‘So, twenty one, huh?’, Timi asked as he handed me a glass I water.

I nodded as I took a sip.

‘Wow. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you,’he said, resuming his seat. He did not see my grimace.

How do I explain the feeling of utmost dread that enveloped me from the very first birthday SMS that I received? How do I put into words the sadness that washed over me?

Randomly, I remember Mr. Ganiy, my English teacher in high school whose mantra was ‘you think you have time’. We’d always laugh when he said that with a ridiculously straight face. But I was fifteen then. Now at twenty one, it doesn’t seem so funny anymore.

My mama had bounded into my room this morning, little sister in tow, bearing smiles and birthday tidings which included songs in English, Yoruba and everything else in between. When she had gotten to prayer time, the change in tune from last year’s was very relevant.

‘By this time next year, you shall have a husband’.

‘Amen!’ My sister thundered.

‘A good man. A wonderful man.’

‘Amen!’

And you shall bear him twins. Again and again.’

‘Amen!’ They both chorused enthusiastically. And I was tempted to ask how many again and again set of twins she has herself, but I did not want to be the reason Ogún(god of Thunder; the Nigerian version of Thor, you migjt say) would be invoked so early in the morning. So, I kept mum. And smiled passively through the prayers.

I shudder slightly now as I think about it, Mr. Ganiy’s mantra coming back to haunt and taunt me.

Last year, my mama had prayed for ‘a good result, the best from your class. You shall be the top.’ Two years ago, she’d prayed tirelessly for me to be admitted to college. Today, as those struggles lay forgtten and relegated to the backdrop of a husband quest, I wondered just how much time I had left.

And there sat Timi, saying I had time. 

Timi who is twenty three and fresh out of college, awaiting service and turning up all night, every Friday at the club. Timi whose elder brother of twenty seven was umnmaried and whose elder sister of twenty five was.

Two years ago, maybe I had time. But not today. Next year, if no husband shows up, mama would intensify her prayers. Lightly. Like a drop of kerosene to ignite flame. In two years, if there is still no husband, fuel would be added to the ignited flames and as fuel was wont to do, the fire would spread to Aunty Bola in Lagos, who would go on the mountain. In three years, Aunty Iyabo from the Mainland would invite me to her shop and there I was coincidentally meet some ‘Mummy Bolu’s son who just got back from America’. I could see this future already.

And maybe I would protest. Maybe I would say ‘Aunty Iyabo, I want a PhD before marriage’. Aunty Iyabo would give me her confused look and ask what a PhD is. I’d tell her and watch her scream ‘Jesú’. Then she’d pick up her phone and call mama, telling her I wasn’t raised right. And how she’d warned mama to bring me to the abulé to learn culture and tradition but mama had refused. Mama would then agree, because no one argues with Aunty Iyabo…. And soon, I’d be cradling a stomach full of twins, because even after marriage, there is no rest until a child comes.

I took another sip of water and sighed. Twenty one. I’d thought I had time.
What do you guys think? 

EikÓJÖnwa, xx
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