He relaxed in the driver’s seat as he waited for her to carry on with her shopping for a new dress. If she shopped like the women he knew, she would definitely be late for her meeting. He was just beginning to drift to sleep when some scratch at the door interrupted him. What now? He relaxed a bit when he discovered that she was back. And she had changed clothes already. At least, he had made up for letting her stay in the rain longer than she should have by letting her take the umbrella in his car. It was still drizzling. Today looked like a very wet day, and his subsequent riders would be in need of the umbrella. He wasn’t one to gamble but he was willing to bet that for every two rider that had an umbrella, one other rider would either forget their umbrella or assume that the rain would remain a light drizzle. He signed resignedly. That one rider would be really disappointed today as he had no umbrella for him. Or her.
She must have read his thoughts. ‘Oh! And thank you so much. I bought an umbrella for myself.’ She then waved his umbrella at an angle at which he could see it from his front seat and made a show of dropping in the boot. ‘What do you think about the outfit?’
The sound of his indicator prevailed against the deafening sound of the downpour. It had occurred suddenly. The client would not make it in the heavy rain. He adjusted his seat and reached for his journal. He might as well catch up. He was distracted by an impatient banging on his car. He craned his neck to find out what was happening. He noticed a woman drenched and waving wildly in the rain. She pointed towards the lock of the car door. Could she be the one? He picked his phone and waved it. Her shoulders dropped in resignation. She began to gesticulate frantically pointing at her right temple with her index finger severally. He unlocked the car doors. He would have to dry the seat before his next request. She got into the car and shut the door with a bang.
‘Good afternoon, ma.’
She gave him a pointed look.
He met her eyes in the front mirror. ‘May I begin the trip, please?’
She stared at him long and hard. ‘Don’t let me call you stupid! I was in the rain for how long? Five years? It took you ages for you to let me in. Now, you are asking if you should start the trip. No, please. Let us relax and listen the sound of the heavy rain pounding against your car!”
He remained unfazed. “Please accept my deepest apologies.’ She didn’t let him finish. ‘I have a meeting! I have a meeting! I am supposed to meet someone it took three months to finally fix a meeting with! First, the rainy season decided to make a comeback, and then you happened. I get to go for the meeting looking like a wet rat just because my Uber driver lacks common sense. You know what? Just start the trip. Start! And get me out of here!”
He would ordinarily have been upset, but it wasn’t just worth it. Today was going to be a bad one. This was his third ride of the day, and it seemed all of his clients were in terrible moods. By the end of the day, he was definitely sure he would be a brainless creature. His first rider called him slow, the second called him daft, and the third thought he lacked common sense. He let out a resigned sigh. “Would you like some music, ma’am?’ Their eyes met in the mirror. Well, if looks could kill, he would probably be six feet under. He put on the radio and tapped the steering rhythmically to the music playing.
‘It is either you let the radio do its job while you do yours or you just turn the damn thing off.”
He stopped tapping the wheel immediately. Thirty more minutes and this would be over.
“You know what? Pass through Marina, I need to buy some clothes.”
“What do you think?”
He nodded his head. His clients had to make up their minds, either he was really senseless or not. Why would anybody want an opinion form a senseless person?
She shook her head in confusion. “I think you have lost me.”
“Sorry ma’am. I think you are right. New clothes.”
She laughed and he blinked in surprise. She winked at him. “Don’t play with me. A detour means you get to earn more money. Advise me like you have nothing to gain. Thank you.”
He couldn’t hide his smile. “I deign to your superior wisdom.”
“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God,the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden,putting down roots near the rivers— Never a worry through the hottest of summers,never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts,bearing fresh fruit every season.”
