YEARS ago, I ran into a former colleague at a private get-together and we got talking. “When I learnt you were getting married, I laughed my head off”he said seriously. I was irritated. So, the marriage didn’t work out, was that a reason for him to gloat? ‘Candy, I know you very well. You’re not the marrying kind and the jerk (oops sorry!) the man you ended up with could never have made you the type of husband you could endure. You’re too intelligent and impatient, not to talk of fiercely independent to settle down to the role of the obedient housewife…”he concluded.
Over the years, I’ve played this little conversation over and over in my mind and had time to mule over events on the matrimonial scene. I’ve watched friends who set out on the road to matrimony with coloured specs and a lot of hope come out of it bitter and disillusioned. Not to talk of struggling to look after kids their adventurous husbands never gave a backward glance to.
As recently as three years ago, Jennifer, a banker and a good younger friend, was in shock as Clifford, her husband of 16 years, made off with Julie a friend. “Not only that, he bluntly refused to have anything to do with the fees of our two children who were studying abroad,”Jennifer said, her eyes burning with anger and resentment. “He said he warned that with the exchange rates always galloping, he couldn’t afford the fees. But I’m a British citizen and my children go to government-run schools. He was happy to have been responsible for the fees until he met Julie whom he describes as his ‘Soul’ mate.
“It was a struggle to pay the fees, but I soldiered on, thanks to my parents’ help. He’s always been against my parents, saying they’d always spoilt their children. Anyway, I lost my job during the recent bank crisis and relocated abroad so I could monitor the children’s education. We were lucky to get a council flat and I had part-time jobs. With the benefits I get for the children’s keep, we aren’t destitute and I thank God my business here in Nigeria had taken off. Once in a while, he phoned the kids to find out how they were. Twice he sent them peanuts, all he could afford, he said. You can then imagine my shock when he turned up on my door step a few months ago.
“The children looked at him as if he were a dodgy salesman they shouldn’t allow in. I was curious; not wanting to create a scene, I asked him in. He’d brought some funny looking gifts for us all. But, what did he want? ‘Actually I’m just from my doctor’s’, he said, a bit embarrassed. ‘I have prostate cancer.’If he was expecting any sympathy, he got none, I told him how sorry I was and hoped he made a quick recovery. When he saw how hostile we all were, he left, looking dejected. As if he’d been hard done by, I shut the door firmly behind him. If I thought I’d seen the last of him, I was mistaken. He turned up a few days later saying he’d run out of money to pay for the bedsit he rented. Could he stay with us for as long as his treatment would last? The cheek of it! ‘You’re joking right?’I asked him. When I saw how serious he was, I bristled, intended on giving him the length of my tongue when he cut me off.
‘You’re still my wife,’he reminded me, as if I hadn’t regretted that fact all these years. “It’s your duty to take me back! ‘The nerve of some people. He looked so pathetic the children felt sorry for him. He’d always been close to our daughter and she started weeping she didn’t want him to die. ‘What good has he been to you dead or alive? ‘I said, regarding her as one would a traitor. ‘He abandoned us all and went off with a friend. Why isn’t his ‘Soul mate’ looking after him now he’s at death’s door?’
‘In the end, I showed him the guest room and told him that was it. If he thought he would be waited on hand and foot, he should forget it. He looked so pathetically grateful I almost felt sorry for him. Later that day, I called my parents and they told me they’d heard stories of Julie’s involvement with an older suitor who not only bought her a car, but re-furnished her flat. She didn’t bat an eyelid as she threw Cliff out and in no time at all, announced she was carrying the man’s baby. Cliff wanted to make trouble ranting the pregnancy was his. Julie asked him what he’d done with the children he’d had before. That she would be a fool to get pregnant for a man who couldn’t take care of the only two children of his marriage. Cliff’s business had suffered too as the Trust Fund he worked for as the MD gave notice of termination to all its investors. The fund was in dire straits!
“Now that the prodigal husband and father has returned with his tail between his legs, we don’t know what to do with him. He’s no longer my responsibility but I feel really sorry for him. Afterall, I was in love with him once. Thank goodness the cancer was caught early enough for him to respond to treatment. He’s still with us, recuperating. As soon as he’s well enough, I want him out of my hair. I can never forgive all the nasty things he said about me when he thumbed his nose at 16 years of marriage.