Here in Africa, some shades of love have a peculiar meaning.
Within a tribe.
These two from Eastern Africa.
They loved each other.
Respected each other.
So they respected culture and tradition to the extent that they eschewed pre-marital sex.
On their wedding night, she was bathed and oiled. Perfumed. Dressed in a loose light white gown and led into a dimly lit room with a sumptous bed.
She lay on the bed and waited.
Allowing the sweet smelling incence dull some of her senses and heighten others.
It felt like hours as she waited but it was actually minutes.
Then he entered.
His form like a shadow.
Caught in glimpses by the searching naked fire of the scented candles.
As he walked to the bed, he took off his long white frock in one fluid movement.
He stood by the bed.
Wrinkled in places.
Greying in others.
Yet proudly erect in his massive proportions.
This old man.
She gazed at him as one gazes at the rising sun.
That rush of the feeling being alive to witness a new dawn rose triumphantly in her.
That day was the day when she stopped being a girl and became a woman.
Loved deeply by the man she chose to spend the rest of her life with and his family.
The proud oiled erection before her was a testament to the acceptance of the entirety of her by the one who sired the one she loved so deeply.
It was a validation.
An approval of her worth and her deserving of the rites of passage into womanhood.
She felt honoured.
Proud that she had kept herself long enough to be deflowered so honorably.
Like the great woman before her.
Her mother and her mother and her mother’s mother, stretching back into antiquity.
Great women of the tribe.
So she lay there quietly in respect as the old man slid into bed and joined her.
Her mother had told her.
“Relax, surrender and do as he says. He will treat you gently and lead you with skill into womanhood. Go and honour us my sweet one.”
And she did as her mother had said.
He did as her mother had said he would.
Practised, skillful and gentle.
The pain was sharp and quick.
And what followed in the moments after the burning pain had subsided was a tsunami of pleasure.
A pleasure that built to such intensity and exploded into incomprehensible ecstacy that she felt she had died.
Her body trembled from the series of earthquakes that wracked her in waves which rippled out from her loins in concentric circles until they touched each nerve in her body.
Then she fell into darkness.
A blissful nothingness.
Down and down until she rested in a void of deep satiation.
At peace with all that is in existence.
It lasted and lasted.
Then words came to her like an echo.
“Precious one, welcome to the family. We are honoured to call you our wife.”
Then she rose.
Higher and higher.
Until she created into full awareness.
She opened her eyes and beheld the face of the old man beaming at her.
That smile that told you that you are treasured. Valued enough to die for.
She smiled back.
Her mother had told her.
“Your silence on your night is part of it. Do not speak until the cock crows. For that night the voice of the child dies and in the morning the voice of the woman is born.”
He stood up from the bed and stretched out his hand to her.
She did as he said.
Stood up and followed him out of the room.
A sleek wetness and dull vibrating ache between her legs.
And they both walked naked out of the room.
Into a courtyard that was filled with people.
Waiting in apprehension.
Only the married except one.
The man she loved deeply.
It was his eyes she caught in the crowd as she stood demurely by the man who sired the man she loved.
It was a deep.
The look they shared.
Then the old man said loudly to the staring crowd.
And they broke out in cheers and applause.
She heard it from afar as she connected eye to eye with the man she loved.
He had a smile radiate from his face.
She could see the pride in his eyes.
She smiled in return.
She had done it.
She had made him proud.
She had made her family proud.
She had made herself proud.
Against all temptations, even those she met while she schooled in England, she had kept herself undefiled. Wrestled with modernity and prevailed. Stayed true to the customs of her people.
The old man now led her to man she loved so deeply and said.
“I give you our jewel to keep safe. She is not only yours but ours. Treat her like you will treat yourself, for if you do her any harm, you have done us harm and we will rise against you as though you are one who does not share the same blood with us. Love her as we love those who have sacred wombs. Love her with everything you have for your worth as a man is tied directly to her worth as woman. You stand tall together or you fall flat together. Her joy is your joy. Her sorrow is your sorrow. We no longer see you alone now we see you and her. As one. And as she has proved herself deserving of womanhood by keeping her maidenhead and finding you, so it is that you must prove yourself deserving of manhood by keeping her and making her prosper and flourish for if she ends up at any moment worse off than she is today and leaves you in sorrow to return to the home from where she came, then you have failed as a man and we will turn our face from you and see you as a stranger. Do you accept our jewel, son?”
And the man she loved with tears of deep affection in his eyes responded.
“Father, I do.”
The old man handed her to him.
And the man she loved embraced her warmly before he stared at her face as though it was the most beautiful thing in the world.
“I love you so much, my darling.”
And he kissed softly.
The crowd applauded as they watched their kiss heat up.
Then the old man.
Turned to the crowd and said.
“Now we bond as one family, united by marriage.”
And one by one each person undressed.
Until everyone was naked.
Different shapes and sizes.
And some paired, some in trios and quartets.
Both families together.
As the man she loved stripped naked and began to make love to her, so did everybody make love to everybody.
Like their forebears had done.
Uniting families through marriage.
Joined for a common purpose.
Ready to live and die for one another.
Strangers morphing into relatives, that the tribe be even tighter and stronger.
These people who made love as a rite of passage.
These people who all moaned and moaned through the night.
Some screamed as orifices and turmesence merged and unmerged until the dawn broke.
And in the sleepy exhaustion of the waking morning, she looked with profound affection at the face of the man she loved.
It was silent.
Her fingers traced his stately clean shaven jawline as she reminiesced about their journey, from the classroom at Cambridge university where they had first met, the dinner where they had found out they were of the same tribe, the long walks were they had shared their determination of staying true to their culture, and the holiday at Arusha where he had proposed to her under the rising sun.