The sweetest wedding I ever saw is the one I never attended. I was not invited anyway. It is not like I have been to too many weddings anyway. Three actually. Blame the cynic in me.
Not that there were formal invites then. You came if you could. This, after all, was the Kenya of the 1970s, when we were still one, before bouncers and screeching women started arriving outside the church towing a brood of dishevelled kids to disrupt the shifty-eyed groom’s nuptials.
I was 22 or something when my mother (bless her) held me by the ear and dragged me to my first wedding. Her sister’s. I later learnt she had been scheming to introduce me to this ‘nice’ young female teacher. But it appears I sabotaged the old matchmaker because at the precise moment when my would-be beloved popped up blushing, I was squatting behind some bushes, puffing away.
The second wedding I attended was a colleague’s. I went because the pretty thing walked up to my desk and said she would never speak to me if I didn’t show up. I must have looked quite a spectacle, ill-fitting mtumba blazer and all. My last wedding was real blast. A cousin did the do in stupendous style – nuptials at the grand All Saints Cathedral and a mouthwatering lunch on the manicured lawns of the top drawer Windsor Golf Resort. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite enjoy myself.
The devil had tempted me the previous night; lied that the evil drink would wash away my sins. And so, as padre said this and that, and people whose own marriages speeches were in shambles advised the newlyweds, I was fighting demons in my head.
Somehow, all these weddings, which were grand by any measure, don’t quite hold a candle to the one I never attended. This girl, I have long forgotten her name, was five classes ahead of me in primary school. In fact, if I wasn’t three feet shorter and only in Standard One, I could have tossed in my nomination papers. She was smashing, that lass.
But I knew something was amiss when my mother, in her typical ‘breaking news’ style, casually asked, “Do you know so and so?” That question was dreaded in our household because if mama asked that, and you said “yes”, she always responded by saying, “He is dead.” This time, however, her response was even more shocking. The girl in Class Six, the one I had a crush on, was getting married. Married? Here I was still mulling over birds and the bees and she was going to make real, screaming babies?
They chose a Friday evening, I think. Lads from her husband’s clan, accompanied by sisters, cousins and aunties, walked across the ridge and picked up their woman once elders were done mumbling their stuff in the traditional wedding ceremony. The bride and groom weren’t wearing shoes. I mean who owned shoes in Kholera Sub-Location?
The wedding caravan passed right by our fence, singing, “Ooo-o-ooo-o makeya! Okukhana kwenyu, makeya! Nokulosi, makeya (This bride is a witch)!” Why in-laws should deem it fit to sing such an insulting song about a woman (sorry, teenager) they have just wedded after parting with livestock, is a mystery.
That wedding, for inexplicable, reasons has charmed me through the years and I can confirm that my beloved is still married to her beau. I mean, I don’t recall mama asking, “You remember so and so?” But barely a year after that beautiful wedding, I came face to face with divorce. We were cleaning up the compound when a woman in a patched dress shuffled past, pain and heartbreak etched on her face. On her back was an old tattered sack, in which tins, sooty sufurias and mugs clanked noisily with each tired step.
They were all she had salvaged from a difficult and troubled marriage riddled with poverty, violence and disease. Even then, I had the fabled meat wrapper’s eye, and all these I gleamed without being told. But one thing disturbed me. Why, I asked mama, was she carrying an old broom? Surely couldn’t she have left that behind?
My mother, peerless storyteller that she was, was this time lost for words. “She is never going back to that man, son. I bet she must have thrown out her cooking stones before she left. He must have been a beast...” she spat. So girls, when you sweep a man’s house clean knowing you will return, always leave his gas cooker behind. And a broom. And his bed. For whence will you sleep, and with what will you cook should you elect to return after your rage has ebbed?