“Bring the Lele!” Ma Rhamatu screams and I jump out of my thoughts and back into my body. I look out the window into the inner compound of our home.There is so much noise and too many people moving about, that for a moment I’m confused until Ma pulls on my right hand and recognition dawns on me.
Today is my wedding day.
Just now, I was stuck in my dreams of the future. Sadly, the present doesn’t look as bright. I am eighteen years of age. Last two moons was my birthday.Legally, I am an adult but traditionally, I have been for over two years now. I have been since the blood appeared. We are in modern Ghana, yes. But I am being married off to Suleiman, a man thirty years my senior. I am not illeterate, although I live in a rural area. I have attended basic school, all the way to one of the prestigious senior high schools in the country. I passed my WASSCE with flying colours but did not apply to the university I have been dreaming about. What is preventing me? Gratitude. Yes gratitude and tradition.
When I was born, my parents became bankrupt and we moved back to their home village up-north. My selfish older siblings refused to help our parents support me through school. Each five of them, left to live their own lives. My two sisters got married to wealthy men, and my three brothers travelled outside of the country never to return. Ma and Baba although from the North and a Muslim community, were Christians when they lived in the big city of Kumasi. However, when the issues came pouring down on the family, they neglected their Christian identity and came back up north to their family which luckily embraced them. There was not enough money still. And I would have been an illiterate girl, roaming the village until my blood appeared and I was married off.
In came Suleiman, a well-to-do man in the community who had studied Visual Arts in the big city of Accra in his youth. He had moved up north after losing his first and only wife, to establish himself as one of the best creative artists within the whole region. Yes he was literate and rich, yet he saw me as a toddler and offered to cater for my education until the blood appeared, when I would end my education and become his wife. My parents readily agreed. Ma has been preparing me for marriage since then and I would not have even reached senior high school if I had not been a late bloomer. My blood appeared my first year into senior high school and Suleiman agreed to wait two more years for me. Now, the time has come.
As Ma and the women prepare me for the ceremony, they need not talk more about being an adult woman. I have had countless lessons on womanhood, housekeeping, husband keeping, childbirth. I think back to conversations I’ve had with Suleiman. He is not retarded in his mentality he believes, yet he stated in no uncertain terms that I would be a stay-at-home wife and there would be no need to continue on to the university. He needed a wife at his beck and call since, he had saved himself for me, all these years. I agreed with him, dreading in my mind what beck and call meant. Even now, I still dread my life with him. He is known popularly as a gentle man and I’m praying he does not abuse me.
While my classmates are receiving admissions from universities, I am fulfilling a bethrothal that was forced upon me. They will be changing boyfriends to suit their whims, while I’ll be changing bedsheets to please Suleiman. Such is life.
As I’m escorted outside, a veil over my face and girls dancing to usher me out, I remember the Western rhyme, “First comes love, then comes marriage…”. How different from my story. First comes blood that signifies my adulthood. Then comes all the rest. I wish the blood had never appeared. Or at least it should’ve stayed in and joined my main bloodstream. I would’nt have been a candidate for an early marriage. Life wouldn’t have looked so gloomy.