Tayo met Ada after he had given up on the bullshit of Motivational speakers, and gradually on spirituality. He was partially convinced that doing the latter was foolish, so he partially held on to it, re-assuring himself that since he had not let go completely, he was a good person. The nudge in his heart that God was real and that God loved him and that God was calling him, was enough for him. He had come to view God as a liberal heavenly father, full of love and kindness. His favourite scriptures were the ones that said God is love and that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But still, he had felt the necessity to give up on the spiritual narrative. That is what a popular writer called it – the spiritual narrative.
The man said it was a mere perception of the mind, a perception that there is a God and that the God cares. Some others perceive their gods differently. The writer said, ‘your god is who you make him’ and to crush gender prejudice he added with a smirk on his flat face ‘or her.’
Tayo did not believe this immediately. He even switched to a different television channel and joined his mother in hissing at and abusing the shaggy-haired man. His mother said the writer was one of the end-time false prophets the bible speaks of.
‘He is here to deceive people and take their minds from the way of the Lord. But they will fail’ she said, like she would personally ensure the failure, or was privy to the plan to ensure it. His mother always spoke like this. She always took ownership of the ‘gospel.’ She called herself a soldier of Christ and had a bumper sticker that said so. On the front door of their house, there was a small sign that reads ‘Christian Family.’
It was at the Silverbird cinema. Ada was standing in the same queue as he was, waiting to buy movie tickets. She had that cuteness of girls from slightly above middle-class families who were well trained. He had learnt that they were ‘normal’ girls who visited the cinema for the fun of watching a movie, unlike the wild ones who came for wild reasons. He always avoided the wild ones with their extra thick eyelashes and smoky-eye makeup and ridiculously high shoes.
‘Normal girls’ wore the same things, but the wild ones had a flashiness attached to them, an attitude of the mind that made them wild. But Ada was normal with a fresh brown skin and Brazilian weave-on crafting into a ponytail. Her skin was plain and blemish -free. It allowed her dress to make all the fine noise. Her face lets her make-up tell a captivating story. Tayo knew he would have to speak with her. She bought a ticket and left the queue. He counted seven people ahead of him and almost wept. But she did not go in the direction of the cinema halls; she went towards a Bookstand to the left of the ticket queue.
When he materialized beside Ada, she was discussing a book with the seller.
‘I’ve read many of his books. They are quite practical and loaded with his life experiences. It is always easy to connect that way’ Ada was saying.
‘Very true’ the large-headed bookseller replied. He was wearing faded jeans and a tight T-shirt that tried in vain to conceal his protruding belly. His eyes were as large as his head.
Ada glanced at Tayo and returned to scanning her book. He could now perceive her fruity fragrance and see a scar on her right hand, on her thumb. Her eyes were round and her nose was slightly too big. Big enough to disqualify her from a beauty contest. There was a little mole behind her left ear.
Tayo was never shy with the female folk. Every time he stood before a mirror, he convinced himself that his only flaw was his receding hairline. Not the face, it could not be more perfect. Nor the height, anything taller would be ridiculous. Not the lanky frame, it was cute, as was the voice. So he spoke with confidence, knowing the other features more than compensated for the treacherous hair.
But he had become slightly irritated by Ada’s affiliation with a motivational speaker – the author of the book she was holding. The man was one of the many that said there were five keys or ten keys or twenty keys to success. He had believed them for years and his New Year resolutions were always to handle the keys and unlock his destiny. But the keys eluded him conveniently. He did not know why, but he never could grab them. So he picked a book, pretended to read the blurb, placed it down and returned to the queue.
*** *** *** *** ***
The sun outside of the Silverbird complex was mild and warm. It served only to illuminate the city. No piercing rays or scorching heat. Tayo strolled along the pedestrian walkway of the busy street, away from the complex. People were going back and forth as always, but he spotted Ada standing under the bus stop shed where people stood to wait for buses and hide from the sun or rain. His heart danced a little at the sight of her, his mind supported by thoughts magnifying the coincidence of seeing her twice in one day. After all, it was a regret of his action at the Bookstand that filled his thoughts while he saw this movie. He missed most of the Oscar-winning acts and would later argue with a friend that those things did not happen in the film. Now he watched her big nose and chuckled.
Her fruity fragrance was still intact, but a few strands of her weave-on had gone out of place. She noticed him as he stood by her and he knew by her expression that she remembered him from the Bookstand.
‘Hi, hope you enjoyed your movie’ he said
“Yes, I did. Did you enjoy yours?’ Her smile was warm, appreciable and genuine.
He nodded and smiled in a way that revealed his tongue sticking out slightly between his teeth. He thought the smile was cute and attractive.
‘So you got your book?’ he asked.
‘Yes’ Ada said and reached into her handbag for the book. She handed it to him.
‘Surely you know Jack Jonderd,’
Tayo nodded as he falsely examined the book cover. Normal girls of Ada’s variety had a way of being too normal, too un-girly. Too friendship oriented. Too comfortable with the male folk. They lacked the coyness they should possess. And the motivational speakers like Jack Jonderd were to blame. They told these girls that they too had destinies and a purpose and should set goals and achieve them. Then the girls start to think outside the line of femaleness. They become more human than female and would prefer to relate on the platform of humanity rather than that of the male-female dynamics. Anyone jumping into that region in a conversation with them appears narrow-minded and shallow. Tayo did not want to be regarded as such so he smiled and handed her the book.
‘Good book’ he said.
‘I am Ada. Nice to meet you’ She extended her hand.
‘Same here, I am Tayo.’ He shook her.
She reached into her bag again and produced a piece of paper. It was an invite to a church event.
‘If you can spare your time, please do drop by’ She said, smiling.
Tayo almost held his chest. The stab of disappointment hit him there. Then he immediately felt bad for feeling that way. Ada was being a good Christian girl, inviting him to church. But he wished she was more like the girls in the Hollywood movies he watched. The ones who scribbled their phone numbers on the palms of strangers they met and felt attracted to and said ‘call me’. Then the strange man would be elated and nod vigorously that he would. Usually, that was how they found true love. True love happened when unlikely coincidences occurred. Instead of scribbling her phone number on his palm, Ada was inviting him to church.
‘I go to church’ he said. ‘I am a Christian.’
‘No, no, I did not mean it that way. I am just inviting you to my Church. I don’t mean you are a sinner or anything like that’
Why is being a sinner a bad thing? Tayo almost asked. Then he felt guilty to have thought that.
Her bus came about that time. She stepped into it and waved goodbye. He waved back. He stared at her nose.
As her bus drove away, it occurred to him that he had just met a soldier of Christ disguised as a normal girl. A normal girl who would ensure that the spiritual narrative remains and falsehoods end. Although he had not spoken much with her, he felt like he knew what she would have said. The same things his mother said to the Lord. The Lord is good. So good, He had sent His only son to die for the sins of the world and to restore man into fellowship with Him. The Lord cared deeply about Tayo and would hate it very much that he thought being a sinner wasn’t that bad. The Lord would be displeased at that. Who wouldn’t? His son died so that people would no longer be sinners. It must have been really important or else he would not have let his son die.
Shamed filled Tayo that he had second-guessed this spiritual narrative. It now felt so true. It always felt so true until something came to challenge it, until an end-time prophet of falsehood called it a mere narrative until he watched those movies where true love emanates from melodramatic coincidence. But now he believed and he returned into the Cinema, to the Bookstand and bought a book by Jack Jonderd. The same one Ada had bought.
to be continued on Thursday 27th February
Written by : Korede Nojo
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