Roses and Angels II

roses and angels

For some seconds, you shut your eyes and then open them, but he is still there, that man you learnt to dread with all our life. A man you learnt to despise, the man who robbed you of those long ago childish care.

‘O god, oh my god, o god,’ you gasp.

All the while you’re wishing it was one of those dreams whose details you forget almost as soon as you awoke. Your mouth is dry, your lips are limp, you try to scream, but all you can feel is stiffness around your throat. A long limp sound escapes you and just then Chief moves a little, but does not rouse. The tears take form and travel down your face. The memories start to come, those memories you have sealed in the closet of history. You are shaking. You are sobbing. You are weakened by your past. You find your clothing, hastily put them on. Chief is still sprawled out like a small child on the expansive bed when you dash out of the room.

It all started when you were only twelve. That was ten years ago. Like a newly sprouted leaf in the raining season, the details are again fresh in your mind.

You were the apple of your parent’s eye, an only child. Your father called you Angel and nurtured your dream of becoming a world acclaimed singer. He always told you that you had a voice that could move mountains and encouraged you to join the church’s choir. Every Christmas, he watched you rehearse for Christmas carol, and eventually perform at the children Christmas carol. Every Christmas until that cursed Christmas.

The harmattan gale was fiercest that year, and the house seemed mirthless without Papa’s voice. He had left on a business trip but promised to return to watch you sing. He never returned. You never sang. Papa died in a plane crash, and the next week after his demise, Mama received a call from the village. She said it had to do with tradition. She assured you it was going to be alright and you both went to your country-home to perform Papa’s burial rite.

Things took a different shape when you got to the village. Your relatives seemed to have grown hostile over-night. They had occupied your country-home, and would not let you or Mama into the house. You were taken to your paternal granny’s house, which was on the next street. She did not smile up at you as she usually did, and when you asked her why, she gave you a stern look, and called you the daughter of a witch who had succeeded in killing her only son with voodoo. She swore that Mama must undergo some ‘omenala’, customary practices to proof her claim of innocence.

Your mother’s hair was shaved to the scalp so that you could hardly recognize her. A bevy of old women gathered around spiting and mocking and accusing her, while she cried in agony. The next day, you saw the same women leading her out of the garage that had become her room, and you thought it was all over. But it was not.

They made her kneel, repeat some words that you did not hear, and forced her to drink the content of a small wooden calabash. She was hesitant, but the women slapped her face and forced the content of the ugly calabash down her throat.  Granny later told you that it contained the bath water of your father’s corpse. You threw up and refused to eat all day long. You missed your home at the city and the near perfect life you had with your parents. You wished Mama’s travail would come to an abrupt end, so you can return home with Mama, and with considered effort, put your lives back together.  But the women had different thoughts. Mama, they said, must remain in the garage, stripped of all her raiment for a month. She must come out only once a day, when she heard the first cock crow at dawn, and whether she liked it or not, she must wail to the hearing of the entire neighbourhood.

Mama’s mother came to see Mama and in your innocent confusion, you asked her why life has taken a new turn. She told you that it is a path that all widows must thread. You pressed on, and enquired why Uncle Ofodili, Papa’s cousin and his family have taken over your country home. She cast you a sad look which lingered for some seconds, and said, ‘you should have been a boy you know’. 

Her voice seemed distant and accusatorial as she continued, ‘girls are such vain treasures. They come and go, but the man stays, and must be succeeded by another man. Ofodili is the new man!’                           

 Mama died on the second week of her mourning, and the villagers shouted hosanna.

…to be continued next week

By Uche Anichebe

Looking for God in Germany

Vin's article

It took Brother John four weeks to find a church in Germany and when he finally did, he had more questions than answers. Since he came here, his spiritual life has gradually receded into comatose.

Praying which used to be the first item on his daily routine back home has now become such a difficult task. His King James Bible sits quietly on the shelf where he dropped it the day he moved into his room and even when he tries to listen to those gospel songs that inspire him on Sunday mornings, they sound like Reggae in his ears.

Determined to mark his first 30 days in Germany with a thanksgiving service in church, Brother John launched a search on Google map. After some minutes of fixing his gaze meticulously on the computer screen, he found a church close to his city. He heaved a sigh of relief and made up his mind to attend the service on Sunday.

Brother John was dressed to the nines on Sunday morning. Now used to the weather and lifestyle of Europe, he knew what to wear, how to wear them and where to take a train to his destination.

On the train, he sat facing a fifty-something-year-old woman who smiled more than she talked. Every time their eyes met, the woman would smile as though her life depended on it.

When the train stopped at the Bahnhof, the woman proved to be more than a smiling figure. Despite the fact she couldn’t speak English fluently, she managed the show Brother John the direction to the church. It was just a few minutes’ walk from where the train stopped.

The church was a tall building older than everyone who worshiped there. Coming from a country where religious organizations contribute a great deal to noise pollution, Brother John thought this place was too quiet to be a church. There were no loud speakers on the roof and the sound-proof doors at the entrance made it difficult to tell what was happening inside from outside.

At the entrance of the church, some men and women were puffing smoke from their cigarettes. Beside them was a tray carrying a heap of packs and filters from already consumed cigarettes. Is the God in Germany merciful to the point of allowing this abomination in his house? Brother John was thinking aloud.

The door was heavier than it looked when Brother John tried to open it. In his country, he would have been welcomed by smiling female ushers dedicated to serving the lord with their strength. They would have directed him to vacant seats in the auditorium and most likely handed him a white envelope to package his offerings and other kingdom investments. But in this German church, he was all by himself.

Ambling through the aisles, he found a seat somewhere in the middle of the auditorium. His eyes roved through the hall and settled on the altar where a man was speaking.

Unlike the men of God in his country, this pastor was ordinary and completely bereft of the pizazz of a modern day pastor. He wore a jean and a black sweat shirt. From the interpreter’s headphone in front of his seat, Brother John learnt that the pastor was speaking about “forgiving our enemies as Jesus Christ did”. The congregation listened attentively.

Pastor ended his sermon with the Amazing grace hymn. They sang in German but Brother John sang in English. The announcement about the next meeting followed and the service was over. There was no testimony, offering or high praise session. There was no healing and deliverance session. There was no weekly prophecy and no time for prayer requests.

Brother John felt empty. This was different from everything he knew about God from his country. On his way out he saw more smokers at entrance of the church. Some lovers were also cuddling in the cold and God did not mind.

He walked home with a flood of questions on his mind. It is now five weeks and Brother John is still looking for God in Germany.

By

Vincent Nzemeke (@vincentnzemeke)