THE WHITE MAN'S GRAVEYARDchapter 20 (2)
In a small office they stood inside the door before a big man in traditional dress. He finally looked up from the papers he looked busy at and Bukar spoke to him in Hausa.
He stared at them. "Sit down," the judge said.
They gingerly made their way from the door. He knew they had to show respect for him. It was the only way.
"You want to get married?" he said.
"Yes," he answered.
"What are you doing here?"
"We are both teachers."
"Ah, Ngami. And what country are you from?"
"Madam is from Gabon. I am from Canada."
He glanced at the papers on the desk. One letterhead was from the Peace Corps. If another expatriate had gotten in trouble or caused a problem...
"It is on the application forms, sir."
The judge spoke with authority to Bukar in Hausa. Bukar handed their application forms over.
"Did you bring the witnesses?"
"The witnesses. You know we speak English here. Where are the witnesses?"
"Bukar did not inform me of the witnesses."
"One for each. Come back when you bring them. You may go."
They got up. He cornered Bukar in the hallway. "You didn't say anything about witnesses."
Bukar did not answer. He was angry now.
"You should have said that." They left. There was nothing they could do.
"We'll bring witnesses," she said. "Mercedes will come. You can get Steve."
They walked out of the offices then. It meant another trip back. "It should have been all arranged," he said.
The next Friday, no one could come. The Friday after, he sent a driver to get Steve, who almost backed out.
"Look, you said you'd go, now this is the day, you have to go." Steve finally agreed. Alex was in a corner. He wasn't going to take Steve's irresponsibility this time.
"O.K., but Grace will come with me. She wants to visit her brother." Steve had met Grace, a student at the TC, last time he was up.
"I'll get Falmata to pick her up, get her out of the hostel."
"O.K. I'll meet you at the railway."
The things he did for Steve! Now he had to get Falmata to wait for Grace after bed check and have her duck down in the car going out of the Women's Teachers College so the m'guardie wouldn't see them. Steve shouldn't even be going out with her. It was crazy. She was a student at the school. It was not good public relations in the town to be seeing students. Alex continually had to cover up for Steve. Now Grace would be out for the weekend. They could be kicked out for that if the principal found out.
But they pulled it off. Falmata brought her out in the car. Steve would be a witness but Alex had to pay for Grace's ticket also. She got on the train and joined them in the first class compartment later on. Alex was nervous. In the morning, Grace got off the train by herself to visit her brother. They got a taxi to the municipal offices.
The four of them sat in front of the judge now.
"Have they filled in all the forms?" he asked Bukar.
"Then what is this? Who are these people?"
"They are the witnesses, sir," he said humbly.
"How long have you known them?"
"I've known Falmata over two years," Mercedes said. "We teach at the same school."
"And what of you?" the judge was intimidating.
"We came together," Steve said, "six, almost seven years ago." The judge scowled.
"But we knew each other before we came," he added. It was a small lie. He and Steve had shared the hotel room at the orientation seminar for two days before they flew over.
"I need the family. This is no good. There was a British man here who was already married and married someone else and he still had a family in his country. I will not have it."
There was a sense of defeat. He'd made his mind up. "But our families cannot come, sir," Alex said.
"Then bring letters of permission, especially from the girl`s parents. I cannot permit this. Come back when you have them."
"We can get them," Alex replied dejectedly. "But the witnesses, it is difficult for them to come again because of the school schedule."
"Is this true?" he looked at Steve.
"Yes, sir. I'm in Biu.It's hard to get away from the school."
"Have the witnesses sign the form then. If you bring the papers I will marry you, but only then."
The witnesses signed the form. It had been typed in and dated February 2nd.
"You may go," the judge said.
They all left. Bukar stopped them at the door.
"The fee," he said. "For the service."
"I said you'd get the rest when the marriage takes place," Alex spat back.
They left the building.
"At least the witnessing is done," Falmata said.
"I don't think he'll do it. Maybe they just wanted more cash."
"It was because that man, the southerner was there. He wanted to impress him," Mercedes said.
"So what are we going to do?"
"Bring the papers. We'll get the letters."
"How long will that take? You have to get your father's permission. You don't even know where he lives now, unless your mother can get it. She must know where he is."
She laughed. "My brother is there. He will write the letter."
It was true. He hadn't thought of that. Anyone could sign the letter. They wouldn't know.
"Better write for it when we get back. It will take a month for that anyway."
"I'll get it," she said.
"I don't believe it! This is the third time I've come here."
"And once more," Steve said, "at least."