The records of Udenna
It was at about 9 pm on Friday while I was at work that my phone rang. I was at the ER (emergency room) because there had been an accident in the bar close to the hospital. As the ambulance left the accident scene for the teaching hospital I was immediately called.
So, the last thing I wanted to know was who was calling; it wouldn’t be my wife because she dropped me off a few hours ago. I quickly ran to attend to these users (patients). In three hours, I was free to see who called me, and it was a pleasant surprise to discover that it was Udenna.
Udenna was onye nkem (my own person) until 10 months ago. We had grown up together in the village picking udara and ube (Nigerian pear) to sell at Afomba, our local market. We attended the same primary school, and after school, we’d help old women fix their oba (barns) for a few pennies. We stayed in science class together until SS2 when choose different subjects to write during the WAEC examination.
When it was time for tertiary education, we chose different parts as well. Udenna has always been this brilliant, painstaking individual that loved to try his hands on anything new. So, he chose the part of engineering while I married my biology.
In 4 years he was done and decided to pursue a specialty in aeronautics. That led him to change institutions while I stayed back to complete my studies in medicine. Needless to say that his focus and discipline soon yielded results as he began a very successful career with one of the major European aeroplane manufacturers. It didn’t take long before he was made a supervisor.
He jetted out of the country and I was only able to see him again after five years when his company sent him to manage her international headquarters that’s located in the same city I lived.
We’d often joke about how village boys now ran some of the most successful firms around. I directed one of the most successful cardiothoracic surgery units in the States, he managed one of the largest aeroplane manufacturers and Obiageli managed a major bank in New York.
Sorry, I forgot to tell you about Obiageli; she was the most beautiful girl back in the day. I’ll save you our childish fantasies and all because I don’t want to waste your time. Just know that she’s one of the reasons I wanted to become a doctor. Also, know that she later got married to Udenna.
How Oby, as we fondly call her, chose him over me is still a mystery; I like to think she truly loves me but went for Udenna because he was more handsome and makes more money than myself. But the truth is that my life rhythm (timetable) wasn’t compatible with what she wanted in a husband.
This is one out of the many reasons I’m eternally grateful to God for giving me a wife, Chisom, that truly loves, cares and most importantly understands how crazy my schedules can be most times because she’s a paediatrician.
Ten months ago, Obiageli called me that Udenna had filed for a divorce. She was devastated and knew that I was the only one who could make Udenna change his mind. Immediately after work I quickly ran to meet her with Chisom. Her little daughter came to answer the door and led us to the bedroom where Obiageli was sitting on the floor. She was a shadow of herself, she’s lost so much weight and her eye sockets sunken as a result of endless tears. I recall we had met at dinner two months ago with Udenna.
The mutation was so extreme that I couldn’t understand how nor what to feel; it was a mixture of pity and anger, pain and rage. I tried to understand how but couldn’t. I simply left the room and went to see how the kids were doing. They knew what had happened, but I tried to assure them that Daddy will be back and that the family will be happy again. I tried talking them out of this ugly reality, but it yielded a lukewarm result.
After a few minutes, I headed back to the bedroom where Obiageli and my wife were talking. It was time to know what really transpired that made Udenna leave this virtuous woman. Chi and I have always known from a few signs that the union had issues, but we resolved never to intervene except if called into it, after all, no marriage is completely free of issues. It’s better we worked on removing the beam on our eyes than focus on the mote on their eyes.
As Oby began to narrate what happened, we couldn’t but cry with her. Stuttering she said “I’ve pleaded with him severally, but he has refused to listen to me. I even promised never to come to his office again.” What happened, according to her, could have been resolved with a simple “I’m sorry” had it not been that it was the culmination of past negligence, wishful ignorance and bad practice.
Obiageli and Udenna had agreed to always go to pick up their children no matter how busy their schedules are. They’ve always respected this and helped each other out when the other was indisposed.
On this unfortunate day, Obiageli was meant to go get the kids. She had assured the husband that she’d be free at 1 pm and so had no problems driving down to the school. Udenna on the other hand had a board meeting that’d last until 12.30 pm or a bit after that. So, both were free in that time slot anyway.
At 12:50 pm Udenna’s phone rang, it was Oby. A problem had developed at the office that warranted an emergency meeting. Unable to go pick up the kids she asked that Udenna helped her out. Udenna agreed but as he hung up his secretary reminded him of a lunch break with some clients from Germany.
Udenna was confused; he would have preferred to still go pick up the kids and rush back to the meeting, but he also knows that it’d take him about 15 minutes to do that thus arriving late for the business lunch. He opted for sending his driver to pick up the kids while he prepared and went for lunch.
At 2.30 pm the unimaginable happened; the wife had called him severally while he was at lunch but for obvious reasons, he couldn’t respond. She eventually called home to learn from the kids that their father had sent a driver.
She was very angry because they had agreed never to send a driver or anyone for that purpose after some recent ugly incident at the school. “Why didn’t he call to tell me that he’d be busy? I could have rushed to get the kids and returned to the office. What’s difficult in calling the school to ask them to keep the kids until 3 pm when we’ll be free to come to take them?” she fumed.
As she closed from work, she drove to the husband’s office to know why her calls weren’t returned and why he had to send the driver. Once at his office, she hadn’t the patience nor discipline to listen to the reasons of her husband.
She was so infuriated that she forgot to close the door behind her before using incautious words on her husband. “Darling please calm down, let me explain. It was a mistake. I had wanted to…” he pleaded. “To do what? Was it too difficult to call me back that you won’t be going? Or even return the calls?” she yelled.
