Her Eyes

Heat swarmed him. His body felt like a grill. He pulled the curtains up and took three long breaths. He didn’t roll his cuffs. He didn’t kneel and sing five worships – mandatory before any service in his fellowship. He didn’t recall a bunch of scenarios where Jesus healed. He just breathed in and out and spoke.

eye

“HI,” he would say to her.

“Hello,” she would say.

“There’s something I have to tell you.”

The lecturer would tap on his microphone, calling the students to attention. “I believe you understand why we’re having a mixed level class.”

A yell of “yes.”

“Say it now,” she would say.

“Can we be friends?”

She would look him in the eye, transporting him with the softness in her eyes. He would remember he once told her, “I have seen the depth of the oceans in your eyes.” He would remember her smile, her teeth shining through her lips, like a flower displaying pollen grains.

He would remember so many things…

 

CLASS ended early the day they met. He left the workshop with his bag, dirty from being flipped by the supervisor, as he took to the sidewalks. He wasn’t taking the commute today. Some days you just had to pause from everything and think.

It was the message of the banner hanging from a tree. Think, Learn, Do. How that slotted in as the theme of a power-packed revival he could not figure. Another print hung a bit above, the white inches of the material shielding the fellowship hosting the TLD program. This one was a street selfie something. There were too many things to do.

He walked slowly, taking his time, checking his watch for each passing bus. He was checking the fourth time when her voice cut into his brooding.

“Six pages to all these nonsensical philosophies, and just a paragraph for Theism. Imagine that.”

“It’s getting to you,” another said. Had be a friend.

“It should, Debbie It’s frustrating. And to think the textbook is mandatory is just…”

“Just what?”

He had spoken before he knew. Four soles screeched on the concrete walkway as two necks made a half-circle rotation. Saving himself, he said, “Sorry. The school’s just like that.” Befuddled looks kissed their faces. “Hmm, I assume you guys are freshmen.” Debbie just contorted her nose in the ‘who asked you’ manner.

“We are,” she said. Her voice reminded him of someone. He’d assume so at first, but now, it came back strongly, like the scent of brandy.

“Your voice reminds me of someone,” he said.

“Hmm,” she said. Her expression suggested more words, but Debbie’s fingers settled in her palm at that moment.

“I guess…” He walked some paces, then said, “Please, buy the manual.”

 

SHE bought it. She did not register it.

“That’s the point of the purchase,” he told her. They stood outside the wooden structure of his fellowship, staring at the inside as dim as a cave. He’d spotted her while transcribing unto the projector.

“How long –”

“Six months,” she said. “I’ve always watched you.”

“What!”

“It’s hard not to notice your group,” she said. The blush on her cheeks faded. “I hope you aren’t thinking, ‘what type of girl is this?’”

“No, what, no.”

“Good.”

He stood behind the fence as she stepped beyond, waved and walked away.

They saw again on Monday, and for Bible Study two days following. She was early for the Study, as usual. “I skipped tutorials,” she said when he later asked her. He noticed her face was fixed on the teacher – not the way a lady watches the pastor as she plots his seduction, but the way a daughter watches her mother and takes note while she prepares dinner. She would occasionally jot, or say deep, or nod along. Once, he projected a wrong verse. She whispered. He corrected himself.

When service ended, he sneaked outside before unit meeting and thanked her.

“Slip me some skin,” she said.

He swallowed for lack of words to express his wide-eyed surprise.

“It’s something I picked in a book.” Then she offered her hand for a shake. He mumbled “Oh” as they shook. At first, he associated it with the church. Had to be because of the church. But then, when he shook hands with his unit head, and with the vice president, he did not feel the same tingle. And no, bolts weren’t loosening in his head. This girl, whoever she was, possessed something he needed, something being involved in too much activities was depriving him.

And get it he did. Every Friday. They gathered in the park – the park with machines abandoned long before World War Two, the park with holes that caved in to the pressure of praying knees, the park with shrubs whittling with each passing day. She chose an open space and wore skirt for each meeting.

“It’s dangerous enough that it’s just you and me, male and female,” she replied to his probing. “God gave us a new heart, but he didn’t take away our brain.” He began to learn other things about her – how she prayed for everyone she’d ever come across, – she’d say, “Lord, give hope to the woman who sells zobo at ETF” – how she took time with Scripture. “Rush through the word, and it’d rush through you.” She shared and he shared. She believed being full and being empty weren’t opposite, that the latter could stir a longing for the former. As hours ticked into weeks, she invited Debbie.

“She was curious,” she told him. “Had to bring her.” The next week, he brought his friend. “Meet Bode,” he told her and winked.

At times, the quartet held hands – one male hand linked to one female hand to zap out any stray feeling – and tongued. He looked forward to each meeting like a baby anticipating suckling. Once, Bode asked if it was okay to tolerate problems.

