Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Twists and Turns by Kayode Raphael Adegboye

Alex's parents leave Africa for the first time to attend his wedding, but there are some things he hasn't told them; by Kayode Raphael Adegboye

It was supposed to be the marriage of their only living son. The venue was Mainland Europe and Papa and Mama Alex in their mid 70s were being checked in at security points J and K of the Alimi Nana International Airport.

'Please Papa, could you raise your hands up for us to check you?' the young cutely dressed security officer at entrance J had told Papa Alex.

Papa Alex laughed sheepishly and said, 'You think say I dey hide something. Una na wa o.'

Mama Alex was not going to query any order she was given, hence she was quickly checked in through entrance K. She stayed for a while waiting for her husband to finish up with the security operatives and about ten minutes later, both of them were guided to departure lounge 21 by one of the airport patrol policemen.

After a short wait at the departure lounge, they were both sitting side by side in the Jumbo sized Airbus 7740 for an eight-hour flight to Europe. This was their first trip ever outside of Africa and outside of their autonomous community, where they both had their childhood. The excitement was just indescribable.

Alex had been very supportive of his aging parents. He sent substantial amounts of money monthly for their upkeep. In fact, a day before their departure when a community party was held in honour of their visit to Europe, Papa Alex had counted and securely kept the various money transfer vouchers with which he had collected money from the bank in the last months and years. There were fifty-eight with names likes Western Union, Money Gram and several other fund transfer companies written on them.

Alex had arranged for one of his friends to bring his parents straight from the airport to the venue of the ceremony and his partner had provided a car with a driver.

The venue was a small, classic hall with an exquisite touch. The hall had welcomed several of the high and mighty from many European countries and it was just the perfect place, Alex's partner thought, for getting married.

The organ played softly with oriental and continental tunes in an arrangement where antiquity met modernity; the ambience in the hall became more and more scintillating with laughter, chatting and clinking of wine glasses taking over the atmosphere. The couples, still in a small room by the hall, were going to show up in a few minutes.

At exactly 4:30pm, the tune of the organ changed to 'Here Comes the Bride.' The guests were euphoric; Alex's parents were just arriving and coming in through one of the side doors of the hall.

Alex was to be married to Jen, a top executive of one of the blue chip companies with branches in 58 countries of the world. Jen was modestly rich and they had courted for quite some months before deciding to tie the knot.

Clad in a 1950s traditional Balkan outfit in honour of Jen's grandparents who were from Moldova, Alex and Jen moved in from the rear door, approaching the priest from the City Registry that would run the proceedings of the event.

Alex's parents could readily recognize their son even if the last time they saw him was nine years ago. In what seemed to be a jointly-rehearsed, chorused question, Alex's dad and mum faced the young man who drove them from the airport to the venue and asked loudly, 'Where is the wife?'

"Mama na partner we dey call am and na him stand for him side so," the young man replied diplomatically.

Alex's mother impulsively exclaimed, 'Obasi, I am finished,' and she slumped and fainted.

His dad shouted, 'Osanobwa! Tufiakwa! This is the work of my enemy,' and jumped on the floor.

Alex, a 32 year old man was getting married to Jen, a 45 year old man. It was going to be a same-sex marriage.

Alex had been an illegal immigrant all these years; he had tried to file for 'aduro' (refugee permit) twice but had been unsuccessful. He came into Europe through the Sahara desert and, in what he kept describing as a miracle, Alex was one of the seven survivors of a two-hundred-man Mediterranean sea-crossing mishap. The lifeguard team of a patrol boat rescued him and his first two years of living in Europe was spent under gruesome conditions in a detention camp for illegal immigrants.

He escaped mysteriously from the camp and the fear of being arrested and repatriated, coupled with the bitter, unpalatable experience of living in the detention camp, gripped him each day. Expectations, according to him, were high back at home and he had to continue to struggle no matter what the challenges might be.

He lived like a bat, coming out mostly in the night and always being careful where he went and how long he stayed there. He did all manner of menial jobs to keep soul and body together and he survived under incredible situations until 'fate smiled on him' and he got regular work with the Pars Gardening Company.

The wedding could not continue. An ambulance was called in immediately.

Alex's Caucasian friends were astonished at the drama created by his parents, but his African friends could read between the lines. There were however mixed feelings amongst them. One of them had soliloquized loudly, 'At least man must survive.'

Alex's parents were not in the know about what their son had faced all this while. To them, verifying the correctness of the fund transfer codes and numbers with which Alex sent money always took the majority of the call-time used in talking to their son.

To Alex, this was his long-sought opportunity to become a citizen. He initially felt seriously uneasy with what he knew in his culture was an abomination, but he was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea and after much thought, he gave in and was not going to blow the opportunity away.

Jen, whose full name was Jensen, met Alex a year ago when Alex was part of the cleaning team of Pars, a company that had a garden maintenance contract with Jen's company. He was pulling out of the parking lot when Alex was cleaning up the debris of the garden. Jen could not take his eyes of Alex. He could only ask for Alex's name during this first contact and got Alex's details from the gardening company.

He contacted Alex shortly afterwards and invited Alex to his house. After several weeks of magnanimous gestures from Jen, Alex explained his challenges to him. Unknown to Alex, Jen fell in love with him the very day he sighted him and was planning to ask Alex out the same day Alex had shared his challenges with him.

Jen had been the subject of several jilting experiences and, still in search of 'love,' he could not help his emotions on sighting Alex and on bringing Alex into his life as his partner.

From teeth polishing to steam bathing to all manners of body cleansing treatments, Jen 'transformed' Alex into what could pass as a Denzel Washington or a Kayode Raphael Adegboye in a very short while. Alex became a sight to behold - clean, radiant and stylish. Wearing choice outfits from selected designers, Alex was elegance epitomized. Naturally a handsome, light-skinned, nicely-built young man, his skin now glowed more and his look now captivated more.

Alex was fast forgetting the pains of his past, particularly those of the last eight years before meeting Jen. He felt he could now offer more to his parents who had lost five out their six children - all boys.

But for some visa clearance matters, Alex's parents could have come earlier and would have had the chance of meeting their son's partner.

Alex's mother did not recover and his dad died later from the shock.

Alex thought he was doing it for himself and particularly for his old, poor parents. Now they are gone and Alex is presently in Ward 7A of the mentally depressed home in the city centre.

He fell seriously ill after the death of his parents. Sometimes he would wake up in the middle of the night and start shouting, crying and laughing intermittently. The consultant physician handling his case advised he should be treated for mental failure. No one is sure if he is ever going to recover.

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