He that loveth not knoweth not God for God is love (1 John 4:8)
The pastor gestured and demonstrated every point of his topic “Love your neighbour”, driving home his points in the loud and sharp sermon voice and little wonder was it that no one, either didn’t have the gut to sleep or the sermon was just sleep depriving. I jotted points and listened with rapt attention as was my attitude in church since I couldn’t just imagine sleeping when someone was talking to me
personally. Truth is, the reason why people sleep in church is “Exclusion”. They set their minds to being locked out of the set of people being spoken to and their body responds to the resulting boredom by playing with their eyelids.
“Let someone open to the book of first John chapter three verse eighteen”. A lot of bible pages flipped in response to the pastor’s call. A lady from the choir shouted, meaning she was the first to get there and a sign for other bible scramblers to back off. “My little children…” she continued in her ear piercing voice as she spat the words into the microphone “…let us love not in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth”.
I resumed my jotting as the pastor continued on how the world would be a better place if we all were to see ourselves as family. The intriguing thing about the sermon was the silk and perfect way he adequately didn’t approach the sermon from a religious doorway. I applauded him in my mind cos the argument some would put up when you bring up such issue is to tell you why christians are the perfect lovers and within a short period of time, overturn the whole discussion to a religious debate.
“…Imagine a suicide bomber who has been promised a lump sum of money to be given to his family after carrying out his assignment”. The pastor paused for a moment to wipe sweat off his face.
“Quickly, I’ll like to tell you how wrong you are if you believe bombings and killings all around are tagged to a particular religious group. You’re dead wrong. That aside, if the man for a minute before he presses that red button that would terminate his life and that of many innocent others takes a look around and sees every innocent person, moving around without the knowledge of what’s about to happen as members of his extended family and would love them the way he loves the ones he believes he’s dying for, he might change his mind to live and let live”. The pastor continued, talked about families. The way the husband and wife loved each other during courtship and the first few years of marriage before gradually, unnoticeable changes start to creep in. “That’s why you see some couples divorcing after 25, 30 years of wedlock and you’ll be like ‘how come?’. The divorce started some ten years before that day of official announcement. Its just an accumulative effect that got to a stage of the last straw breaking the camels back”.
He completed the terrific sermon with Mark chapter twelve verse thirty-one. Read by the same screaming choir lady. “…And the second is like, namely this, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than this”.
At the end of the sermon I realized the topic ‘Love your neighbour’ was the one I jotted most in any church service. It was more of a lecture than a sermon and I think we would have less Jonahs and sleeping beauties in the church if pastors went for sermon lessons or something. Whatever would make you effortlessly carry people along and hit them like it was a one-on-one conversation. Regardless of how fruity and awkward it sounds, I was blessed.
A shrill voice called out as I made my way towards where I had my car parked. I turned around sharply, a bit shocked cos I was like a ghost member in this church. Quietly come in for service on Sundays, quietly go back home. Midweek wasn’t my thing and thank God I wasn’t even going to be home by the 5pm-7pm service time so I had the perfect alibi. Doc FM had gone as far a branding me the “Ninja Member”. Its a thing of joy we didn’t attend the same church.
“Jay!… Oh my gosh!”
I frowned and squinted a little as the lady approached me, she wore a black hat on a wine coloured nicely cut skin tight gown and a small black jacket on it. She clutched a very fine brown leather bag in her left hand and waved with her right. Slim, tall, and must be in her mid twenties. The shade the hat casted on her face made it a more tedious task recognizing who it was.
I tilted my head a little to the right. Still no result – I began to feel uncomfortable.
She kept coming closer and closer and before I could say “Jesus” she jumped on me and gave me a very tight hug. I let out a very confused smile as I thought to myself “Who could this be?”. The hug lasted around ten very long seconds and I wished to God it wasn’t someone I had buried in the grave of my past… I know even God has a sense of humor.
“Long time” she said when she finally got kind enough to let go and allow me breathe.
“Longest time” I replied with a fake smile, still trying to figure the face out. I wish I could just flip up the hat but that wouldn’t be gentlemanly.
“How have you been? How is life treating you? Is this your church? This was my church before I traveled and I came back last week”
As she rushed through her numerous questions, my brain’s scanner was flipping through faces and I almost slapped myself when I realized who was standing right in front of me. KATE!
How did she change this much that I had to go through all this homework to recognize her? Isn’t this the same girl I avoided throughout my pre university and university days? The same girl who didn’t care whether I had someone I was dating or not… She categorically asked me once if she could be my side chick. I laughed at the joke but what made me laugh was the fact that she was serious. This was the Kate who from Titi’s friend became her rival and engaged her in a battle she was sure to lose. The Kate who paid a friend to talk to me and persuade me to date her. The girl I almost dated out of pity and sympathy. The person behind some threat messages that brought out the scared side of Titi before her cover blew. Kate or “Jealous K” as we referred to her amongst ourselves back then was the girl I avoided more than I would have done to a person I was owing. She was the one who would do anything to call me hers. Even go as far as pretending to be sick and the taking my act of good will as an opportunity to yank off her dress, leaving her with her briefs. It took the grace of God to escape that black hole. I never told Titi about it but anytime I remember the scenario, I always picture myself as Joseph, fleeing Portiphar’s wife and imaginarily pat myself on the back. Not many people have the gift of self control.
