Doubt

Surrounded by bright lights and white lamps, the church altar was a prototype of heaven able to bring the word elaborate to mind. The altar a large stage elevated by six steps and carefully plastered with Italian marbles, in the middle of the stage stood a podium with fine lines carved from cedar. The ten thousand square feet cathedral was surrounded by pillars wrapped in purple linens.
With the heavy July rain beating on the aluminum roof, the cathedral lights gave off a melancholic glow, silent against the rains rhythm, only disturbed by the hushed voices in the front pew.
A baritone voice like trombone and a mellow giggle
The priest, also the church founder sat with his slender hands pressed to his laps and brown eyes lit immersed in his companion and leaning in occasionally.
His companion had wild hair and red lipstick clashing against her dark skin and peach dress looked like she was in her early twenties. Words rolled of her lips easily
“It doesn’t make you a swindler, epiphanies come at different points in life. You only have to be true to yourself and then” she stopped mid-sentence to stare at her shoes.
The priest stared lost in thought, only hearing her words.
He had always experienced glitches, breaks in his faith but none had lasted as long as this. It simply no longer made any sense, how much his soul was worth, the lonely road to eternal joy and the defensible atrocities committed by avid believers. The last straw had been his visit to the widow who lost her children in the explosion, how the words he said to her didn’t mean anything to him

“God has a reason”

Across

The winged termites kept creeping in through the tiny hole in the window. Their buzzing added to the night’s orchestra, the frogs and the crickets joined in the rainy season melody, perhaps a reminder that they were far from their studio apartment in New York.

In the dark room in Ogun, you might have walked in and only noticed him, she was hidden in darkness, his pale milky skin, wrapped around her dark thighs and their fingers intertwined as if in prayer.

She was breathing softly, her mind walking down the dark street in Ota in her blue pinafore, catching termites in large pails of water, the other children dancing around without a care in the world, capturing insects in the palm of their hands. Somehow the Ogun damp air had always followed her around, she could taste her home while she was away, hear mama’s voice weighing every decision.

What would Mama think of this? Her only daughter wanting to marry an oyinbo, Mother had told many tales (hints) about Nigerian girls who married foreigners and neglected their mothers, about mothers who were sick with loneliness. It didn’t make any sense mother declared.

Life still made sense when she arrived in Manhattan, even when she breathed the air of a different continent. That was 2 years ago, before his blue eyes quietly followed her around the Bobst Library, before his long hands stretched for her book on the higher shelf and his pink lips quoted David Foster Wallace.

That you will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” His fingers slightly pink on the knuckles touched his mouth in mock concentration “That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness.” He finished handing her the book.

She smiled courteously.

He could tell she wasn’t asleep, she never slept quietly, dragging him closer then rolling away. Today she stayed still, holding his fingers too tight. He hoped she would say something, anything in her cheery Yoruba drawl.

Anything was better than silence, he thought of the way she carried words inside her chest when they first met. She told him it was an internalized trait from her mother and her mother, women were supposed to carry their voices in their belly, swelling as the years went by.

He thought of home too, surrounded by mountains, the steep, rocky, jagged, instill-fear-of-heights kind of mountains he dared to climb and yet she was his greatest feat. How she at first avoided his eyes, speaking only in monosyllables, he had waited patiently through the summer until the words start to spill out and she could keep nothing in.

“I love you” he said out loud

She lifted her head, pressing her lips on his.

Conversations about Home

Uju: How are you? You’ve been away for so long.
Kemka: 4 years last week
Uju: I hope I join you soon, I’ve written some exams
Kemka: I still dream of the long bumpy road with red sand, the one on the way to school
Kemka: Some mornings I taste home in my mouth while my pillows soak tears
Uju: What are you saying??? You don’t like America???
Kemka: I miss those long church services we slept through, I hated them but will give anything to be stuck somewhere with my family
Uju: Why are you talking like this? You never loved home
Uju: Papa still hits mama
Uju: He still gets drunk, there’s still unemployment and no electricity
Kemka: I feel helpless here, no one knows how to pronounce my name
Uju: I am helpless here
Uju: Mama dreams of leaving, of living in America
Kemka: Mama’s arms feel like home
Uju: Keep praying, we would bring you a home
Kemka: Amen

This Love Business

“A couple of years in this business and you develop a sixth sense”
It becomes easy, to know these men, to know what they want, exactly how they want it. Within the first 10 minutes I can usually tell if they’re coming back. A lot of men are really the same, fizzy cocktails of suppressed emotions and fragile egos. Be careful with them.
You’ve also got to realize that this job isn’t for just anyone. This isn’t even the safest country for such a business, I know a lot of female prostitutes, the poor unlucky ones and the others who think they make a lot of money. But you would also notice that their prices getting have gotten as easy as their numbers, a couple of thousand nairas going around every corner.
It’s a whole different game to a male escort, for one, we are harder to find. Think artworks, as precious as Monet or Sisley to a collector.
Men are more difficult lovers, so a lot of wit is required to be successful, you must begin piecing his puzzle from the moment he walks in, and even the tiniest gesture gives him away. Through my years of experience, I’ve found these two types of men most interesting.
The first comes in with eyes like stone, feet planted firmly in Italian shoes and a wedding band around his cold fingers. Love him slowly even though he wouldn’t flash a smile, he’s never coming back but he would pay handsomely. He would think of you often with his cold fingers around his wife and smile knowing he had been loved properly for one night.
The second is pleasant, has a smile that reminds you of unwrapped presents and wants to know your real name. Love him carefully, do not let him listen to you breathe or stare in your eyes. He has the strangest requests and three love-struck women back home. Do not give him your address, the world is his playground.

That’s as much advice I’m willing to give today. I sincerely hope that you find that there can be joy and dignity in any profession you choose
-C