I feel like a contortionist. I have been squeezing my body at different angles just to be comfortable in this miserable airport chair. A snort snaps me out of my fitful dozing. I resist the urge to glare at the child laughing at me. I guess I looked funny with my head hanging at an awkward angle while nodding in my fitful sleep. I ask the woman sitting opposite me to help me watch my hand luggage as I was going to visit the rest room. The cleaner looks at me with disdain. I roll my eyes at her. I know why. I look like a “runs girl*”. First, my braids are blonde at the tip, and they are just below my buttocks – that long. I have multiple piercing on my ears and I am wearing my ankle chain and my toe rings. Toe rings are not obvious as I am wearing shoes. My skin is bleached – well, I don’t think I am ready to stop soon. And I have a tattoo on my ring finger (as per Emilia Clarke for “Me before You”) – tattoos on bleached skin are very obvious. I fixed my eyelashes and my nails. What else? Oh, my fingers are covered in knuckle rings, and my wrists are buried under my bracelets.
I have roughly one hour before my flight. I look at the mirror and take a deep breath. I notice the cleaner still eyeing me. I tell her, ‘Jesus loves you’ and see disbelief slip into her eyes. I throw my head back in laughter as I exit the rest room. When I get back, the child who was laughing at me was in my seat. She catches a glimpse of my tattoo, but not before her mother drags her away from me. I settle in my seat and continue with my “Atonement Child” by Francine Rivers. I never mentioned that I was addicted to romance novels. I used to do erotica heavily. I have read fifty shades for the umpteenth time. But they were an impediment to maintaining my self-imposed chastity so I had to let them go. Then, the problem with romance novels is that they affect the way you see real life romance. And I had a problem because I began to compare my real life male friends to the standard in those books, and they fell short each time, but I couldn’t stop. So I am replacing my secular romance with Christian fiction and romance books. I am so hooked on Francine Rivers and “Atonemment Child” is deep. But it is not keeping me awake in this airport. I throw the book into my bag in frustration, relax on my seat and try to fall sleep. That child snickers and I pretend to glare at her. Her mother shoots me daggers.
The announcement from the speaker interrupts my sleep. I change my position, without opening my eyes, and continue sleeping. The announcer repeats the announcement. For God’s sake, can I sleep? I reach out for my bag to take out my ear muffs. I feel nothing. That’s when I open my eyes, and see Philip looking intently at me. I tell myself loudly, ‘this is not real, Mario. This is just an image of Philip. This is not really Philip’. The image of Philip laughs and when he takes my callused and ugly hands into his soft palms, I know that it is real. Unaided, the tears begin to fall out of my eyes. Continue reading “MARIO 15 – TRUST”→
I remember the first time I met her. She was an intern at the office. From the first day I saw her, I knew. I just knew. I can’t still explain it. Five weeks later, her programme came to an end, but she had come to my department to ask some questions. And my mind didn’t just let her go.
She read me, like a book, and heard me even when I wasn’t saying anything. I remember the first time I had dropped the hint, she had given me her trademark tired smile and said, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ And she would later tell me, ‘you are an honourable man, you know? How you waited after my internship to talk to me about this. But I am not sure I am interested.’ But she didn’t know, then, how tenacious I could be.
I remember the first time she told me that she missed me. I had an erratic heartbeat each time I recalled her words. I was finally making progress. For a very long time, I did all the calling, all the texting, all the talking. She would merely say, ‘I was just thinking about you sef. Thank you for calling. I appreciate this.’ Or she would reply my text like decades after and say, ’I really apologise for late reply. I got caught up with the application and interview process.’ Or she would just listen while I say everything on my mind and say, ‘I really don’t how to reply that. You worry too much.’ The really really annoying times, she would just say ‘okay’. You may be thinking she was probably not interested. She was, she just needed to be convinced. It was in how she would counter all my negative thoughts with her positive ones. How she was quick to say, ‘No o. I reject that for you in Jesus’ name.’ How she would tell me to talk to God about my problems. How she just always had the right thing to say. How she saw the good in me, and encouraged me to be better. How she really would get upset if I wasn’t taking care of myself. How she would hang her head to the side when I wasn’t feeling too good. How she would silently pester me to cheer me up when I was gloomy.
