The church was half filled when we arrived. However, we were able to find some empty seats on the second row in the central column. We meandered our way there and sat down, facing the pulpit. The celebrants were yet to come, though some of the officiating ministers were already in their seats, and the church choir was playing some soft worship songs.
“There, on that front row, are the parents of the bride,” Betty explained to me as I scanned over the congregation.
I never felt to be amused in a ceremony like this when everyone is in their Christmas best clothes; and everyone sizing each other up: especially the women. But then I think they are doing it for the couples.
I looked at the couple she was pointing out to me. They are a middle-aged couple, the father dressed in chieftaincy attire, chatting with the wife, also dressed in a traditional attire of the riverine people. It is their daughter’s biggest day and I think, no one can take that joy away from them.
Any moment from now I think the Bride would be marching in with her bridal train. The officiating ministers have all taken their seat. I looked behind me at the door, expecting either the bride or groom to come in.
I saw two men came in through the door. The light from the early morning sun was slightly reflecting on the door as the men came in laughing. One of them was gesticulating with his hand as if he was sharing a joke.
But my eyes were on the second man. My breath seized all of sudden as if a wrench has been forcefully inserted into my lungs to hold the flow of air. The first time I saw that figure, he was wearing a custom uniform. From that day, my life seemed to have been cast into a mould.
I watched on speechless as he looked at his friend, seems to suppress a burst of laughter, as he pointed to some vacant seats on the far right of the auditorium. The angle of his face now showing clearly; that is Timi. He is so full of life and happy. I don’t think he is passing through an emotional wreck like me.
All this flashed through my mind in that split second. I could not say anything, just staring, and my eyes popping out of their socket; my breath finally came out sallow. I turned to look at Betty, I do not know what I hope to see on her, but I think she was about raising an alarm on account of me.
“Girl, what’s happening? Have you seen a ghost or something?” she was looking into my eyes.
My breath was coming out tightly through my chest and I cannot make out any clear sentence. I just pointed my finger at the direction where the two men were sitting.
“Timi,” the word came out husky from my throat, I could not hear myself, but I guessed Betty did. Her eyes opened wide as she raised her face to look at where I was pointing.
My last recollection of that face was ten years ago in my room, as a student, when he had held me closely to himself and kissed me. That was in the night, but then, I have lived with him in his room for about two weeks and have had contact with him for almost a year. The years would not dilute my senses or my eyes too dim now, that I cannot recognize him.
As I looked at the pair, they both raised their heads and looked at the choristers singing on stage, laughing. We happened to be sitting in the line of his vision and the singers. Somehow, they did not see us, or even if they did, they would not have recognized me from that distance. But to me, I saw the face very clear.
I cannot mistake the face of that tall man that had swept Vero off her feet when she met him at Abonnema. The man that had set her face aglow that I was able to notice the spark on her the moment I saw her. I have had the same sweeping sensation the first day I saw him coming along that foot part to our room when he came to visit Vero.
If there is any change about him now, it was the fact that Timi is now a man; a full grown man. I wondered if he still works with the Nigeria Customs Service.
“Are you sure that’s him?” Betty broke into my consciousness.
She has been trying to tug the sleeve of my blouse for the past minute while I was day dreaming.
“No Betty, you can’t try that on me now,” I hissed.
‘I mean, you are looking at a man in a crowded church auditorium almost 15 meters away from you. How would you confirm that he is Timi?” I could hear the tension and fear in her voice.
“There is only one way to find out,” I said getting to my feet. But Betty pulled me back onto my seat.
“Don’t tell me you want to walk up to him?”
“That’s the idea.”
“Don’t be a bitch, girl. Well, I mean, even if he is Timi that is sitting there, you can’t just walk up to him to say, ‘hi Timi, do you remember me? I am Loundah, your ex…”
“Oh shut up, Betty,” I almost shouted at her. I saw heads turning to look at us. “Okay, well, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to shout at you, but you alone could understand what I have gone through lately.”
“It’s okay, Loundah. I think this is what we will do. I will go over to them and ask him if he is Timi. Oh, the wedding is about to start. Let’s wait till after the church ceremony.” She looked at me smiling, “come on, girl, we won’t let him again to vanish this time.
I nodded my head smiling and looked up at the Pulpit where one of the officiating ministers has just taken over the podium.