My name is Marion Seko. I am a woman. Unlike many, I regard my femininity highly. My high regard for my gender is not relative to the fact that I have a successful career. Being the only female doctor in a fifty-kilometer radius allows me to operate a monopoly at my private medical practice situated in the small town of Afeni. I am a gynecologist. I graduated top of my class to secure the scholarship that saw me to these academic heights. I love my job, I find helping fellow women deeply rewarding. The small size of this town allows me access to invaluable information. The kind other women only gossip about over evening tea. Like who is HIV positive, who is constantly fetching infections and why. Whose husband is cheating and what not?
I am very beautiful by physical standards, which has helped in a myriad of situations that would have otherwise been dense for any other woman. The professor who pulled strings to have me awarded a scholarship from my department can attest to this. It does not flatter me though to see men ogle so I do not spend too much time in front of a mirror. I like the way I look without make-up. Did I mention? I am very fertile too. Last year I bore twin boys and a daughter, my husband adores, during our first year of marriage. I think femininity is the epitome of existence for a woman. Welcome to my life.
It is Sunday morning. Like many a sinner, seeking absolution for my sins, I made it here in time. I braved last night’s fatigue from vigorous lovemaking and prepared my entire family for eight o’clock mass. Now I am sitting on the front pew; compulsively writing away in my personal journal. The man in the pulpit is my dear husband. Seko is a tall man, with a body that is athletically divine, very handsome but fiercely shy. However, years of coaching have successfully masked this. Every evening to date we stay up late practicing a set of theatrics that enable him exude feigned confidence. The Confidence that has earned him a position of worth in society. Sometimes even, I cannot tell his faking it. His looks go a long way into charming believers especially the women folk who turn up in hoards during evening prayers on weekdays. My husband is well respected by the men folk in this community, partly because he can have their wives and as the adage goes, keep your friends close…
To the untrained eye, I am a doting wife, a dutiful servant to my husband, and in a way, I am. Nonetheless, unlike many a woman I have met, I positioned myself here. I manage the family finances and a big chunk of that amount I bring forth. However, I let my husband take the lead role. All bills are paid in his name and the diary farm we own too is in his name. It is a pity though; that however passionate Seko might be about dairy cattle the science of making money from it, remains an enigma to him. That is where I come through for him. I handle the entire accounting, marketing and procurement tasks for the business, leaving just enough for him to do.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon talks about having reverence for God as being the key to getting to heaven. Solomon sites being too holy or being too evil as being recipes for an early dirt nap. I am constantly in pursuit for this balance. I plan my husband’s sermons a whole month prior the service and I help him develop wisecracks therein to colour the sermons and they keep the congregation from sleeping. Pastor Seko definitely has ingenious anecdotes that I love. Thus, I feel justified documenting my life away in my journal during the sermon. God’s grace should suffice for this minor transgression since after all; I have done my quota in ministering.
When I met Seko, he was a street preacher. This was not his full time job; he eked out a living by giving janitor services to a shady clinic that faced constant closure by the authorities. He was the kind of man who did not exist in my life. The kind I was so high above their league that they would have been playing an entirely different sport if they even dreamed of dating me. In fact to this day, I cannot think of a single thing we had in common had I not fainted in his arms. On that day I would dismount from my high horse.
A few days earlier, Professor Ghuni, who was the head of my department, had advised me to visit a clinic downtown.
“They will take care of the problem, besides procreation wasn’t our motive,” he had said with a smile I found devoid of charm.
Ghuni was the head of the scholarship board in med school. Fiercely brilliant, with impeccable people skills, the man held the keys to the coveted annual prize; a fully sponsored scholarship to a master’s programme. In the year I graduated, we emerged two eligible scholars but the other guy Thomas stood little chance against me. As fate would have it, Ghuni was a man like any other- weak in the flesh. Two nights of passion was all it cost me or at least I thought. A month later I missed a period and it suddenly occurred to me that sleeping with Ghuni while drunk was not such a smart idea.
I could not keep the pregnancy partly because there was no way the professor was going to marry me and partly because a baby at twenty-four did not fit into my ‘grand scheme of things.’
The operation was hardly an hour long; and all I recall was feeling mighty weak when the doctor was done. This particular practitioner who was only known to me as Patrick, famed to have a 98% success rate. Statistics proved him a guru in aborting foetus but statistics are not guarantees especially in reference to medical procedures.
I suffered incessant bleeding for two days straight. I overdosed on pain relievers but it did little to calm the storm in my womb. On the eve of the third day when the dehydration and pain became unbearable, I set off on the journey to the hospital. I mustered my last ounce of strength to make it there in my frail state. It was then, with the gate to Melanie Memorial Hospital in plain sight that my legs failed me. When the ground started spinning I walked towards the person I considered the safest option; the street preacher by the gate. I recall saying a word of grace and being paralyzed with fear before the darkness engulfed me.
I must have been in a sorry state because when I came to three days later, there was the almost continuous measurement of vital signs, adjustment of the feeding liquid and the drugs. Seko was there by my side, smiling. I couldn’t remember noting his being so handsome. He read me the bible for an hour daily after getting off work; a routine he maintained till I was discharged a fortnight later. He would skip lunch and buy me two apples every day for the fortnight I spent hospitalized. This I learnt from the nurses. Ghuni sent flowers and a fruit basket and settled my bill. The professor never set foot in the hospital.
Upon being discharged, after what seemed to be an eternity, profound change had mushroomed deep in my being. I had a keener appreciation for life. I was not the narcissist that had collapsed in Seko’s arms that fateful day. I became calmer, less obsessed with vanity and more fearful than I would care to admit. I joined the church where I found solace from my grave sin. I felt mortally indebted to Seko for being there for me when nobody else was. I reminisce on one conversation we had while I was still in the ward. I asked him why he was so devoted to seeing me through. He told me;
“I did what Jesus would do,” in a matter-of- fact kind of tone.
That was when I knew I would marry him. Every so often, I wake up before Seko. I lie beside him and study him before he wakes and I can’t help but feel blessed.
* * *
The sermon is done. A deafening applaud from the crowd ensues and Seko manages a subtle wink at the woman in the front pew; myself. My very being aches to help him, to better him for his own sake, at least to reach the soft liquid heart of the man where only I know best kindness and decency surely dwells.
My heart glows with pride. Ten years later, he is all I feel worthy to show for; and oh yes, I know him well. I love being his woman because if it were not for him I would have continued my life of quiet desperation. Now I thrive in a subtle fashion; and as Steve Hills sung, this is that land where the eagle flies with the dove.