Your Brief Bio:
Kuforiji David is a Veterinary surgeon. His interests are reading, running and of course gaming.
Tweet-Style Story Summary:
Everyone wears a mask- at home, at school, at work and sometimes at our religious centers.
This story uncovers the hilarious façade of three churchgoers and treats us to their innermost thoughts.
Thomas had a talent for sleeping.
One moment he was wide awake, cheerful and active, the next moment he was asleep, his head nodding like he was afflicted with a bobble-head syndrome.
“Je ne peux pas l’aider!” Thomas would incredulously say. “I can’t help it!”
He wasn’t one of those people who fell asleep for long periods, all the while drooling an ocean of saliva and mumbling incoherently from time to time, his was a peculiar series of silent cat-naps spread over a long period of time.
Churches were Thomas’ favorite place to sleep; the plush and usually comfortable seats, the cold draft from the air-conditioning system keeping the tropical heat at bay, the sweet sickly scent of cheap and expensive perfumes worn by the finely dressed members of the congregation; all these made up just the perfect recipe for a pleasant snooze.
Today was a Sunday, and two hours into the service, Thomas was at his very sleepy best.
It therefore came as no surprise to him, when the shabbily dressed gentleman seated to his right, tapped his shoulder for the umpteenth time. The man’s face was a clear picture of disgusting disapproval and he suggested in a not-too-polite tone that Thomas should take a walk to clear his “heavy” eyes.
“Bros, stroll to the back to clear these your eyes na.”
“Occupe toi de tes affaires.” He muttered. “Mind your business.”
Thomas frowned, took one good look at the intruder’s mismatched clothes and simply ignored him as he usually did.
He heard the moderator call out for testifiers.
Thomas’ critical mind did not always support the idea of sharing testimonies publicly. While he agreed that testimonies sometimes created a general atmosphere of gratitude to God, he equally thought it reminded others of their inadequacies.
Moreover, nobody shares testimonies of unanswered prayers. He reflected.
Thomas was starting to drift off when a mysterious beauty walked across his field of vision, instantly becoming his new subject of focus.
The sleep vanished from his eyes momentarily.
The mysterious lady was about five feet two inches tall, she wore a white peasant blouse over a fitting red pencil skirt and rounded it off with a pair of cream colored pumps.
Her heart shaped face and slightly wide forehead featured small evenly spaced brown eyes beneath high arching eyebrows.
She had lovely apple cheeks on both sides of her broad nose and a pointed chin.
“Jolie!” He breathed.
Slightly readjusting himself in his seat, his mental gears already whirring away at full speed, he cross-matched her face with the innumerable dozens filed away in his memory and came up empty. Well, he was sure she didn’t attend the local church on his campus, yet, she was somehow a member of his denomination.
Was she a newcomer?
No, she looked too relaxed and comfortable as she strode from the tent they were seated in to the main auditorium.
He had a feeling he had seen her before.
“Praise the Lord!” The speakers boomed.
Thomas was stunned.
Her voice was soft and raspy, its faint Igbo accent was laced with a sultry undertone that blended into a unique timbre.
His irrational side whispered “You like her already don’t you, go and meet her after the service.”
“And say what? Absurd! She doesn’t even know you!” his rational side retorted.
“Walk up to her and say hi, ask how the service went… anything!”
“Nobody is meeting anybody” He finally rationalized.
An urgent tug on the left shoulder brought Thomas back to the present. He looked around and realized everyone was on their feet and praying earnestly.
“Dear God…” He muttered as he hurriedly rose to his feet, “…have mercy on me”
Amaka’s Samsung tablet vibrated, signifying she had a new message.
She took a quick look around her, half expecting a disapproving gaze, and whipped her tablet out of her bag.
It was a new mail from a familiar sender and Amaka’s heart pulsed with expectation as she tapped the Gmail icon.
It was a letter of rejection from the ‘SHE-LEADS’ program she had applied for a couple of months back.
She was crestfallen.
“Chuckwu ekwela!” She blurted. “This can’t be true!”
The ‘SHE-LEADS’ program was targeted towards high achieving young African women with outstanding leadership qualities. Amaka wasn’t mediocre, and she had been confident her résumé was good enough.
She had been a speaker and senate leader in her state parliament for four years, a three-time director for the annual Nigerian Secondary Schools United Nations Conference, a volunteer project manager for two international non-profit youth development agencies and a production manager for her faculty editorial team.
She had also volunteered for numerous medical outreaches and acted as a spokesperson on several of these outings.
“You have been regrettably rejected” was definitely not what she deserved or expected.
“Chi m, maka gini ka ihe a n’eme.”
“Dear God this should not be happening to me.”
Maybe God didn’t want this for her she reasoned.
As she pondered her unlucky fate, she heard the moderator’s call for testifiers.
She brightened up.
Amaka loved sharing testimonies, and today she had just the right one to share- her third and most lucrative scholarship in two years had been approved only the previous week.
“There is always something to be grateful for” she thought to herself.
She locked and tucked away her tablet and gingerly rose to her feet. Slightly adjusting her silk scarf and smoothening her skirt, she shuffled out of the dense row of seats-all the while excusing herself- and walked towards the main auditorium.
As she drew close to the auditorium, she stole a quick glance at the crowd in the tent now behind her.
That was when she saw him, again.
It was the balding bespectacled snotty guy, who had left a somewhat lingering impression, following her chance encounter with him about a month ago.
He was here in the congregation and openly staring at her.
She recalled her first meeting with him, an event that stuck fast like a note pinned to a board, from which she surmised his persona, following a concert at a friend’s church. He had walked up to her group of friends, offered short bursts of brusque greetings to everyone except her, and left rather abruptly.
