I WISH I COULD:
Chinedu had an unhappy childhood. His mother had died when he was six. Chinedu was a member of a family whose legend was commerce - a race whose parable skill was on trading. He had two other brothers older than him. His father, Chiadikobi, was known for his strong character. Everyone in the village loved to go to his shop. He was fond of telling his children:
Life is a race
Everyone has a share in it
Fill each day with a conscious effort
Take each step one after the other
Do not lose your smile while racing
A smile adds beauty to your mission
Add a little fun when it becomes tough
till you step into the victory lane.
Life in the village:
Chinedu’s life has been lived in places where the supply of water is scarce. Being a commercial zone, almost every family is engaged in petty trading to earn a living. Both young and old are known for business. It is difficult to see anyone idle because life is a race which everyone has a share in it. There are times when boreholes and pipes are being laid to meet the needs of the people. Oftentimes, commercial tankers move around to supply water to families in need. During the dry season, the youths take a long work to a nearby village to fetch water, do laundry or even to swim. In the wet season, it is easy to discover stagnant water in a reservoir prepared to eliminate flood from the road. It is not a surprising thing for anyone to fetch water from the stagnant reservoir and use it for minor jobs; this is because the villagers try to treat the water before use. Electricity is essential to get their trading going. When light is scarce, the standby generators would do.
The woman he never had:
Ogechi left her village, Umuofor, to a distant town where it was easy for her to conceal her true identity. She was a prodigal daughter of her rich family. Her parents sent her to the best school in town and provided her with everything necessary. Unfortunately, Ogechi lavished her parents' wealth with friends and was expelled from the school due to her poor performance in academics. With the little money she had saved, she used it to rent an apartment. Her money run out even before she settled in her new home. Every day she goes out to look for a job to earn money. But no one was willing to employ her because she had no one to recommend her. She was often angry due to her unemployment. She never allowed her neighbours to know how hard things were with her, lest they become suspicious of her identity.
One day, Ogechi remembered she had a friend, a hairstylist, whom she met when she newly arrived. She went to her to ask for a job. The hairstylist so much admired her with respect. She requested that Ogechi should start work immediately. As sensitive as the stinging needles so numerous were the stories about her by her colleagues. Criticised, scolded and ignored by the wagging tongues, Ogechi was judged been haughty, vain and lazy. It was on one of that unjustifiable instance that Chinedu saw Ogechi from a distance. Her beauty dominated him. It took Chinedu three days going in search of her only to discover that Ogechi had left the hairstylist salon to look for another job. When Chinedu realized that he was building a castle in the wind, he went back home to his father with the news of his futile dream.
Two years later
Chinedu was on his way to see Okechukwu his friend when he suddenly walked across Ogechi. Blinded by his love for Ogechi, he did not hesitate to establish a friendship. His family was not in support of his idea to marry a stranger. Chinedu ignored everyone and went ahead with his marriage plans. He was left alone to carry his cross.
After their wedding, everything was moving well. Jealousy came in. Ogechi used to be supportive. She was truly in love with Chinedu. A few years later, the devil came in without pity and scattered their family. Was it because his family was not in support of his marriage? It is a question for another day. Was it because of Ogechi’s beauty? The answer is blowing in the wind. Chinedu’s business began to digress. In his quest to survive, Chinedu borrowed loan from friends to solve his problems. He helped people who later turned their back on him. He knew something was wrong. But from where? He felt been manipulated by forces – evil forces. His brother hates him with passion for no reason. It was from one of his comments that Chinedu discovered the root of his problem. His brother who he trusted with his life took his wife away from him. What a shock! How could he bear the shame? His brother turned his back against him and destroyed his joy, his hope, his life investment. Something is wrong somewhere. As Chinedu thought about his life, tears rushed out of his eyes.
Nothing was ever right:
Why me? Chinedu asked. He felt ashamed of his existence and his lifelong investments. He started all wrong. Why must he suffer? Why must he be a victim of such misfortune? Fifteen years of marriage had gone when Chinedu had a bad dream, one of those dreadful ones with nothing to see, only a feeling. Full of surprise, he leaned forward to rise from his bed. He never believed the problem he saw in his dream would turn out to be real. He forgot to pray over his dream. His love for his wife was totally strong but blind. He was honest in telling his best friend, Okechukwu, what it would cost him to remain faithful to his marriage. He didn’t know that his brother would turn out to be the devil on his cross. Life is full of surprises!
Chinedu gave his heart and resources to what later turned out to be impossible. He lost out. He forgot to apply his father’s words, “Life is a race. Everyone has a share in it”. A fellow-man destroyed his happiness, his relationship, his marriage, his home, the only place where he called a family, his refuge and protection. What could he do to defend his children? To prove himself a man? To restore dignity to his trapped life? Despite his loss, he was wounded by the treachery of his wife. He felt suffocated. With a kind of protective annoyance, Chinedu attempted to poison himself; but death refuses to accept him. Confused, bored and weary after days of agony, he refused to eat.
Chinedu was still plotting on how to terminate his existence when suddenly he heard his phone ring. It was Okechukwu calling. Chinedu had no option than to open up to his true friend. It was a long and glorious discussion. Despite the long assessment of his failures, Chinedu pulled his feeling mind up short. It was something everyone might hope for at the end. He thought as he listened to Okechukwu reading the gospel of Luke from the Scripture:
“But I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To anyone who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek as well; to anyone who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from someone who takes it. Treat others as you would like people to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to get money back, what credit can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate”. (cf Luke 6, 27-36)
Chinedu listened with the eyes of his soul opened to God. He allowed the Word of God to penetrate his life. With serenity, he dropped his sword of revenge against his brother. Today, Chinedu is happily married. Both families have now united as one big family because of their new understanding about love and forgiveness.
Prisca Onyinye Nwokorie is a Roman Catholic Nun in the Congregation of the Oblate Sisters of St Benedict Joseph Labre based in Italy. She is a writer and poet, with BSc. degree in “Information and Communication Technologies for the Production of Software”, and an MSc. degree in “Computer Science”, both obtained from the University of Bari in Italy. Presently, she is working towards creating a forum to promote e-learning in every field of life for the youths in underdeveloped countries.