I was twenty-three years old, and in the bright light of my youth when I said yes to Jude. He wasn’t a stranger to me. He wasn’t someone who walked up to me one day and said, “Hey Angel, you’re my taste and want to be with you,” No. He was someone I knew right from the start. When I was in class six, he was in Junior high school second year. We were in the same school. When I went to University, he was in the third year. He read political science and I read political science too. When I completed university, I did my national service where he was working.
The universe had a way of pushing each of us into each other’s way at every stage of our lives. So when the day came and he proposed, I said yes. I said yes because I believed it was God’s design for us to be together. Meeting each other at every bend of our lives had only one meaning; so we could end up together forever. When you’re in love, you can put two and two together to make it five. The world may disagree but that wouldn’t stop you from saying two and two is equal to five. After all, what matters in love is what you say and not what others believe.
Two years later, Jude had the opportunity to travel abroad. I remember that night when he ran to me with the news. I was about to eat something but I stopped and listened to him. The glee on his face said it all. He wrapped me up in his embrace and said, “We don’t deserve to be here and God knows it, that is why he had thrown this opportunity our way. I will go out there and work from dusk till dawn. Life will be better for me in no time and then I will run back to you, get married so where I live, you too may live.”
My heart was already full of desires. I could see myself in the winter coat on the street of Alabama pushing my baby’s stroller with Jude by my side. What dreams may become?
The opportunity was there for Jude to go abroad but the finances weren’t there. It became very hard for him to raise the money for his travel expenses. A widow’s mite is not frowned upon in situations like this so that day, I went to the bank and withdrew all I had and placed it in the hands of my future king and love. He said, “Thank you so much Angel. It’s only in hardship that you see those who truly love you. I won’t forget this kindness.”
The night before he travels felt like someone’s funeral.
I cried for joy and I cried for sorrows. I was joyful because he was finally able to travel but my heart was in tatters thinking about how long it could take before I set my eyes on him. Absence makes the heart fonder. It also makes the heart bleed. He wasn’t gone but my heart was already in a very bad place.
He left and three days later I heard from him.
He spoke about the weather. He spoke about the people. He spoke about the other Ghanaians he was living with. And then he said he misses me. He told me he was going to look for a job as soon as the next day because there’s no time to waste. I told him, “I wish you well and I will be praying for you.” Indeed I prayed for him every day that God should put him in a better place so he could come for me.
He called the next day. He spoke about the weather. He spoke about the people and he spoke about how hard it was to find a job. He said, “Pray hard because the last job I interviewed for, they said they were going to call me the next day.” I said, “I’ve never ceased praying for you. God listens so be ready to have an answered prayer.”
Close to six months after he had been there, he wasn’t able to get a job. He called and he spoke about the weather. He spoke about the food and spoke about how helpful those he was living with had been to him.” I told him, “Could you please not talk about the weather the next time? Yeah, I get it that it’s cold out there so kindly skip the weather forecast next time when we talk.” He laughed and I laughed too. He said, “Thank you for making me laugh. It hasn’t been easy here.”
Fast forward to a year since he had been there. He called me one morning. He spoke about the weather. He spoke about how hard it was to wake up at dawn and go to work. He spoke about how his fingers get numb after each working shift. I told him, “You have your strength in the Lord. When I come, I will work next to you so you don’t have to do everything by yourself.”
Three years later, life was better than it used to be. He had saved enough money to move to his own place. He had found a stable job that pays well and most importantly, he had stopped talking about the weather because he had grown used to it. He said, “We need to get married as soon as possible so we can start the preparation to bring you here. I screamed with excitement, “Are you coming back?” He responded, “No I’m not coming back but we still can marry in my absence? It’s possible. My family will come and see your family, they will do everything. You’ll go to church the next day, the pastor will bless the marriage and hand over the ring to you.”
It wasn’t how I planned my wedding but it also made sense. That way, it would be easier for him to come for me. I will travel to him as his wife and things will work out easily. We even made plans to remarry in grand style as soon as I get there. The winter coat dreams started flashing my mind. This time I was standing in the snow, taking pictures, and posting on Instagram.
Upon all the initial dissent from my parents and other well-wishers, the marriage went on as planned. The room was decorated with his pictures wearing a suit. The pastor prayed, I said my vows, he preached to me, parents from both sides advised me, the pastor blessed the ring and gave it to me to wear and the whole room shouted “Dondooo!” Everything is possible when two hearts are willing. They’ll break boundaries, they will do the unthinkable just to be together. I was twenty-eight when I said my vows to the still image of my husband.
The plan was for me to be with him the following year. I couldn’t wait. I started doing my passport and kept the dreams of the winter coat alive. I had only one year to make that dream come true but when the year came, I was disappointed. He spoke of job loss and being ejected by his landlord because he had defaulted a week’s rent. I started praying for better tides in his life. Another year passed me by and I was still in Ghana. “Things are hard,” he said. “Before they’ll grant you a visa, I have to prove beyond all doubt that I’m self-sufficient and can take care of your stay here, other than that, it won’t happen.”
