For a Friend indeed & those longing, patiently waiting.
There’s this colleague who’s been flirting with me for like ever. So, after yet another dashed hope, I got to work, and found myself reciprocating his flirtations. Then a week later we went on a date. That night, after the food and talks, and the silent drive back home, I prayed isha in my white Malaysian hijab, and sat on the mat for a while, doing my evening adhkar, and then read a few lines from the Qur’an App on my phone. Then I started crying. I just went out with a man I have nothing tangible in common with, and I was even contemplating…
Airports are busy during this time of the year, and Sydney’s Kingford Smith is no different. Thanks to my frequent flying, I’m a Gold star member of the flight company I’m taking, and so, the rush and long lines have nothing on me. I board the flight today, a Thursday, heading home to my wife, Ajike, in Wellington, New Zealand for the long weekend. I’d like to say to my family. We’ve been trying and trying. I sense Ajike is getting anxious. Sometimes making love seems like a chore. But I’m hopeful.
When I get to Wellington, Ajike is there, just outside, by the curb-pickup lane in her new car, a white Mercedez Benz. I get in and we do a quick kiss on the lips and a rushed “salaam.” She pulls the car into the traffic, and as we drive on the streets of Wellington, I think of my life trajectory from the slums of Lagos Island, to now working as a consulting psychiatrist at the emergency department of several county hospitals in Sydney alongside my private practice, and mutter alhamdulillah. Ajike hears.
“Why are you saying Alhamdulillah?”
“Just thinking of my life trajectories and some amazing decisions God has helped me make.”
“Hmnnn. Decisions. Like?”
Of course, I know just the right thing to say. “Like marrying you.”
She blushes. And this blushing beautiful face reminds me of the day, two years ago, when she called me, hyperventilating, saying she’s tired. And we talked and talked. It reminds me of how different Ajike is now, compared to two years ago. A successful corporate lawyer who had risen and made partner at just thirty-two. She’d divorced the man she married in Casablanca at the age of twenty while studying Islam there. We had become friends over the years through our mutual interest in poetry. I know, a lawyer with love for poetry. We met a spoken words event about 8 years ago in Sydney. We’ll edit each other poems, and from there, we became each other’s sounding boards.
Ajike pulls over in front of her clinic. We go in together. At Dr. Stathas office, comes the news we have been expecting for the last two years. We’re pregnant! Well, Ajike is. I’m just that excited. You know when you’re so happy that you can’t scream out and jump? That’s what happens. As I make prostration of thankfulness to God, Ajike is there, on her seat, tears falling from her eyes. I hold her hands and squeeze them with so much love.
We got to her condo in downtown around 7pm and prayed Maghrib. I had texted the family – wife and children – in Sydney that I arrived at Wellington well in the car. So, as I made to call home, calculating that Fadeke’s 12-hour shift, typical of Nurse Practitioners, at the OBGYN floor of King’s Hospital will be over by then, Ajike says we should do video-call instead so we can share the news together with Fadeke. The happiness upon hearing the news from Fadeke’s face is heart-melting. Like Ajike, she shed tears of joy. So many Ma shaa Allahs, and I’m so happy for you, Ajike.
And they monopolize the video-call, kicking me off it, planning the coming trimesters, traveling, when to take off work, when to come down to Sydney and all…
Later that night, after passionate lovemaking spiced with tenderness, I take a bath and stand up in night prayers. Ajike sleeping so calmly like a baby, I recite quietly ayahs from Surah Yusuf, then during sujood pray for God’s guidance on leading my families and children right. I pray for continuous tranquility. I say lots of hamd, praise, to God, for leading me to the decision I made two years ago.
I had been nervous, so nervous and concerned for the distance but more so for what people would say about marrying Ajike. I worried about what my parents siblings, close and distant relatives would say.
Fadeke has always been a gracious mind and a beautiful, selfless soul. She understood the needs and appreciated the wisdom. But like me she was nervous, worried of what her friends would think. People conflate fear for respect. Some of her friends have basked in their assumption that if their spouses fear them enough, they’ll be able to lay claim and own their spouses and dictate. Ours was different. We respected each other, communicated our deepest fears, but did not allow for fear in our relationship. Nothing is easy, except what you make easy, I confessed to my Maker, teary eyed.
I cried that night because I’m accomplished in my career and I’m practicing my faith as best as I can. I cried because I need a spouse, a man who will be responsible for and to me, and the men of my faith I meet are not ready to commit. I cried because I love children and I’m growing older, and I want to have children too. And I can’t do that by myself. I don’t want to do that by myself. I cried because I need a man’s touch, but my faith tells me for my own good that the touch of a man is not good in the ultimate sense unless it’s from a man of my faith, committed to me under the commands of my Lord. I cried because the man of my faith, my friend, who I’d love to commit to…. I cried because I feared people – my mom, my dad, and friends – would talk.
So, when I read in the Qur’an that night:… وَتَخْشَى النَّاسَ وَاللَّهُ أَحَقُّ أَنْ تَخْشَاهُ ۖ And you feared the people, but it was Allah you were supposed to fear, my mind was blown and tears fell and fell. The very next morning, I called my friend.