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“A small bottle of stout a day keeps the doctor away”

The Piano  Teacher with OSA MBONU-AMADI Arts Editor
I got married in 2002 while teaching at Ebun Oluwa and Veritas College but I had met my wife long before that time,  though I never knew she was the woman I was going to marry. It was at 9 Awofodu Street, Pedro, Palmgrove, Lagos. I still marvel at how such a little place as 9 Awofodu had profoundly shaped my life.

I had successfully kept away from women, alcohol, and smoking of cigarettes since 1992 when I gave my life to Christ, although I had never been a good drinker, smoker or womanizer. The few women I’ve had anything to do with were those who threw themselves at me. In fact, one of the challenges I have had in life, and still do, is keeping at bay, women who had lost their heads over me, and at the same time loving them in ways other than coital.

But I was living in the midst of heavy drinkers and smokers. Initially, I resisted them. I was about the only person among my circle of friends and relatives around Pedro that went to church on Sundays and lived a sober life. That was the time Glory, an Esan from Edo State, visited her young aunty, Maria, who also lived at 9 Awofodu with her young husband, Gideon. Maria liked me so much that whenever she was with me alone the inbuilt antenna of my danger signal always popped up automatically. She would stay with me for a very long time discussing about many things. Later, I discovered she was not wayward but hyper-extroverted. She told me to hold onto my ways; that I should never follow Gideon her husband, Ochiri, Collins and others to drink and smoke.

The first day Glory came to Maria’s place, Maria called me and said “Mr. Osa, see your wife.” Glory was so tall, almost as tall as I am, but she was black in complexion and I preferred fair-skinned women. Besides, marriage was nowhere near my mind in those days. My preoccupation then was to get a job, make money, and succeed in my chosen career. I was so steeped in the Stoic philosophy of life that I could have lived my life without marriage if not for societal pressure. I was never keen about marriage, which I saw as societal conspiracy to restrict the freedom of a man by tying one woman to his neck. If it was God who ordained marriage for man, I reasoned, why did the same God not ordain marriage for the he-goat?

Glory did not talk to me and I did not talk to her. I watched her from a distance throughout her one week stay and I believe she was also watching me. I learned she was what was then funnily referred to as S.U (Scripture Union members) or what we now call born again Christians. “Na S.U o, make I tell you now,” Gideon would tell me while they were drinking and smoking in our room, “but she go fit you sha, you too na S.U.” And they would all burst into laughter.

With time, I started to dislike being referred to as an S.U. If you are morally upright and sober and want to remain so, you must avoid, at a certain level, the company of those who live otherwise. The power those who drink, smoke and womanize have in luring a sober person into those habits is amazing and cannot be over-estimated. You will think you are strong, but subtly, stealthily, even without them making any conscious effort to, and not necessarily desiring to do so, they will gain access into your mind. And the mind is the most malleable of all things created. They said to me: “Even the human body itself naturally contains alcohol, and most of the natural foods we eat also have alcohol. As a matter of fact, a little alcohol is good for the digestive system. And you don’t have to drink 5, 6, or 7 bottles as we do. A bottle of small stout should be okay for you, and stout is excellent for the stomach and libido.”

Even though I did not have any problem with my stomach or my libido, I accepted a small bottle of stout thrust into my hand at one big party in the house of an affluent in-law where all kinds of drinks were flowing. And I felt good after drinking it. “A small bottle of stout a day keeps the doctor away,” someone whose choice of alcohol was stout told me. I have heard it said of eggs and about fruits, but never in connection with small stout. One day, Maria walked into our room where Gideon, Ochiri, Collins and others were drinking and smoking and saw a bottle of small stout in my hand!

“Mr. Osa…,” Maria began, with disappointment written all over her face. “I beg comot here. Is he not a man?” Gideon sneered at her, citing a proverb from his village which says it is better for the mouth of a man to smell of alcohol than to smell of soup.

The next time Glory came to 9 Awofodu from Wilma, Apapa, where she was staying with her eldest brother, she had completely transformed and I became interested in her. I met her privately and told her I wanted to be her boyfriend but she said to me: “First, you have to return to your first love – Jesus.” I knew immediately that Maria had told her about the small stout she saw in my hand and her interpretation of it: a backslidden born again. I left her, telling myself that after all, I did not like black women.

But she remained in my mind for six years. I was awed by her sincerity and moral rectitude which sharply contrasted with quite a number of other wayward women I met later. Maria and Gideon travelled to Italy where they still live till today.

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