Kate!… The girl who it took two nasty slaps from Titi for her to desist from her sneaky and creepy obsessive attitude towards me. “Jealous K”.
What happened to her? We all wondered cos after her burst up with Titi, we just didn’t see or hear about her again; like she just vanished and we gave Titi the medal of “The Protector”.
So she didn’t desist because of Titi’s slaps; she actually traveled out of the country.
I jerked out of memory lane and met her gaze. She has really physically changed.
“Yea… I almost didn’t recognize you. What were they feeding you at…”
“… University of California?”
“Oh?… I thought you went to the UK.”
“Nah!… Too mainstream. That’s another Nigeria. Just the updated version.”
“I see” I said, widening my eyes for emphasis.
“You stay around here?”
“Not quite. I… You?” I just didn’t want to disclose where I stay until I’m sure of the kind of person she is now. One thing I know for sure is: She would be better or worse.
“Yea… Not really. Not too far if you’re driving. I stay at King’s View estate, Block 17, flat 2… I stay alone; you know my parents are out of the country and are settling in the U.S. Would you like to know the place?”
She asked in the same American accent she had been using to hold this conversation right from the very beginning. Girls who travel out and their quick accent acquisition skills… Whew!.. And why did she just tell me she stays alone? I thought.
“Humhh… Yea sure… That will be totally cool but not today. Sometimes this month, I’ll just scrap a day’s schedule to hang out in your place”. I replied, scratching the back of my neck.
“Aiit. I’m gonna have to go. Got a few peeps to visit and deliver their goods. It was really nice seeing you Jay. Sorry to say this but I did miss you”
“And why is it sorry to say” I asked as I let out a little laugh
“I’ve not forgotten the lessons I was taught. You remember. Yea?”
I coughed and cleared my throat.
As she made to leave, I pulled her hand drew her closer to me, almost chest-to-chest, looked into her eyes for a few seconds and whispered theatrically:
“How do I find you if I don’t have your number?”
“Uhmm… Wow!… Pardon me. I… Uhmm… Almost forgot that”. She replied as the pitch of her voice danced to the rhythm of instability. “Here”. She said, stretching her iphone 5c to me. “Punch in your digits”.
“Here. Punch in your digits” I mimicked as I stretched my S4 to her. I can’t be intimidated.
Her laugh though. Did she go for laughing lessons cos there’s something that made me steal looks at her anytime she laughed. Her laugh looked and sounded very professional like they were practiced.
“Sister Kate!” Someone shouted from the other wing of the auditorium and we both turned. WHAT?!… It was still the same choir lady who read all the bible passages and spat them into the microphone. What’s with this lady and noise?!
“Welcome oh!. Are you going now? Maybe you can drop me off at our junction”
“Yes ma’am. I’ll be with you in just a minute” Kate replied, pulling her car keys from her hand bag. “I better get going before those expecting me starts their battery draining mission”.
“Is that… your car?” I asked pointing to the white BMW X6 hunch back parked on the other side of the parking lot.
“Yes sir” she smiled.
I felt like folding my car in my pockets and just take a walk home. Finally, I was intimidated. Urrgh!… That feeling.
She threw her phone in her bag and hurriedly made her way to where her car was.
“I hope we can hang out one of these days and my regards to Titi”. She said, without looking back. She started her car, stopped to pick the shouting lady and zoomed off.
I stood on that spot for about half a minute, allowing my thoughts to sway back and forth like a pendulum bulb.
Slowly I rounded my car and shut the door. Just as I was about to start the engine, my phone rang.
“Hi Jay!… How was service”.
“Fine. Sermon was top notch and I caught up with an old friend. Couldn’t be any better”.
“Hope you’ve not forgotten we’re going out later today”.
“Lizzy, I’m feeling a bit tired. Can we make it some other time”.
“Aww!… Pls Jay!… Let’s make it today”.
I dropped my head on the wheel. I hate when Lizzy uses her voice as a weapon.
“Alright. Alright. I’ll pick you up around 4pm. Capiché?”.
“Understood. Thanks boo”.
“That’s true!” I thought to myself. “I haven’t heard from Dave, which was kind of strange. Yesterday was the D-Day he had picked to break the news to Titi and on a very good day, he would’ve told me how it went. Maybe they both had resolved to keep everyone out of their business, which would be the best decision and the greatest relief for me. Or did something go wrong?”
I drove unusually slowly for some reason I couldn’t really lay hands upon. Then this red light staring at me for like forever made matters worse. I wonder who invented traffic lights. There was no car in sight and it looked annoyingly mischievous. Like the machine was savoring each second it had to take dominion over me.
My phone beeped to the reception of a new mail.
“He’s not a bastard” I said, seeing it was from Dave but the title certainly toyed with my curiosity.
It read “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS JAY”
Mature Minds Talk.
THE EX FACTOR is a weekly publication from the MMT JOURNALS. Scheduled for publishing every Saturday by 9pm.
Follow, Comment, and invite your reader friends too. Thank you.