Superficial Cleanliness

I was given a pep talk by Baba on Monday and it made me dig through my ideas bank for plans I'd put on the back burner. In the archive, I found this email I sent to my dear friend, Olawunmi Awosedo:

Date and time: 29-Mar-2006 13:24
Subject: superficial cleanliness

Jide (Alakija) sent me a picture and wanted me to write something to it. With all the dark shadows around the pictures, I wrote Superficial Cleanliness yesterday (see attached). I kinda went on a not so happy tangent because the image he sent had a lot of shadows in the background and the sweeper hurriedly doing his last minute task had me think of the other side of weddings, the part people don't talk about. Like when people sit at church and pray no one stands up to object to the wedding when the priest asks.

Anyway, there you have it.


Wedding bands, boleros, scrap paper with last minute personalised vows scribbled on Church trains, confetti, balloons, all that is left behind, I sweep.

They walk in here, eyes filled with promise, feet heavy with responsibility and their hearts, carrying the future. Regardless the wedding vows, it’s all the same thing. They come, they go, I, the church aid sweep observantly on.

The white gown pregnant with this year’s news, families swell with relief, each praying that God joins them, hoping no man enters within to put things asunder.

Head gears bigger than my village tax, walking sticks holding up inflated egos, sycophantic family members running around in the name of the family.

Everybody is happy and happiness as we know, always forget what loneliness remembers. So we forget almost arrogantly how this man and woman got here.

The broken hearts, miscarriages, heart breaks, one night stands and self sacrifice that lead to this day. No one spares a thought for the girl in the middle pew neither friend of the bride nor the groom. She’s just there to witness the closure of a chapter that she’d nursed as her future from the day he first said hello.

Nobody notices the man in the corner who grew up watching her wrap love- in-Tokyo beads around her pony tail, watched her hula hoop her way through the play ground in her Bata shoes and white laced up ankle socks. He watched her grow through her first pimple, helped her buy alagbin through her first period cramp. He has come into his own now but without her.

This should have been their day.

In our joy, we ignore the passing glances between bride and best man, their sudden hushed silence as daddy hands the bride over to the groom, her new owner. We congratulate the occasion, the trophy is now to switch shelves and reside under a different name.

Happy days come and go, I sweep on.

Years into the union, long after this threshold was first crossed and binding promises made, commemorated with melt down & remodelled elements; I sweep on.

The igbale shifts stories, frowns, tears and arched eyebrows under a hill that used to be a beautiful flat rug.

Should you follow the trail that leads to the hill, it will take you to the land of Forgetfulness and Things-left-unsaid. Beyond a path in the valley of “Could-have-been” with resident “should-have-been” spouses, a boomerang away from that junction rests secrets that lay the foundation to many homes.

As events pass, naming ceremonies, christenings and graduations will come and go but I’m always here, maintaining the pious look of the holy ground. For if it looks good on the outside, surely it’s perfect on the inside? Be it weddings, church openings, baptisms, we are all still trying to disguise the ugliness inside.