Tuesday, 28 July 2009

One Man’s Mate…Another’s Lawyer!

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I am sitting in blissful enjoyment of a rare solitude in my little office, thinking elevated thoughts, thoughts that shape the destiny of a man along the golden terrains of greatness…of immortality…the sort that won’t be thrown out by any legislator…the sort that would rather inspire them to lift a plaque to the world on my memorial…with my name engraved in its eternal marble letters…
The door is pushed open before I had even taken in the fact that somebody was knocking.
It is Henry, ordinarily not the most painstaking in sartorial issues, but today he looked positively clownish in his rolled up sleeves and multi coloured waist coat, and of course the tie was inevitably askew.

‘Massai…up, quick…I need a divorce.’
‘That’s a joke?’  I know his wife Doris too well; sweeter disposition in a female never graced our world.
‘Dead serious’ and his face convinced me he was.  ‘No drink in this office as usual’ he sighed in exasperation. ‘Must you always be prim and proper?’ He went about pulling out cabinets in that absent-minded way of his. I am used to him so I do not mind at all. We had met at Law school and bonded surprisingly…
‘You must understand that this is not a result of any fault of Doris’s. She is wonderful…an angel…and that’s the problem!’
I waited.

‘See, I love her, I value what we’ve had, but she is so, so…’ He searched for a word, ‘“lukewarm”. she just takes the life out of living. I enjoy her loyalty no doubt, but I cringe at her ability to keep quiet, listen and obey. For the two odd years of our marriage, never, not once has a quarrel ever featured between us.’
‘But that’s a blessing’
‘To a lawyer? No! it’s a curse, you may not understand…but I come home everyday…quaking with the rage of another day in court gone awry…why did I not push that motion harder, …the annoying antics of the suave opposing counsel, the blubbering of some  daft client  and I walk straight into the welcoming arms of a loving wife, she asks no questions but murmurs her sympathies, and kneads my shoulders…before I know it I slumber away…and the morrow presents the same scenario…and I always lose.’

He gave me the kind of look reserved for challenged children. ‘Can’t you see it? It’s an indolent life, no brawls…no arguments…my word is law…literally. But even the law suffers revisions and amendments…mine is the law of the Austinian sovereign…she holds no opinion on any subject lest I pronounce on it…and whatever little stirrings of thought she may have on that instantly suffocates, once my own divergent view covers the field. I am stagnating, fire sharpeneth iron…I need practice, my aptitude for the profession is suffering’
‘You therefore choose your career over the peace of marriage?’
 ‘But of course! What is a man without a vocation? A mere bird of passage…Does the saying not go that every successful man has a good woman behind him…not beside him, mind you. So in my quest for success I have to leave the good Doris behind.’
I smiled…you cannot deny the fellow his wit.

A wistful look crossed his face.  ‘A sad pity that I did not end up with Betty from Law school…’
‘That termagant?’ I knew her too well…the sort you will take home only if you have sedateophobia. ‘She’s married now, isn’t she?’
‘Yes, hell of a lucky dude, her husband’
‘I will not be in a hurry to describe him so.’
‘You would not, with your Victorian outlook to life…Betty is a woman with spirit, her potentials are all awakened and her general sense of awareness accelerated.
The wistful look deepened. ‘You know, she always told me that when she was a kid, she never had female friends…played with the boys…she never owned dolls…she had a catapult…’
‘I see she has always aimed high’ I murmured.
‘Exactly! Admirably ambitious…and a toughened outlook on life, none of this irritating mushiness of so called feminine tenderness’.
‘How do you mean?’
‘In the length of our relationship, not once did I see her shed a tear…not once. A stunt she pulls off from years of practice…’
I raised my brows, questioningly ‘Strange for a lady.’
‘Yes, as a little girl, whenever she did wrong and the mother screamed at her, she never cringed…she always stared unblinkingly back…and her mother cried instead.’

‘Her father was no exception…a ‘Deeper Life’ pastor type, he could not forbid her from wearing trousers…no, not Betty…They fought and fought over it…but she won in the end.’
‘Do you know when she decided to become a lawyer? She was in primary school then, when her brother slapped her once during a fight. Fiery spirit and all, she never hit back, not a finger in revenge.
She simply retired to her room, penned down the experience and addressed it to the principal of the Secondary School where her brother had applied for a scholarship. It was a Mission school; best in those days… the rascal lost his chance.’
‘But that is mean…could she not have simply reported to their parents?’
‘That is the point, she knew they would form a biased panel…they would be judges in their own case…they needed the scholarship even more than the son. She says that was the highest point of her life…she felt a power course through her veins…she needed not to have biceps before she could hold her own among the brutes, men…she would wield a bigger weapon…the law.’

‘Did you ever tell her of yourself?’
‘No, her history was always by far more interesting…you know I’m not so good with stories, and in her charming bluntness she always teased me about that. You could see the bored irritation on her face whenever I attempted…and to pacify her I would offer to listen to hers instead. I did not mind…it was a privilege for that great woman to share her dreams and aspirations with me…’
‘And her fears, must have made you feel stronger’
‘Betty never had fears…she always laughed at mine…made me stronger, you see.’
‘Look at how successful she is in advocacy…sheer will power and drive. Bulldozing through the conventions of superiority that we men build to cover our many inadequacies…she is an Amazon that woman…an Amazon.’
 ‘Maybe, but she will calm down when the kids start coming…it softens them you know.’
‘Betty always made it clear that nothing was ever going to separate her from her career. The kids can have nannies while she works her late nights…is that not the time of day Longfellow’s great people achieved their flight to the top?’
‘Why then did you break up with her if she was this perfect? You never told me’.
A look of pure agony flitted across his features… ‘It was me’. He groaned, ‘I was not man enough to measure up to her intellectual height…I got insecure and she walked.’ He looked so forlorn, I felt sorry.

‘You probably dodged a bullet my friend. the picture you painted is of an inordinately selfish woman, mean-hearted in the pursuit of her interests, vindictive, no deference whatsoever to family or marital obligations and what kind of woman finds kids unbearable?….and never keeps her mouth shut and shows no interest in the furtherance of her spouse’s career, or lacks the tact to totally ignore HIS shortcomings?…well, she has to be a lawyer!’
‘Perception, Massai, perception…in the words of Achebe, give me a child that breaks utensils in his haste any day than a clumsy piece of cold ash.’
‘Not a flattering way to describe your spouse… divorce is not a defence in defamation.’
‘Yes, but truth is.’
‘Okay…I shall file the preliminary notice.’
‘Good, I know I can always count on you, even if your ideas were always a little outmoded.’ And he headed for the door.

Wait a minute…’ I stopped him.
‘I just thought you should know. Betty’s husband was here yesterday…he wanted a divorce.'


First published in Thisday Newspapers: July 28, 2009