“Spiritual terms,” he said.

“Since we have all authority in Jesus name, why do we still accept some challenges as God’s molding.”

He deferred the question to her with his eyebrow.

“Answer it,” she said.

“You’re the worker,” Debbie quipped.

He did. He talked about growth – the necessity – and how it was impossible to grow if something wasn’t stretching the skin. He quoted from 2 Corinthians, the fourth chapter. Though she did not smile and pump fists, he knew in his heart that he did well.

“We shouldn’t call down fire at every challenge,” he concluded. They all clapped. If only he’d known.

 

“SHE…” Debbie’s voice – thin as flakes of snow – broke again. He could hear his heart beat against the phone.

“Talk to me,” he said.

“She had an attack.”

His brain went off for an instant. Then he was jumping into jeans and a polo. Halfway to his house, he remembered he hadn’t asked where they were. He hit call history and dialed the last number.

“Don’t take her to the health center,” he said as Debbie picked.

“What?”

“I’m on her way,” he said. “We’d pray for her and she would be well.”

“What!” A higher pitch now.

He considered the absurdity of the statement and ended the call with one tap. He hit the road to be met by an empty park. Where were the buses when you needed them? Jogging now, he called Bode.

They met at her hostel. Not signing in, they hurried up the stairs, flew down Block A, B, and C, reached C128 and knocked. The door answered to their second rap.

“Are you sure –”

He dashed in, Bode close behind. “Shut the door,” he said. She lay on the bed, arms spread beside her, legs closely together, like a woman sleeping into the heavens. He didn’t have to lean to know she wasn’t breathing. Partial loss of consciousness. The third resident in the room was already by her side, muttering.

Thank God!

A heavy hand banged against the door.

“Don’t open,” Bode said before he could turn.

Heat swarmed him. His body felt like a grill. He pulled the curtains up and took three long breaths. He didn’t roll his cuffs. He didn’t kneel and sing five worships – mandatory before any service in his fellowship. He didn’t recall a bunch of scenarios where Jesus healed. He just breathed in and out and spoke.

“In the name of Jesus, rise. Your asthma is gone forever in the name of Jesus.”

His lips closed far slower than they’d parted. The silence in the room could scare a cadaver. It was as if Bode and the other girls had stopped breathing. Even the security man paused on his oddly-paced cadence and seemed to listen. Three seconds dragged into eternity.

“Are you –”

“Sing,” he said. He looked Bode in the eye. “Sing.”

They sang “Give Thanks.” He closed his eyes and followed the songs, his lips not moving. He knew it would happen, yet his heartbeat came faster, like the drumrolls before a martial arts fight. And now, let the weak say I am strong. Let the poor say I am rich. Because…

“Of what the Lord has done.”

“Whoop,” Debbie screamed.

He opened his eyes. She was upright in her bunk, her eyes straight on his, a smile etched into her face.

THERE were consequences. The committee responsible for hostel and its security wanted to know what could have provoked such audacity. Luckily, one of the men on the panel was a praying Pastor. Another woman, moral and friendly, asked, “How did a 300 level guy meet a 200 level lady?”

There were punishments at the fellowship too. For going into a female’s hostel, whatever the reason was. He had to skip projecting for one week and join the prayer department. Once, he would have complained, but now, his heart just hummed.

At their next meeting, they sang and gave thanks and Bode shared how he was actually believing Scriptures. When they held hands to pray, he felt another tingle, the type he felt at the fellowship that day.

 

“HI,” he would say to her.

“Hello,” she would say.

“There’s something I have to tell you.”

The lecturer would tap on his microphone, calling the kids from both level to attention. “I believe you understand why we’re having a mixed level class.”

A yell of “yes.”

“Say it now,” she would say.

“Can we be friends?”

She would look him in the eye. “I would surely pray about it.” Just as his head would focus on the board, she would quip, “But it’d be interesting.”

And he wouldn’t remember a thing from the lecture again.

How You Know You Are Busy – 2

There’s a way every human knows something. Intuition. It’s like when Bode sneaks out to call his sister and says, “Dad’s mistress is around again,” and she says, “Why do you think so?” and he says, “Because I can hear sounds from upstairs,” and she says, “And you’re certain it ain’t mum?” and he says, “Well, it isn’t mum. I just know.”

idd2

I.

It is eleven in the morning. You know this not because you are looking at the time on your laptop screen, but because you know. There’s a way every human knows something. Intuition. It’s like when Bode sneaks out to call his sister and says, “Dad’s mistress is around again,” and she says, “Why do you think so?” and he says, “Because I can hear sounds from upstairs,” and she says, “And you’re certain it ain’t mum?” and he says, “Well, it isn’t mum. I just know.”

