“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here as one big family to witness the solemnization of holy matrimony between our brother, Koku Zamedo, and our sister, Linda Smith. It is a joyous occasion in the life of these brethren and the Bible admonishes us to celebrate with those who celebrate…”
Linda was excited. Her face beam as the pastor went on with his officiating duties.
“Finally, I am at the place where the savage winds of pain and suicidal thoughts cease, where no clouds of confusion can block the warmth of the evening rays from my heart. Koku is officially mine and I am his forever. I am at a place where the sun may set without fear of the darkness to come. Where my soul can whisper to yours in a language only you can truly hear. A place where togetherness and oneness with you, my beloved husband, means peace. Koku, I will love and cherish you for the rest of my life”.
Those were not her wedding vows. Or maybe, they were. Except she was not saying them to the hearing of Koku or the congregation. It was all in her head. The excitement of the day captured the better part of her mind that she alternated between her world of fantasy and the reality she was experiencing.
Koku, on the other hand, showed very little or no emotions. He facial expression could best be described as morbid. He had his bouts of rotation between the real world (his wedding) and the imaginary world. But his imaginations unlike Linda’s were not of a dreamy future. They were questions; what-ifs and what-if what-ifs.
He had done something pretty awful and guilt sat not on his chest but inside his brain. His subconscious demanded reparations. What he had done, he could not undo. The repercussions going into this marriage were dire, but confession was out of the question. The only way out for him was to run; escape this ceremony, save himself and more importantly save Linda from the shame and the pain of his actions. He had to run.
“Now, Koku, we have come to an important part of the ceremony. Listen to the questions I will ask you and respond, ‘I do’ at the end”, the pastor interrupted the guilt-ridden groom’s thoughts.
“Do you, Koku Zamedo, in the presence of God and all these witnesses give to this woman. Linda Smith, your pledge to stay by her side as her faithful husband in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, as well as through the good times and the bad? Do you promise to love her without reservation, comfort her in times of distress, encourage her to achieve all of her goals, laugh with her and cry with her, grow with her in mind and spirit, always be open and honest with her, and cherish her for as long as you both shall live?”
There were cheers in the congregation. Some of the attendees were already clapping. The question was a mere formality and everyone knew what the answer was. But after clapping for about a minute and not hearing a resounding or even shy yes from Koku, the room became dead silent.
“I’m sorry”, Koku whispered, took a step back from Linda and turned to leave.
“Koku”, she called after him.
The groom turned to look at his bride – the last sighting.
Koku sighed… Linda was still in the hospital bed. It was a dream.
“I’m glad you have finally got some sleep”, Linda smiled and reached for Koku’s hands. He stood up from the chair he had fallen asleep in and sat beside his girlfriend on the bed.
Although relieved that it was but a dream, Koku did not feel any better for the dream was a projection of reality. He had indeed done something awful and the guilt was killing him. It was like gasoline in his guts. His insides died slowly in the toxicity, needing no more than a spark to set it ablaze. The fire burnt him out so badly he felt he was nothing but a shell, an outline of a person.
He excused himself to go to the washroom.
“Koku!” The voice came from behind him in the hallway of the hospital. He turned. It was Naa. He was a mixture of shocked, confused and ashamed. Before, he could say a word, Naa embraced him tightly. His confusion heightened.
Naa’s hair reeked. Her face was pale and sickly; her eyes, drowsy. She was unkempt and she looked like she had not had a bath in days. She trembled as she held her brother-in-law tight for about two minutes.
When they finally broke the embrace…
“Naa, is everything okay? Is Edem fine? Where is he? Is it the baby?”
“No, no, no… Everything is fine. No, I don’t mean it like that. Everything is not fine. Erm… What am I even saying? I mean, your brother is fine. So is the baby”, she paused.
Koku nodded anxiously and raised an eyebrow to signal her to continue.
“It’s my cousin, Kennedy. He was involved in an accident two days ago. It was a hit and run”.
Koku’s heart skipped a beat. Naa caught him in another embrace and started sobbing. Koku allowed her to cry on his shoulders. He did not really mind because his mind wandered.
After he found out that Dr. Ntim was responsible for Linda’s predicament, Koku entered the car quietly and drove off with the older man chasing him on foot. Obviously, he could not catch up with Koku so he stopped.
Koku kept driving.
With each mileage he covered, the speed at which he drove increased. His eyes were tear-laden and he could not see well but he kept going. Then he heard a knocking sound on the bonnet of the car.
Screech! He pulled the car to a stop.
He was sure he had knocked something down but he did not look back to see what. He stepped on the gas and went away.
Could it be a coincidence? Was it a human being who crossed his car that day? What were the chances the victim of his mistake was this same cousin of Naa?
“There you are”, another voice interrupted Koku’s thought.
Naa disentangled herself from Koku. “This is my aunt, Maa Maggie. She’s Kenny’s mother. Maa Maggie, this is Edem’s brother”.
“Have my condolences, Maa Maggie. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss”, Koku stretched his towards the woman.
“Oh, my baby did not die. He’s currently undergoing surgery. That’s why we are waiting.”
Koku was relieved! “Thank God”, he muttered.
“God will punish whomever did this to my son. The person will suffer on this earth”, Maa Maggie turned to leave. Naa followed her aunt.
Koku headed for the entrance of the hospital. He needed some air. At this point, the guilt was ice in his guts. It was about twenty-eight degrees in the hot harmattan afternoon but Koku was frozen on the inside.
“Damn it!”, he cursed as he bumped into someone at the entrance.
“Koku!” It was Edem.
The brothers who were shocked to see each other stared at themselves for about a minute and then went into a brief embrace.
“I just met Naa. She’s told me what had happened. I am so sorry. It’s sad what happened to the boy”.
“Hmmm… It’s very sad. As for the irresponsible driver who did this, we shall sure catch him. I am just coming from the police station with Kennedy’s father. We went with an eye-witness who says he could identify the car. He says the car was a black Hyundai Elantra”.
Koku started trembling but his brother did not notice.
“There, there comes Kenny’s father. You might even know him. He was a parliamentary candidate for the National Democratic Congress in last year’s election”.
Koku lifted his head to look in the direction Edem pointed at. He couldn’t believe his eyes.