I kept fasting and praying for rainy days in his life.
Another year walked by me and there was no show. One day, I looked at the calendar and realized the following Tuesday was my birthday. I was going to be thirty-one. I was twenty-three years old, and in the bright light of my youth when I said yes to Jude. The embers are now dying. At the twilight of my youth, I still didn’t know where the tides were going in my life. I said to myself, “Ohemaa, you don’t have all the years ahead of you. At some point, you’ll break down and can’t go further. Do something today before you live in perpetual regret.”
Not as if I didn’t have suitors. Even when the gleam on my ring was brighter than the sun, I still had men walked up to me and say, “Could you be my girlfriend?” Yes they may be the wrong kind of men or they would have vanished if I gave them the chance but it’s always better for a man to vanish from your life than to have a man who wouldn’t go and also wouldn’t give you hope for a better tomorrow. When a man goes, another will come. When a man stays and occupies your world, there would be no space for others to take up.
When Tuesday came, I had a lot of friends wishing me the best in life. Some called and some texted. In the evening, I received a cake from a friend. The inscription was, “Happy birthday, make a wish,” but I read it this way, “Happy birthday, make a decision.” So that evening, I went to the bathroom, dipped my finger in soapy water, and removed the ring. The only thing that was making a difference in my life was that ring. It was a ring without a man. I made a decision never to wear it again. I cried for all the wasted years but I was determined to make things better.
I called Jude the next day; “Yesterday was my birthday, you didn’t say anything to me.” For the first time in many months, he spoke about the weather again; “When I came from work, the weather was so cold I couldn’t stand it, so I just pulled the duvet on my head and slept.” I laughed to myself. “The weather huh?” I told him, “I removed my ring last night and I don’t think I will wear it again. We’ll go and see your family and ask for a divorce. I’ll be free so you too can be free. No more promises from you and no more believing in promises that never work. We are over.”
I thought he didn’t see it coming so he was going to break down or get shocked but I was so wrong and I will explain.
I spoke to my parents about it and they were happy for me. That was all they wanted to hear from me but they couldn’t bring themselves to say it. They loved me too much they didn’t want to come between me and my winter coat dreams. A few weeks later, we went to see Jude’s family. We were there when his father called him. Jude said, “She’s too much in a hurry and it’s not my fault that things are going the way it is going. If she thinks she can’t wait a little bit longer, then she can go.”
Did this guy love me at all? He didn’t even try to stop me. As if he was all along waiting for me to get frustrated and leave. My mom cried that day and it broke my heart. I cried too. They did the traditions and soon we were over. Trust me, I can’t explain how I felt after that day. It was like a prisoner escaping from jail and breathing the air of freedom the first time after so many years behind bars. I could spread my hands wide and pretend they were my wings. I thought I could fly. I felt so free and so relieved.
My mom told me, “Be careful with the freedom you have now so you don’t make another mistake. You don’t have too much time to waste.” That brought me back to my senses.
Just about four months after the divorce, one of the guys Jude lived with when he first went abroad called me. I remember him very well. I spoke to him on many occasions. He was the man Jude used whenever I had a doubt about the things he was telling me. This guy will pick up the phone and tell me to be patient and trust my man because it’s not easy for him out there. That day on the phone when he called, he told me, “I learned you decided to divorce him. You made a very good decision. Jude had no intention of coming for you. He was rather waiting for you to leave the marriage. He left my place a year later to go and live with a woman he found at work. I didn’t know. He told me he was moving to his own place. Months later, he got the woman pregnant and after the woman delivered, they got married. They have two kids as we speak now.”
I thought I had moved on but that news brought me back to ground zero. It was a fresh heartbreak for me. I called Jude and asked him and all he could say was, “Does it matter any more? What do you care about a man you divorced some months ago?”
He made me feel very stupid for calling him but I didn’t retreat. I poured all the venom of the pain in me on him for wasting my years. When the insults were becoming too much for him to bear, he cut the line. Even when the line was dead, I kept screaming, “Fool, idiot, mad man like you. Why don’t you stay and talk? Idiot!” All the puff and huff amounted to nothing. The harm had already been done. I was the one who needed healing and I was the only one who could give the healing I needed.
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I opened my heart up to accept whatever may come. I made some mistakes and I learned. The day I said yes to a man, I didn’t know he was going to be the right man for me. I was only saying yes to the emptiness in me but this man came into my life and filled all the hollow cheeks in my life. Now I can look back and laugh at how stupid I was at twenty-three and why it took me eight solid years to wake up from such stupidness.
I can only be happy for the death of that twenty-three year old girl who said yes to Jude. Because out of her demise came a stronger me who wakes up every morning with a heart of gratitude and is ready to take life one day at a time.