“Really? What’s up with that guy?” she had asked her friends.
“Nothing, he’s just like that, he’s an introvert.”
Strangely enough, she had felt drawn to him. She had a thing for quiet guys, perhaps it was just that.
Here was his bespectacled lordship, peering at her through his oval tortoise-shell glasses, his eyes roving smoothly from her head to toe, approving, disapproving…
A part of her hoped he liked what he saw.
“Silly, why should I care what he thinks about me. He didn’t even greet me the other day.
But it’d be nice if he says hello after the service though.
Wait, just hello? What if he asks for your number, eh?
Well, let him ask first” She concluded.
She snapped out of her reverie just as she reached the auditorium and walked onstage to share her testimony.
Brother Dele smiled slyly to himself, as his long bony index finger, callused from years of construction work, traced a line of familiar, now his favorite words, in the Bible.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit...”
“The poor…He chuckled to himself. Blessed are the poor!
Not the rich o.
Rich people must be sinners then!”
“…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
He made a rare assessment of his clothes; a crumpled green shirt, its missing button smartly obscured by his huge clip-on black necktie, slovenly tucked into a pair of baggy faded-blue jeans.
Blessedly poor, unlike the many rich seated around him.
Still smiling, he closed his Bible and looked up.
“It is now time for testimonies…” the moderator announced
“Blessing time!” the congregation chorused in response.
Dele had three possible testimonies and he was not sure which one he should share.
Was it the story of how his single pair of trousers had remained miraculously unburnt after he had forgotten to turn off the pressing iron? Or how he had finally thwarted the frivolous intentions of his room-mate and that insatiable light-skinned Jezebel, by farting loudly and repeatedly?
They really must have thought he would give up, when they seemed hell bent on making him a sinner by association.
The make-out sessions had been barely tolerable for him until that one time he’d burst into the room and caught them pants down.
That was the tipping point, he could only take so much. When the lurid images started to prey on his feeble mind, he knew he was in trouble.
Prayers, fasting and farting had done the trick.
His third testimony, a narrow escape from what would have been at the very least a fractured limb had he been hit by that Okada man, as he waited to buy his favorite ‘boli and epa’ (roasted plantain and groundnuts) from his roadside customer.
The second testimony was definitely the right one to share. It was a huge victory, personally and spiritually for him, after his foiled attempts to thwart his promiscuous room-mate’s extracurricular activities.
Taking a cursory look at his left hand side before rising to his feet, he noticed the young man seated beside him who had been sleeping for the better part of the service, now awake.
“O npe ki o to taji, oloorun iya” he silently fumed. “It took you so long to wake up, wretched sleeper”.
Once you fell asleep beside Dele, it didn’t matter how long or how deeply you slept, he would keep tapping you till you awoke.
The sleepyhead seemed to be fixated on something. Dele’s eyes sharply followed him.
It was not something, it was someone.
Dele sat back down.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing. A degenerate sinner. A rich man.
Not only had he slept the entire service, his brief moment of lucidity was now being spent ogling a sister.
Just like I ogled Ifunaya, the Jezebel, the first time she came to my room.
Losing himself in a reverie, he remembered what he should have forgotten.
‘Lips welded in a passionate kiss, desperate hands roaming an alien body, moans and grunts…’
No! He struggled to shut the thoughts out.
As if on cue, the moderator began to lead the congregation in prayers. His sleepy neighbor was still in a trancelike state when Dele jumped to his feet.
Ignoring him, he began to sing- “I have no power of my own…”
No sleep, no dream
Thomas fell asleep close to the end of the service. It should have been a cat-nap, terminating just at the end of the service, signifying the end of yet another well-slept day.
This time it wasn’t.
Thomas dreamt he met Amaka after the service.
“Hi there” he said, grinning boyishly.
“Hello” She replied nervously pulling at a wayward strand of hair peeking from beneath her scarf.
“It took me a while but I remember you, I am sorry I made a rather poor impression that day”
“It’s okay, but you’ll have to make it up to me.” Amaka replied, surprised at her own boldness.
“Totally, it’d be my pleasure.” Thomas said leading her out of the church.
Whatever can happen will happen?
Dele dumped his Bible and writing materials in his rucksack and stood.
The service had ended about fifteen minutes ago, but Dele always took his time. He strongly believed it was wrong to rush out of the church.
“Wawu, this was a beautiful service” he murmured as he slung his rucksack over his shoulder and took one last look at his row.
To his utter amazement, sleepy-head was still in fact sleeping!
Strongly resisting the temptation to wake him one final time, he proceeded to the exit.
Amaka was deliberately slow in packing her belongings after the service simply because she wanted to give ‘him’ some time to also gather his things and come find her.
She remained in her seat as she exchanged haphazard greetings with a number of people around her.
“What is he doing?” she wondered spotting her quarry up ahead. He was seated perfectly still with his head bowed. She walked forward to have a closer look.
He is sleeping? Unbelievable!
She shook her head and made for home.
As she neared the church’s exit, she ran into a strangely dressed fellow carrying a rucksack.
Hi there! He greeted, cracking his knuckles nervously.
“Hello” she smiled politely.
Why does he look familiar? She wondered.
“You don’t remember me?” Dele Alakori from ‘Julius Construction Company.’
“Yes, my God, I'm so sorry. I should have remembered sooner.” She blurted.
“You helped us with some of the heavier equipment during our outreach”
“Exactly, and I remember you promised to buy me lunch if we met again” Dele replied, a smile slowly creeping up his face.
“Ah, yes, why not” Amaka sighed, leading him out of the church.
…Thomas slept on…