinda surprising to me and his wife that he never bothered us. Maybe he considered me too young to be a threat. Maybe it was because some of my visits to his home used to end with prayers with his wife… I don’ t know.
But our friendship truly blossomed to the point that she started visiting me in my place. We talked, laughed and ate together. Sometimes, as we chatted happily, she would remember her sorrow at home and get moody. I became her consoler-in-chief.
I remember the first time she visited. We watched films together. Ate together. Laughed together. Chatted till evening. Sat on the same couch. Then Nepa took light around 7pm…
Then one evening she sent for me. I hurried down only to see her outside with her things packed at a corner. The husband stood at the door as if to make sure she doesn’t ever enter the house again. He looked deadly. I got the message. He wanted her to go away. The marriage was over. He had been hearing voices in his spirit asking his wife and children to go away.
I can never forget that day. I carried her Ghana- must- go- bag on the head while she carried her last child on her back. Sadly there was no money to pay our way. We trekked. Rain was not kind. It descended on us. It was now dark. I walked slightly behind her. We were heading to her mom’s house. I suspect she was crying. I was crying too. The tears, mixed with rain, tasted like salt.
At home, her mother warmed water for her grandchildren to bath. We were left alone – my friend and I. I kept telling her to be strong.
Our parting hug was our first hug. It was a tight hug. It was a long hug. I hurried back home and cried myself to sleep.
Aniefiok Udoabasi is a lawyer