You pause and think about the ‘sounds from upstairs’. A smile forms on your cheek, but it lasts only a seconds – all it takes for you to remember the class by twelve and the fact that you’re sending the document to your father by six. The staidness comes upon you again.

You complete the paragraph and save, then exit. You haven’t forgotten the last time you assumed you saved. That day, you should have submitted two designs. You completed them. You absently pressed no when the software asked if you wanted to save. You had to spend a thousand naira on call cards.

And you lost the next job too, because your client spread the bad news.

You close the lid and place the laptop in your bag. Your gaze drifts to the hooker in your wardrobe. The hooker is simply a nail – a piece of nail you hammered into the graffiti-ed wall for hanging your ID card. The hooker is empty presently because your card is missing. But you know you would find it. You just know.

And it isn’t intuition. It is faith.

II.

You are early to class, because the girl you’ve been running from closes her note and moves towards you as you enter. She does that only when you are early.

The lecturer is teaching on Mollusca and Annelida, how the latter evolved rapidly and became the first coelomates. Or is it acoelomates? Your head begins to buzz. You drop your torso on the table and press a finger against your temple. A chair folds and another slams open. You blink your eyes wide.

The girl is next to you.

“Have you found it?”

“No,” you whisper.

“Don’t let it get to you,” she says. She isn’t wearing makeup today. Her lips are baby pink and soft. You entertain a fleeting image of your lips on her lips. Immediately, something whips your heart. You shut your eyes and pray.

When you look again, your rep has his neck turned backwards. “Emmanuel, your assignment.”

You hear a bang. You know it’s your head again. The ringing persists, bang, bang, bang. It’s your phone, not your head. The lecturer has drawn a hiatus on his teaching. His eyes are trained in your direction now. He starts climbing, one step after the other, his gaze inscrutable, his steps not tentative, like a gladiator going for the final kill.

“Let me have it,” the lecturer says.

You draw one hand over your lap. Your body feels like it’s on Mercury.

“It was me,” someone says. You know the voice. It’s the girl. She looks past you towards the lecturer, “My phone rang sir. I’m sorry sir.”

A harrumph comes from nowhere. The lecturer looks at the girl, shakes his head in the manner of, “I don’t believe you,” and returns to his post.

You look at the girl. You say nothing, but your mind thinks, Why would you do a thing as such? What if he’d seized your phone?

She says nothing, but her face reads, You know what I want.

III.

Your phone rings. It’s your Unit Head. Not the one in fellowship, but the one at home. You let the six bangs fade, then lock the phone.

“You should change your ringtone.”

You look at the girl. She’s been with you three hours counting. Spread before you is the complete material for PHY 102. You’ve been pursuing the handout with the zeal of a slave seeking freedom, and here it is before you, like wine brought to the king. But this wine has a condition. The girl.

“Should we continue tomorrow?”

She shakes her head. “Saved you in class, remember?”

And so what! But, you recall the chat she showed you – the lecturer had told her to keep an eye on you. He didn’t like you, and he would be glad to throw you out of his class, and possibly, out of his GP system.

Your hands shoot up. “Alright,” you say. “One more hour.” You breathe.

“One hour,” she says, “then we’ll see.”

Your phone rings again.

IV.

It’s eleven pm. The wristwatch says so. Your Bible is opened to Exodus, the twenty-first chapter. You consider your study rate. You’ve been on the book for twenty-eight days, averaging three-quarter of a chapter per day. That’s like taking one cup of flakes every day. Your spirit must be crying.

You bow your head and pray, then move to open the Amplified version on your phone when the beast in it comes alive. It’s your class rep calling this time. He doesn’t call you except to pass information or demand help.

You slide the green receive button.

“Emmanuel –”

“The assignment,” you say. “I’d submit tomorrow.”

“It’s not the assignment, guy. We have a test by 8.”

And your heart goes, bang.

“Hello?”

“I’d call back,” you say. You end the call and collapse on the bed. The foam feels like hardwood. You can feel tears tease your eyes. You sniff. You sniff again.

The phone rings again.

“I said I would call –”

You choke on the last word as your head comes to its senses. Your class rep isn’t the caller. Your father is.

 

P.S 1: I have really been busy. I’m not liking it again. I think I should just forget everything and sit with the laptop all day, crafting out characters. Maybe I should, err, elope? What! I’m not a bride. Anyway, I’d be putting up short stories here soon.

P.S 2: The image before the post is a work some freshmen in Industrial Design did. Took the picture in the dark, plus my camera was blurry, hence the quality. But then, it had me stop and stare. Model of a fountain was what they call it. I still can’t loop my head around the thought.

P.S 3: Thank you very much for reading. I mean, with my inconsistencies, you still read. So, thank you. Thank you for being a part of this community.