That Lousy Album

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The sky was dusky, covered by heaps of clouds announcing the impending stream of water about to let loose from above. Heavy wind blew over the streets of Oniyanrin forcing the palm trees behind the mosque to fan their leaves. Jamal stood in front of the mosque gazing at people returning from their workplaces. A woman in the distant yelled at her apprentice, telling her to be quick in packing up the merchandise on the counter by the road into the safety of the shop. A young boy in school uniform began to run. Why was he just going home at this time? Jamal wondered. Realizing that people might not show up for Maghreb he decided to pray alone.

Jamal, now at his house, inserted the key into the door pot only to find the door unlocked. He was perplexed. He could have sworn he locked the door behind him when he was going to mosque. He entered the sitting room, his right foot touching the green soft rug then followed by the left. “Salaam alaykum,” he greeted the unseen angels. He walked over to the fan’s switch and hung his keys beside it. He turned to the living room and his gaze fell upon the one draped in full black Hijab sitting on the sofa. Something was wrong.

Nurat’s disposition said it all. Her chin played roof while her fist acted as the pillar. She ducked her head as if thinking of the formula appropriate for a calculus problem and when she lifted her gaze to meet Jamal, the countenance staring at her husband evoked disconsolation. Jamal felt a swell in his heart. He detests seeing his spouse in such a mood.

“Darling, what’s wrong?” He asked, his left arm rounded about Nurat’s shoulder as he sat beside her. Nurat sighed. Remained in deep thought for a little more and then raised her head. A drop of tears now turned black because of kohl * rolled down her cheek. Jamal wiped her face with his hand. “Talk to me, Nurat, what’s up?”

“Jamal, do you realize we don’t have a wedding album?” She finally managed to get it out.
Jamal exhaled in relief. So all these emotions are due to the absence of a lousy album? Women! He remembered how his father used to exclaim whenever his mother or sisters manifested women’s eccentricity.

“A wedding album?”
“Yes, with photos of our nikkah.”
“I know what a wedding album means,” he said, his voice unable to curtail his disappointment. “I know that you know, you don’t have to tell me that,” fired back Nurat, her tears now dry. ‘So why did you explain to me then?’ Jamal wanted to ask, but he knew that would just keep the cycle of bickering going, and with two year experience of marital life in his resume, he knew better not to go down that road with any woman.

Faking a concerned face, in a mellow voice Jamal asked: “Darling, but how can we have an album when we didn’t take photos on our wedding day?”

Jamal was right. Both of them do not take photographs except passport photographs which are necessary for identification cards and other official forms. Two years ago when they were planning their wedding they had remonstrated with their parents over the use of cameras. The parents wanted to hire a photographer and a video cameraman but they both stood their grounds that it was their day and they should have the ultimate say on its issues. Both parties were at the end able to reach a concession: the parents held on to cameraman, and the couple dismissed the photographer. It seemed a good deal to the couple since in their view videos are not on the same scale of severity as photographs.
Earlier that day she had visited Maimunah and whilst there the latter had shown her her wedding photos. The album was artistically designed. Each photo was set in the right order, romantic and captivating captions at the ebb. She had marveled at how her friend’s lovely grin in a photograph had been brought out beautifully by the quality of the camera. “I love this photo,” she had complimented her friend. “O’ thank you, everybody likes that photo I just don’t know why.” Maimunah had shrugged.

Browsing through that album had caused a feeling of melancholy in her as she was reminded of her own memorable day. Unlike her friend who could waltz out the day again by looking at those photos, she could savor the joy of her own day again only by reframing those moments in her heart and by watching the video which they never got from their parents. Hitherto that afternoon she had had no qualms with reframing her moments of joy in her mind but now she wanted photos.

“Jamal,” she called, “promise not to laugh at me.”
“I won’t,” Jamal responded, about to burst into laughter. He knew that whenever Nurat precedes a speech by that condition, he was bound to saunter into hysterics.
“No, seriously, you have to promise.”
“Okay, ma’am. I promise I won’t laugh.”
“I went to Maimunah’s today and we had a good time. But I also looked at her wedding album and it made me feel somehow about how we don’t have one.”
“So that’s what is troubling you?”

“No not only that,” resumed Nurat. “I was looking at my newsfeed this evening and I stumbled upon a video Sister Baseerah posted. It was a video dedicated to her Nikkah anniversary. The video was so nice, ma shaa Allah. Different photos from their aqidu to the walimot, to the time they went to Obudu Cattle Ranch for honeymoon, to casual photos snapped at home. O’ it was so lovely. And if you see the quotes accompanying each slide you will just be amazed. I never knew Sister Baseerah is that romantic!”

Nurat paused and surveyed the stoic face of her husband, she detected two strand of grey hair on his beard. “I wish we could do a similar video, but you would think I’m crazy,” she concluded.

“No, absolutely not, I don’t think you’re crazy. If anything, you’re just being normal. I also get tempted upon seeing photos like that sometimes. It is just in the nature of humans to want beautiful things like that. So I really don’t see any problem in you wanting to do as your friends have done. Heck, I want to sometimes.”

“That said,” he continued, ‘’I don’t think we should start snapping photos because of that. Remember that we are promised as humans to be tested through the things we love. Obviously we love photos but we have to keep our desires in check, we can’t be playing with haram things.”

He fell silent, held Nurat’s hand and planted a kiss on it. “Forget about producing wedding albums, if you like, we can go and reproduce our wedding night in the room right now.” He tilted his head towards her and Nurat gently pressed her hands on his face, pushing him back.

“Wedding night kò, wedding morning ni. You don’t have any ironu ** other than that.’’
Nurat kissed Jamal on the cheek and rose from the couch. She blushed when her eyes met Jamal’s staring eyes. She then unzipped her overall Hijab and flung it carelessly on the chair, revealing the pink skimpy skirt and the white sleeveless blouse she wore underneath. She smiled at Jamal who now had his legs crossed. “I am starving, I need to cook,” she said walking away from the couch.

‘’I love you, sweetie.’’ Jamal proclaimed, his gaze on her as she cat walked towards the kitchen.
‘’I love you too, biscuittiee.’’

Outside, an old man walking by their apartment window heard the laughter that followed Nurat’s statement and he shook his head reminiscing his own days as a young husband. Inside the house, Jamal wished the hands of time could be put on rewind. The issue was sure to surface again.

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