By Tosin Otitoju
By Tosin Otitoju
Tradition holds that newlyweds would spend thirty days away from their friends, family - their routines. The period is spent visiting sites of history and culture. As the new couple soared together, gliding among monuments, they would learn about love and permanent marriage. This obligation is so sacred that every newly-married couple in the land is given leave from work to enable it.
Per and Flooy are a newly married couple on their honeymoon.
On the wedding afternoon, the friends of Per and Flooy dutifully escorted both to the town square after work. Weddings were conducted outdoors in a green patch surrounded by tall, important buildings and dense, colourful traffic. One by one, the couples came in focus of a camera to declare verbally that they were new spouses. After every three declarations, an intern rang a small, shrill bell; this constituted the wedding proper. The whole show was typically broadcast on screens above the roads throughout the town.
Per and Flooy declared just after the bell, adding that “permanent love and marriage” would be their goal. They waited for the next two couples, and then the solemnization by the bell, before kissing and then skipping off to join their friends.
Among their crowd were their cousins who handed Flooy tickets to see the ancient town of Jerusalem. Their workmates gave them a very classic trip – up the Nile to Sudan to see the oldest human skeleton. Their uncles and aunts had collected enough to present them with a fifty-meal dining card, so that they could enjoy fantastic dinners on the honeymoon.
The couple glowed and hugged thanks throughout their company, while everyone tingled with excitement about the parents’ gift.
As you already guessed, the parents of both newlyweds were expected to come together to pick out the most fantastic tours of their children’s honeymoon. Per and Flooy soon found out that it would be “The Seven Ancient Wonders.” Flooy had been hoping for the moon, not the kitsch Seven Wonders tour. Her in-laws could afford it, and she was certain her own parents knew it was the most desired honeymoon gift of the decade.
Soon, the guests left the couple alone with the clerks who led the couple to a newlywed hotel. Here they ate marvelously, slept luxuriously, and in-between these they spent hours holding hands and talking dreamily about all the trips they would soon make.
Two days later, it was time to begin touring.
The morning was glorious, with the sun’s rays bursting into their room, signaling time for breakfast. They had a jam and marmalade feast that was laid out with twenty cubes of exotic breads, all different, all appetizing.
Breakfast in bed was followed by a nap. Then they bathed and dressed for their trip. Flooy chose a dress in ivory printed with tiny begonias, while Per wore a youthful teal-and-khaki ensemble. They decided to get some exercise, so instead of calling for a vehicle, both strapped on their streamliners and soared out of the hotel window.
They traveled for a number of hours in the direction of the mountains, and soon were present among the ruins of the old city of Jerusalem, making small spirals on the rough ground in an attempt to brake their flying.
Their seventieth hour as a couple found them in the vast courtyard of the mosque, where beggars used to crowd in wait for the alms of the faithful. In those days, hundreds of years back, after Friday worship, the mostly wealthy pilgrims would drop their zakat, their alms, with the men who lived in the streets or the poor shanties of town and made their living on the mosque grounds. Now, the courtyard was the starting point for tours of the mosque.
A guide led the tourists to another area, a confection of small, hexagonal tiles said to have been once covered in shoes of every tribe and type. The guide showed them moving pictures of the same room over the centuries until the time of the Great Quake that sunk Jerusalem.
From the shoe room, they entered a grand room in which the faithful had prayed on thousands of mats facing Makkah in the south. On the screen, the patchwork of colourful carpets looked like a most elegant velvet quilt.
The building used to have five minarets, but three were now broken and hadn’t yet been restored. The central dome that roofed the praying area glistened with a gold that recalled similar domed houses of Australia and Antarctica. Mohammedans could be found in both countries, hence the architecture in parts of these islands used gold, and domes, and minarets, and even retained the use of a star in a crescent moon perched atop the highest reaches of the building.
Mohammedans were few anywhere outside these two places, the movies explained. The people of Mohammed believed that a man would find at most four permanent loves in his lifetime. Since they also believed that marriage could only take place between a man and a woman, and each woman of course could only marry one man, it was usually the case that all the desirable women were already married. Mohammedans often took wives from among the wider communities of non-believing women, and this helped remedy the imbalance in their spousal pools.
Per and Flooy were flying hand-in-hand as they passed over the tall birch trees that separated the mosque from an ancient mud wall into which the Jews had wailed their prayers for a thousand years. The tradition held that the Father of the Jews lived in the wall. Hence, the faithful took off their sandals and donned black robes over their street clothes before proceeding to whisper into the wall, in deep conversation and prayer which caused them to rock back and forth. Sometimes, if they didn’t feel like talking, they squeezed a letter in one of the many gaps in the wall.
The tour guide at the synagogue explained chattily that Jews busied themselves with two things: successful careers, and preparation for the coming of the son of God. One percent of the world was Jewish, more than the Catholican population of the day, the guide said.
The Jews didn’t believe in flying. They couldn’t shave their heads, eat meat, or gather with non-family members after sunset. These practices made them stand out in the world since bald heads were on every model in every magazine, most meals contained meat, and most parties or socials took place at night. In those days too, young people liked to spend their free time flitting around in the air, as it was a fun and inexpensive mode of transport.
Per had no sympathy for the superstition of this people, but he envied their dedication to work and vocation. Neither he nor his wife was superstitious. What sense was it, they thought, to revert to the thought patterns of millennia past, days so clearly inferior in quality-of-life to the present? In distant history, hunger had caused people to see monsters in benign shadows, while delirium made them merge physics and god; disease was always the result of jealousy backed with anti-god powers.
Yet Per’s wife had idols of a sort; idols in the here and now – her friends, her sisters, and their total acceptance meant as much to her as the thunder god or moon goddess might have meant to her early ancestors.
The sun had been one of the most worshipped gods in this land. Now, the cross held dominance. The sun was getting low in the sky now, and the couple determined to visit another monument before retiring to their hotel room. They traversed the cobblestone on the west side of the synagogue and found a short bridge where the gentle breeze loosened bright red flowers from the trees above, causing a shower of sorts. They walked on, hand-in-hand, in the direction of the former Catholican shrine that also lay in the valley of the ruins.
Per knew Flooy’s superstition about conformity. This was why he was careful to learn about fashion; perhaps she would never leave him, but only if he behaved according to convention at all times.
He hoped this would be enough.
He hoped he would be enough.
He glanced over at her, the most beautiful thing he knew in the world, his lily flower, his new bride. He watched her bald head and auburn eyebrows. Yes, he would do anything to see her face every morning. He smiled thinking the way her eyebrows crinkled then arched animatedly when she talked. He remembered the way she looked when she first undressed and thought grimly that he, for his part, would never leave her.
At the moment the couple arrived at the crosses that marked the shrine and cemetery, their thoughts - at that moment - ran perpendicularly. Flooy suspected this, Per did not. As Flooy Lily Wura’s brilliant red-lashed eyes focused, first on her husband, then on the statues of a Catholican married couple – a man in black tuxedo and his bride in head-to-toe white, with a silver heart behind them and a brown cross before them, as Flooy took in this picture of splendidly correct marriage, she smiled to think how nice the next ten years would be with a good man like Per by her side. She saw visions of babies and trips. Youthful sex. Afternoons comparing notes with her sisters on aforementioned babies and trips and sex.
While the shrine and cemetery had served for fifteen decades, her youth would last for fifteen years at most. With Per, her adorable first husband, she was determined to spend ten of them, and then retire like was the fashion, until she made a mid-life marriage.
Why then did she, just three days ago in the center of the town, swear to love him forever?
Because, silly you, romantic weddings all have the forever clause.