There is hardly a place that has people coming into it for different reasons as the house of God. The house of God for a long time has been a place to run to in times of help, spiritual or otherwise. One wonders where else to escape the daily traumas of life. It is not always one got respite from the house of God, though. Sometimes, things were turned wrong right there. Luashie thought the world of his, the Catholic Church, and belonged to the group who sought it for everything especially refuge. He usually woke up before the traditional cockcrow. Even at the time when it was too dark for a man to recognise his body, he would wake up and get prepared for morning mass. It was a usual routine that preceded his going to work. It was a habit he had formed to avoid his wife waking up to meet him. During the ‘Honey’ days, they had gone to church together but the days of such cheap pretence were fast gone. She was religious but didn’t go to church much these days. Her sleep always won. At least, it gave him an edge over her sometimes. At the time when dark slowly begins to stretch its hand to dawn as witnessed by the cock in loud tones, Luashie’s eyes opened of a will of their own. He was still feeling sleepy and decided to go back to dream world. He turned and as he did so, his body brushed that of his wife. The sleep vanished from his eyes and he shot up. He threw on a pair of trousers and a tee-shirt.
He looked around his rented one bedroom apartment and not being able to make anything out of the darkness, felt his way for the door. He got to the church and was not shocked to discover that he was the only one who had come, yet. He waited twenty minutes before the next person came in. He wanted to greet the new entrant and make some small talk but his pre-mass etiquette dictated that he stay and meditate on the mass ahead. He sighed and continued his meditation and prayers. Mercifully, benediction was soon going to start. It did and immediately, mass was underway. Luashie kept his eyes out for the extraordinary because this church was never short of it. It wasn’t like those Pentecostal churches where everything was stage managed. Two weeks ago, he had been forced by Ugo, his friend to attend such a church. As usual, there were several miracles. Ugo had kept poking him at each miracle. Luashie’s eyes were wide, his mouth open at it all: The lame started walking, the deaf started hearing, the dumb spoke, and yes, the blind saw. Then a blind man was brought to the Pastor by one of the attendants. Before the miracle took place, there was a short interview between the Pastor and the blind man:
“My good man, what is your name and for how long have you been blind?”
“My name is Dotun Akirinde. Pastor, I was born blind. I have been blind since I was born. In fact, my parents who gave birth to me were also blind before they delivered me.” “The Lord shall do his miracles…” Amennnn!!! The speaking in tongues had gone on and the whole healing process. Suddenly, the Lord did it! “Praise the LORD!!” Halleluiah!! the excited congregation shouted. A green cloth was brought as everyone wondered what was going to happen next. The Pastor showed it to the man who had been born blind and was seeing for the very time in his life: “Brother Dotun, what colour is this cloth?”
“It is green!” Praise the LORD!!
Yeah right. Luashie had left the church in that instant, wondering whether to laugh or be angry at the time he had wasted.
The Catholic Church was not like that. The miracles were deep and real. The last one had been the most sensational. It was one of those rare days when he missed mass. Okay, he had not been there but had heard the whole story firsthand by people who sat on the front pew. During consecration, a snake had appeared from nowhere and had approached the altar. The Catechist who was kneeling at the altar, looking seemingly interested, enraptured in its activities, was the first to notice it. He forgot where he was, screamed in a ladylike voice and was out of the church. The Priest temporarily lost his stance but continued consecration all the same. Luashie did not know what happened next but the summary was that the snake found its way to the altar, and instantly got burnt. He got to see the dead body later not with any burn marks but rather with stone cuts. All the same, he had heard the story from an enthusiastic Church Elder and who was he to argue the case out.
The current mass dragged on without any incidence, even at consecration. Luashie headed for the altar to receive communion. Some sense kept telling him that he would get a story to remember. He knelt down to wait for his turn and noticed that the lady beside him had painted her lips with a bucket of lipstick. Hmm! Women and their palaver, which kind… oh! It was getting to his turn. Look at how Father put the communion. It was as if his hands were touching her mouth. Kai! “Body of Christ,” the Priest intoned as he lifted the communion to Luashie’s mouth. “Amen.” he replied as he headed back to his seat. The woman still moved on. He saw where Father had touched the lips. Hmm! What was it with some of these ladies? If only he wasn’t receiving communion now… He concluded prayers and crossed himself. It was time for announcements and far earlier than the time he would have loved, mass was over. Even without those other reasons, he loved the Catholic Church, with all its doctrines. There was no way he was ever going to even think about changing his faith. He dragged himself up, genuflected at the centre row, towards the cross, did the sign of the cross and walked out of the church premises.
He could not go home immediately. Work usually started by thirty minutes past eight and there was no way he was going home now, at seven o’clock. He got to Ugo’s shop and after talking for only a short while, had to leave. Ugo’s wife called him. She wanted him to do something for her within and he had to go. Women! Luashie thought of the several places he could go to, and discovered there was none he could realistically head for at the moment. The road home seemed so far and yet, so close.
He walked home slowly, as if intending to crush every single stone on the road. He got home and met his wife awake, and about. Her greeting him first would be heralded with insults, then, complaints, and finally, requests. So, he was always fast enough to greet first:
“Morning, Mama Junior.” After greeting, he always tried sneaking to the backyard or anywhere else where he could claim busyness till his bath time. There were those rare good days when she would allow him be. Today was not one of them:
“Baba Junior! You have come back from mass late again!” She always wanted him coming straight to the house after mass. She didn’t even like him saying ‘Have you woken up?’ or ‘How did you wake up?’ to anyone. Such was her love. But as usual, she had missed mass today. At such times, there was always an excuse to pacify her or some attack:
“Ah-ahn, Mama J, I told you to be coming with me to mass. But you love your sleep more than our Lord Jesus Christ! I have told you that as a Catholic, you must go for Mass each day and receive communion. When Father decides to we should do Novena like today, how would you know?”
Her hypocritical religious self had been hit. At this, she would usually mellow and say something of an apology. Either that or she would be silent and wear a contrite face. She hated being hit; sleep was her weak point. He always came towards her and looked at her straight in the eyes, and would say something like:
“Woman, change.” It was one of those moments that he lived for each day. The children would come out at this time and he would add (as was occurred now): “Aôndo a yange kwa u kunya .” Then go in. On such mornings, there was usually no wahala from her. “Wait!” What?! She dragged his shirt back. “Where did you say you are coming from?” “Straight from the church.” He lied with every conviction, such that he believed it too. “Which church?” What?! “St. Thaddeus of course!” There was a malicious glint in her eyes as she came towards him. “Kuma, get me a mirror.” The anger in the voice sent the boy running as if ten demons were after him. His mother’s fury could be worse than them all combined. He appeared with the mirror in that instant. The neighbours had gathered to watch the spectacle. These kind of things weren’t the sort to be missed for anything. It was better than the fake Nollywood show always shown on TV.
“For the last time, where did you go to after mass?” Luashie looked at his wife who stood a few inches above him in height. Her plumpness did not help issues. He swallowed:
“Eh, I went to see Ugo after mass.” “Are you telling me the truth?”
“Yes…Dear.” “Are you a homosexual?”
“I beg your pard-!!” And the mirror came to the face: Lipstick on his lips!
The preceding lies didn’t help matters.
Why did the church rule divorce out?!! And if it wasn’t for that stupid communion… As Luashie counted the ceiling of the hospital room he was in, he doubted his love for the church. He knew he wasn’t going to be a Catholic too long.
(Published in SAGE Journal, in Makurdi Nigeria 2010)