Udenna gently stood up and shut the door. When he saw that the whole situation was getting out of hand, he quickly shut the window blinds too to ward off the eyes of curious office spectators. Oby seemed uncontrollable and after a few minutes of rant she stormed out of his office and shut the door behind her. Udenna was left speechless; he’s always been seen by all as a responsible man, with a good wife and home.
All the prestige he’s built like a castle over the years was about to crumble because of an episode that could have been handled at home. He tried to think but his mind was blank, he couldn’t believe what just happened. They’ve had issues in their marriage, Oby could be untamed at times, but this was unimaginable, a woman of her standing should know and act better.
For the first time since his wedding, Udenna didn’t return home to his lovely family immediately after work. He called me for dinner, but I couldn’t because I was on a night shift; he had wanted to tell me what happened and maybe try to see if I could help him unravel the reason behind such verbal onslaught.
He called Kachi, another friend, and they both went to a restaurant and later to a bar. He didn’t tell Kachi anything aside from the fact that he was exhausted by the day’s work and wanted to cool off a bit before going home. In reality, he wanted to stay outside as late as possible to avoid a second-round at home. He turned off his phone and tried to forget the whole thing that took place.
Oby tried his line severally without success. I was busy when she called, but she was able to get through to Chisom and narrated what took place. According to her, what took place at Udenna’s office was a typical example of transferred anger.
The meeting she had before leaving her workplace took place under a tense atmosphere – it was a very bad day for her bank on Wall Street after her stock fell 40% following a news report earlier in the day. That meant that the position she was aspiring to get into was at risk. So, when she arrived at her husband’s office, she simply poured out the whole frustration on him.
When Udenna came in, everyone was in bed as he hoped. Obiageli was sleeping on the couch in the living room while the kids slept in their room. He quickly went to shower and afterwards entered one of the guest rooms to sleep.
Early in the morning he got up and prepared for work. When Oby tried to explain he quickly stopped her and left the house. He felt so wounded in his person and ego and thought of what steps to take to end this “stupidity.”
Oby was expecting him at home after work but what she received was a shocking call. Udenna hired an apartment in one of the hotels and decided that he was done with the marriage. She pleaded, wept and explained but to no avail.
Udenna wasn’t interested in any of the stories nor pleas. For him, it was over; he was filing for divorce and will wrestle legally to also maintain custody of the kids. Oby was shattered and called us for help.
After listening to her, I decided to call Udenna so we could talk things over, but he wasn’t ready to discuss this development with anyone except his lawyers. He accused me of not calling back until now after I’ve spoken with Obiageli. After much pleading, he agreed that we meet.
I arrived at his hotel apartment expecting to meet my old friend. Yes, he was angry, but I felt there was nothing we can’t talk about over a calabash of egusi soup, pounded yam and an iko (cup) of fresh mmanya ngwo (palm wine). The moment we began to talk, Udenna stunned me – he had a detailed record of all the offences of his wife. It was so detailed with dates and times that for a moment I thought I have never known this man I call a friend.
“Why would a sane person go to the extent of keeping such a detailed record of offences, especially those of his wife?” I was bewildered. I thought of raising my voice and leaving the room, but I remembered what was at stake and restrained myself. I understood his pains and the damage her wife’s action might cause to his image, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the record keeping.
After three hours of unending talk, I had to leave for work. Udenna refused to see reasons with me; he was bent on leaving the marriage. At some point, I had a conviction that he had planned all these before now waiting for a good excuse to justify his foolish decision.
We adjourned until the following day, but the outcome remained unchanged. Same were other meetings we had even until a week before their official separation.
Since their separation, we barely talked, though Chi kept close ties with the wife. So, seeing his call today was a bit heartwarming but at the same time fearful. Fearful because the approval of the divorce by the judge is one month away, but heartwarming because maybe he has changed his mind or was at least rethinking the whole process.
But I was in for another shocker: Udenna called to tell me that he’s been diagnosed with a rare brain growth, with a three-month prognosis. I was dumbfounded. I may have been mad at the treatment he meted out to his family and to mine, how he disregarded our age-long friendship and all, but all that meant absolutely nothing, less than nothing.
I couldn’t stand the thought that my old childhood/adulthood friend will be gone in 3 months except there was divine intervention. Immediately after my shift, I drove straight to his house.
Oby has since tried to move on with her life. She relocated with her kids after she lost her position in the bank she helped to build. Also, she couldn’t stand driving past her ex-husband’s office every day. When I called to tell her the latest development, she was speechless.
Six months have passed since the diagnosis, Udenna is still alive and relatively well, just episodic migraine. He’s finally reunited with Oby and the kids, and next week he’ll start an experimental therapy for the tumour. We’re very hopeful he’ll survive.
It was at this point that I heard someone calling “Chibiiii… Chibiiii… Chibuikem… Buikem… Buikem ooo…Chibi Nnem. Nnam bia nyem remutu no n’elu tebulu. Biko bia oso oso na ihe umuaka na-eme na Tivi di egwu. Uwa emebiela.” Defibrillators dey learn work for my Mama’s voice.
Me: “Nnem, nwa obere oge I’ll be married oo. Ka anyi cho maid.”
Nnem: “Nsogbu adighi. For now, no maid is needed until izi m onye owu gi na ya.”
That’s the end of the dream. If you like me to dream another fiction, tell my Mom to stop interrupting. Thank you.
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