I came very early to the church. Being the last day of the programme and a Saturday, I know that the church would be crowded. It is better I have a seat on the front pew. I do not want to miss any of the messages by being distracted sitting somewhere in the middle pews where people will be coming and going.
I kept looking around as the seats filled up with people coming in after me. I never felt to be amused when people gather in their Sunday best in a church gathering. Everyone is on their best dressing as if God was coming to conduct a beauty peasant.
I was not left out in the dressing contest. Wearing a dark blue suit that cost me Eight Thousand Naira just last week when I was invited to attend a friend’s wedding ceremony; I was the cynosure of all eyes: a bride adorned for the groom. Boy, and am I feeling on top of the world?
It was a 3 three-day event dealing on ‘Divine Partnership’ for youth, conducted by the Local Branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Port Harcourt. I do not know what advertising strategy they had used, but by the second day, the talk of the event has become hype in town, and the place is now filling up in swabs of humanity.
Then my eyes caught him, coming in with another man. That was Tonye I have just seen coming into the church. My heart skipped a breath. What is Tonye doing in a church? I checked him again as he jovially talked with his friend, making their way to a seat away to my far right of the auditorium. He was wearing a white ‘Etiboh,’ a traditional dress of the Niger Delta people.
This is the first day I was seeing him in three years. Oh my God! Why am I feeling all this worked up in seeing him? But I cannot help it. The circumstance of our separation not withstand, he is still the best of buddies to get along with. Tall and royal in appearance, Tonye was the team leader in our Youth service year at the orientation camp in Lagos, and coming from the same state, our relationship has blossomed like wildfire.
The blaze of the union has been too strong and sudden, and we have somehow failed to nourish it and had allowed it to crumble. Three years of wondering about him and prideful also to check him up on the social website.
And here he is; thrown on me by nature's craftsmanship and Divine arrangement. What will he says if I walk up to him? I will mortify that foolish pride gnawing at me and take the plunge.
I do not know how I managed the next two hours plus I spent at the service, and I cannot recall a single message from the preacher. I was stealing a look across at him at every opportunity. Then, on one of such looks, I saw him looking at me. From the short distance, I could see the surprised look on his face, his mouth open as if he was shouting my name silently across the sea of heads in the church.
I was putting my bible and things into my bag at the close of the service when I felt a tug on my hand. My eyes opened wide like a full moon as I looked up. Tonye was trying to hold onto my arm against the pushing and pulling off the crowd.
His friend was standing beside him looking at me as if I was the best thing he has seen since freedom day. It was with all my will power mustered together that I resisted the temptation to fling myself at him, regardless of the eyes that were upon us, or the place we were. Not even a consideration at the circumstances for our separation.
“Ebi” I could hear him whispered, “you are like a dark angel in that dress and you look so gorgeous.”
“You also look like Prince Charming, Tonye” I cannot help looking him over to express my appreciation as he led me out of the church; his friend, looking befuddled, coming behind us.