The Preacher’s Daughter

Matilda sat on the first row. Clasped hands to her midriff, the holy book at her heel, listening to congregate voices, bellowing a tone she’d known since was born with all their energy, they sounded like an approaching thunderstorm.  The man she called father sat on a pulpit, glaring earnestly at the crowd who sat with their heads bowed. Not a minute later, he erupts from his place, yelling at the rolling thunderstorm to cease, the heads dare not raise. He starts;

“You  depraved unruly wantons, surely not only four people have ten shillings for the offering basket, for it is not I, but he, who commands us to give in order to see his glory.”

In unison, the congregation lurched towards the basket, including the leper who could barely move unaided, for they yearned to be worthy.

Satisfied with his deed, the preacher wore a pleasing simper. The choir continues. Matilda was deep in thought, for the family did not give, they were only benefactors of the offering, as preaching was her father’s sole profession. The church dispersed, wearing a dolorous aura after the sermon, for father had told them that they were sacrilegious and the Lord died for the righteous, like him. He told them that they were fortunate, for he served as a light, leading sinners to righteousness.

Ma would do a big cook-out after church, every Sunday, usually Matilda would be delighted, but she was older now, she felt contrition, perhaps due to insomnia and night terrors she had each night, or perhaps she was befuddled by the travesty of her family’s faith.

In the following week, Matilda stirred a ruckus at home by refusing to go to church.  In her family, there was no bigger offense. Ma pleaded and cried. The preacher reiterated;

“Listen to your mother, foolish girl. This burst of rebellion is a ploy from Satan to destroy your righteous soul, if I do not see you in that front seat, then you might as well not be home when we return”. Satisfied that he has scared her straight, he yanked on his wife’s arm and they left, for where could she run to, she had no friends.

Matilda sought this golden moment, she slung a bag over her shoulder and set off to discover life without looking back.

Over the next months, Matilda lived in a shelter, she met with all categories of people, a disgraced former militant named Joel, and Katya, a trollop and mother of three were her best friends. They had such ample life experiences that it moved her to keep a journal. One day, she would publish their stories.

In the following year, Matilda moved in with her boyfriend, Harry. His affections for her were questionable, but she figured that inviting her to live in proved them. She relied on him and soon exhibited a proclivity for debauchery, like Harry. Over the next three years, a more brusque, sullen part of him began to unfurl. He’d criticize her for everything, including what she dared to think.  Consequently, the night terrors reappeared.  She had an epiphany of why she left her family, Harry was no different from the preacher.  By morning, she was gone.

Two years after rehab, she started working in a small scale company that rented qualified potential employees to big scale companies who need employees on a short-term contract. In rehab, she had learned to focus through meditation. She got to interact with people, channeling back her hobby, journaling.

Matilda made decent money with her job, she quite enjoyed it too. It was at work that she met Paul, who became her life partner. She was content, but one night, the night terrors resurfaced. Paul woke up to see her in frantic tears, he prompted her to talk about the most dreaded topic; her past, her parents. Paul intuitively discerned the source of her panic, that weekend, he took her to his fellowship. She worshipped with believers and for the first time, a glimmer of peace like no other intruded her heart.

Over the following weeks, she studied the holy book and to her amazement, she found a deeper understanding, in contrast to what her father taught. She realized she needed to forgive her Pa, so she prayed about it daily until she became whole.

She became an Associate Manager at her company. One tumultuous day, Judit, a colleague requested for her. Judit informed her of a man seeking a menial job to make ends meet. Matilda went out to see a gaunt version of her father. His eyes leered on her,  a deep cry fell out his mouth as he fell to his knees, disdain overtook him, but she looked at him with compassion and declared;

“I forgive you, but I am not God.”

 

 

This story delineates the hypocrisy of religion, as in Africa and most nations. Most times, budding believers lose their faith because of the scrutiny. The morality of our actions doesn’t inhibit Christianity from being an individual race; Moreover, we are not our parents.

 

 

 

 

 

No Man’s Land

We come from the same land

dear brother,

I trusted you

unheedingly,

We walked through the desert

me, yearning for a new beginning.

 

 

Your skin like mine is dark

your flag like mine is green

I’m not a slave.

