The Man who could not Love

I met her, or rather, she met me at my nephew’s wedding. I swear you couldn’t miss her even if you tried. She was as tall as I was, around the 6-foot mark but something about the aura she radiated, the way her hard eyes didn’t quite match her face, or her age, it bothered me. But she stood by me then as we watched the young couple dance as people sprayed money on them.

“It’s nice, no?” She said, not looking at me but I could tell she was talking to me regardless. Her accent sounded strange: Nigerian…but not quite. Like she had travelled a lot and had carried the remnants of all those languages inside her.

I shrugged. “It’s okay sha, I guess.”

She gave me a look. “You’re not a fan?”

I scoffed. “Love is a waste of time,” I said. “It’s just a fairy tale we tell ourselves so we can feel better, like Santa Claus or God. Nobody can feel that way about you, and vice versa. Love is just a lie — a lie you could do without, mind you.”

She turned to face me properly now. “Hmm,” she said, in a clipped tone. “You really think so?”

I laughed. “I do. Just like yesterday, my nephew was chewing on his hands and now he’s promising somebody’s daughter a ‘till death do us part,” it’s all nonsense. All of it, just nonsense”

The woman cocked her head and smiled a smile that made everything in the room fall away. The laughs, the cheers, the music, everything faded away, and not in the good lovey dovey way which I detest. This was more like how a hurricane diverted your attention; you could sense the danger coming. “How about we make a deal?” She said.

“What deal?” I asked.

She brought out her hands. They were calloused, strong. “If you can survive a whole lifetime without love for another, I will grant you a thousand wishes, and one.”

I looked at her and then her hands, and then I smiled. The woman was probably crazy, but what harm could it do? “Okay,” I said, “you have a deal.” And I shook her hand.

Blue sparks flew from her eyes and her hands and I felt something change in me, I swear I did, and just as soon as it began, it was over. I turned to my big-headed nephew slow dancing with his bride. “…He looks happy, though, doesn’t he?” I turned to the woman, but she was gone.

That was six years ago.

And every day since then had been a new kind of hell.

I was successful, that was never up for debate, I rose through ranks in the fastest unprecedented way possible. Then I became the regional manager and I was earning millions upon millions every month. I bought a new house in Lekki, bought a Lamborghini or two, then I topped it off with some Bentley’s.

But something was missing.

Every relationship I ever entered failed disastrously. Anna said that she didn’t like the house, that it was too big, too dominating. Amaka disappointed me after she didn’t even show up for our second date. No text, no nothing. Then, I tried with Obi, but the spark just wasn’t there. Then I said I’d settle for a pet, but the dogs shied away from me, the cats purred angrily, the birds flew away.

I had a big house, the best cars, all the money I could want, anyone could want, but I was miserable. There was something missing in my soul, and I could feel the rest of it thrashing and weaning against the gap.

I felt empty…but not quite.

Then, I remembered that woman, and I knew I had to find her. She did this to me, and only she could undo it.

I called up all my commissioner connections, I spoke to everyone I could, I went to the underground and back. It would take some time, they told me, but I didn’t care. What was important was that I found her, what was important was that I saw her again.

It took days, then weeks, then months, then years and by the time I found Mama D’s All-Purpose Shop on 17 Adelabu Street, I already had grey hairs.

My hands were jelly as I pushed open the door. The shop was neatly arranged with everything you could ever want on the shelves. Then she came out of the backroom and I gasped. She didn’t look different at all since when I first met her, what felt like an eternity ago.

“Chichi!” She called behind her. “Don’t forget to close the containers tightly.”

I fell on my knees, tears falling from my face. “Please,” I begged. “Please. Take this curse off me, I can’t take it again, it’s been too much. Everybody I try to get close to, they leave.” I looked up at her. “Do you know how that feels? To have people come and go out of your life like water? Please, I’m sorry, you won. Just take it off. Please.”

The woman looked at me for a long moment then she moved forward until she was above me, staring down. Her eyes were stone. Then, she spoke.

“I didn’t place a curse on you,” she said. “I haven’t cursed anyone in decades — not since Abacha. Go home, stop being a bastard, then the people will stay. Promise.”

And then, she turned and left.

You can read the Witches of Auchi here-

Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.

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