“What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins[a]? Yet God does not forget a single one of them.7 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.’
Seated in church, again. I am wondering what I am doing in this place. I always thought that if I was going to be an ardent church goer, I would be doing it in a white garment church. They have very very pretty girls and I like the idea of traipsing around Lagos on barefeet with my painted toe nails sticking out from beaneath my overflowing white garment and the tail of hair peeping from the beret or cap or what-do-they-call-it. We frequented it a while during one of my father’s visa-thirst. Service is about to start. I came early. This is my third Sunday in this month alone. Quite unprecedented. I am kinda broke and coming to church means having lunch at Abigail’s house, and I keep thinking I would run into Philip and apologies. I can’t bring myself to call or text. Or that’s what I keep telling myself. I busy myself with replying my chats. The manager of the cake shop wants to know if I am still available. Not happening. I begin to type a response until a voice over the microphone says, ‘let’s be in the mood of worship.’ I roll my eyes, but I get up anyway.
Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart feel lonely
And just like that, I am listening to my heart beat. It is something I have never experienced before. My heart is speaking to me. Each beat gives away my despondency – how I have lived this long and have nothing to show for it; my regrets – how I would have loved to live in my twenties, and enjoy being a beautiful young girl instead of an unprepared mother to two teenagers and a child; my bitterness – how I have put myself last not out of love, but out of duty and how I would rather have sown my wild oats; my anger – at my Dad for being irresponsible and myopic and so unambitious; my inferiority complex – among my friends, my peers, how I am the least successful, I have no steady job, no educational experience, no talent, no skills; my disgust – with myself, for pretending that I have control over whom I give my body to, when I have had no control over no part of my life; my despair – over my seemingly bleak future, what next for me? Maybe I will wait tables when I travel, afterall, I merely managed a degree here, my loneliness – it is so bone crushing, sometimes I feel like an empty cave, my own thoughts vibrating randomly; my doubts – towards God, my mother paid her tithes and offering and even sowed seeds. I remember when one pastor had quoted the psalms where David had said he would not give God anything that didn’t cost him. My mother took the loan she had taken from the cooperative to get some new items for her trade, and dropped it in the offering baskets. We ate garden egg sauce for the next six weeks. Where was He that time? Where was Jesus when my sister was selling her body to get my mother treated?
So why shouldn’t I feel discouraged? Why shouldn’t I feel like I am buried on the shadows? Why shouldn’t my heart remain unyielding even if Jesus says he loves me, even from when I was a foetus.
When Jesus is my portion
A constant friend is here
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches over me
The song invades my heart. Is this it? If I say yes to Jesus, will my heart be all right? Will everything suddenly make sense? Or has he been there all this while, and I am just accepting his friendship? My legs suddenly feel weak, and I fall to my knees and use my hands to support myself. Maybe it is okay for someone else to watch over me and look after me this time around. For the past ten years, I have been watching over someone or something. Maybe it is time for me to accept that someone else is watching over me. I want it too. I want it very much. I throw my hands in the air, and let the tears fall freely. Not maybe. This has to be it. This is it.
‘Lord Jesus, I believe that you are watching over me. I believe that you died for me. I don’t understand it yet, but I don’t need to, right? I just have to believe and confess, shebi? ‘
I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I am free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me
My shoulders shake as I sob my heart out. I have struggled so long, carrying everything, trying to fix things, trying to avoid my parents mistakes, trying to punish myself, being afraid of happiness, because it is fleeting. So I am giving it up to my Lord and Saviour Jesus. ‘Fix me, Lord. Help me to accept your love, I don’t understand it at all, but I believe. So here I am.’
I find myself being pulled up from the ground. It is Enkay. I have made a scene during service. Mario, everly dramatic. I bite my lip to hide my smile as I follow Enkay to the back of the church.