But like the Portuguese pirates of the old world

you’ve branded me, a cow

and while you feel safe in your lofty bed

I cry without end, locked in a cell.

 

If dehumanizing me earns you a fortune

then our bureaucracy has failed us

the Nigerian police can’t see us as equals

Buhari is blind

and my brother

even as you stand before me

I know you can’t see as a human

In no man’s land,

only money talks.

 

See my hair,

they twist and curl in the wind like yours.

Oh, how naive I was

to have resurrected hope on sighting you

but when I learned

how  hedonistic you’ve become

With my last strength

I yelped,

My countryman, help me! brother, please.

You told me,

there is no brother in the jungle

before you disposed of my virtue

to a fate worse than repatriating to Nigeria,

Death in the Mediterranean.

 

 

 

 

A piece in light of the ongoing slave trade in Libya.

 

 

(In case you) Find your ghost

“A Toast,” she said, raising her glass, “to my adorable cousin, may no man ever traumatize her sexually, and physically like my uncle; her father did me”.

The venue went cold with unwavering tension. Out of nowhere, the head table overturned, shards of glasses glistening as they struck concrete. From the side of her eye, she saw her dad lurch towards the father of the day, gripped him by the throat before he could utter a word, his eyes red with fury.

And just like that,  the party was over.

 

********

 

Some secrets are too perverse to remain hidden. Secrets that burrow a hole in the middle of one’s chest. This is the story of a young maiden plagued by the ghost of the repressed emotions that she has never been able to confront.

This is the origin story of Alexander.

Born to working-class parents, the family had nearly nothing, except for a Volkswagen Beetle. Dad was never home; always at work, gunning for that big break that would catapult him to the next phase of his career; and mum, she too was hard at work, holding down the fort. Doing what good mums do.

About 18 yrs ago, on one of those evenings, an uncle visits for a meeting with dad but he didn’t come home that day which wasn’t unusual. At the time in Nigeria, you couldn’t just pick up the phone and call someone, NITEL was somewhat popular but people were adapting rather slowly. He stayed over solely because his village was somewhat far away and the sun was setting.

Her family were subtenants renting a one- bedroom apartment with a shared bathroom and while her mum and brother stayed in the bedroom, she slept in the parlor feets away from her uncle. Sometime between thirty to eleven and midnight, he drew closer and closer to her, then he began fondling her prepubertal body and genitalia…

Like a good little girl who always behaved in front of her elders, never spoke unless spoken to; she remained mute but then again, she was always a quiet kid.

Thought more than she spoke.

Wrote more than she was willing to say,…but that broke her. It solidified her antisocial exterior; her social awkwardness. Until this day, she would never be able to make eye contact or flirt the way normal people do.

********

A lot’s changed, the family lives in a big home, that old beetle replaced by numerous automobile model from Honda to Range Rover. What hasn’t changed is, dad’s still as busy as ever, and those flesh wounds never healed.

If he had stayed where he belonged—in the past, perhaps the ghosts wouldn’t haunt her.

Last she saw him, he came to the house with his then fiancée, to introduce her to dad and get both financial support and his blessing for their wedding. That was her chance to confront him, reveal these ghosts to the woman who probably thought she knew him so well, in front of her dad; so he would throw him out of their lives forever….but she didn’t.

Couldn’t.

Turns out she wasn’t ready. She would never be, but she knew she owed it to her younger self, that poor girl deserved even one honest moment where she didn’t have to hold it all in and pretend it was all okay.

It wasn’t until that day, years later, at her cousin’s naming ceremony when she climbed on that stage and her gaze settled on him, that her ghosts were enraged, threatening to unleash all the emotions of the past that have subdued her physically. Sobs welled up in her throat, her head buzzed with unsettling thoughts. This wasn’t the right time, but then again, there’s never a right time to talk about sexual abuse. Either she’d do it or she wouldn’t. So she swallowed hard, parted her lips and let the words spurt out….

A deafening silence.

A moment of sincere epiphany.

Through all the ruckus,  she swears she saw a little girl, not more than six years of age at the far end of the blinding stage lights whisper, “Thank you”.

From that moment, she began to see herself more as a force to be reckoned with and less like a victim, began trusting herself. She’d given herself the single greatest gift,

Freedom.

Some secrets are too perverse to remain hidden,…..

In case you find your ghost.