Concluding part of my friend, Hymar’s life experience… Sorry I’m posting this later than I said I would.
I carried her alright.
After fifty paces, my body started to have a conversation with me.
” Oga Hymar, why na? Dem send you? You think say na because you get chest you want con kill us ba? Abeg e don do. Drop am waka dey go.”
I did not walk away. Even when my body felt like it would break down and I would need to be carried inside for a miracle myself. I stopped every forty or fifty paces to wipe sweat from my face and get my breath back. I dunno, when I first touched her, she was painfully thin and light. But we all know you can’t hold a glass of water in your hand for too long. Even as a writer, after sometime, the pen would begin to feel heavy in my hand. It is about how long you stay at it.
Anyway, na that day I know say I be strong pesin. I huffed and puffed, telling myself, “come on, Otondo, e remain one more step, and then one more step. You go soon reach”, while Joy and trailed behind(the others had moved ahead of us) with that apologetic look on her face. She looked beautiful. And when I stopped for the tenth or twentieth time, she raised a LaCasera bottle to my mouth. I grinned at her.
Now let me tell y’all something, I believe in helping people. I believe in trying my best to be a good guy. Like everyone else, I hate to be inconvenienced, I get angry/irritated easily. But I don’t stay angry for long. One minute, I am mad at you, ten minutes later I am walking with an arm around you. That’s Hymar David. Me.
I wasn’t thinking of the inconvenience as I carried her. I was more interested in getting her past the crowd. I wasn’t even irritated one bit. I was only too happy to help, as I told Joy later when she was wasting time thanking me. What else could I have done? Claimed my hand dey pain me or pretended I no dey see?
Somehow, I got her in. I nodded at their thanks, a Peter Pan smile plastered on my face. The screens came on. I beamed. Seeing that man in the flesh up there always excited me.
The things is, I haven’t exactly been on good terms with God recently. I mean, I don’t talk to Him as usual, I don’t listen to Him either. I dunno, you could call me a backslidder and be right on point. I was way off course, running low on faith and fighting so many fears.
But the moment I saw the pastor, the moment he started talking, even though I don’t really know, couldn’t hear, what he was talking about , I realised I wanted to change again. To get back on track with God. You pay too high a price when you are hellbound, ask Tupac.
I have been thinking of it. I am a nice guy. I give a lot. I am so into helping people, sometimes at a price. But if God said my good works just ain’t it, then I better find out what it is(Jesus, the Way) and do it God’s way. It doesn’t matter that I feel the arrangement isn’t too fair. Come on, if I am doing good, why should I still miss out eventually?
But I have found that God is the Boss. And you don’t question the Boss. He isn’t obliged to answer all your questions. And you do it the Boss’s way no matter what you feel. Blessed are the meek, for they shall what? Exactly!
I carried her back later that night. A pastor in Benin offered to accommodate them, so the pressure on me was down a bit. I got back to my hostel with Joy, called Debra to house her for a night as it was too late to enter Ekosodin, the most dangerous place in Benin. I once wrote some line about that heaven-forsaken place.
”Welcome to Ekosodin
Oya leave now.”
Day two. I woke up tired, my body felt strange. I messed around on Whatsapp with Genie. She laughed and told me I wouldn’t be hitting the gym for a while. I couldn’t disagree. I took Joy to my apartment in Ekosodin and cooked her spaghetti. She was funny and looked good. She had a scar on the left side of her forehead. A souvenir from wilder days. And like most pretty girls, she too dey snap pics. In fact one day Facebook go block am for uploading picture like kedike. I just dey pity myself as she turn me do photographer for road. Girls no dey shame sha.
Our sick friend seemed worse when we got to the place she was staying with the rest, she screamed when I helped her down the stairs. It was as if putting her feet on the ground had become something painful. Something tortuous. I remember wincing on her behalf. As if her pain had suddenly become mine.
I carried her once again. My body was in a better shape then. We arrived the grounds and this time, I did better. Even though the distance was longer as I had to detour to take her to the front rows. Pastor Chris was going to be praying for the sick today.
Pastor Chris came, resplendent in his white suit, theatrical hand movements and flamboyant mannerisms. All that changed when he started to pray for the sick, calling our cases and rebuking the sicknesses in Jesus name. He looked serious, his brows furrowed in concentration as he stretched his hand towards the congregation. I stole glances at my sick friend, praying she gets healed, expecting her body to suddenly jerk, to get knocked to the ground like some angel had knocked healing into her head. I remember praying, “Lord, I ain’t carrying her back. You gotta heal her. All the way from Lagos and back the same just doesn’t sound fair.”
Oh, I almost forgot, I prayed for me too. Come on, I need healing too. I need to hear, to speak better, I need a skin that is not too sensitive, that doesn’t scar so easily, I need to stop falling sick whenever I sniff perfume, I need to be free from that tightening pain in the centre of my chest. I need a miracle too.
So pastor Chris finished praying. I turned to stare at my sick friend. She sat, looking so weak, lost and helpless. My heart almost broke. Joy was beside me, praying with her arms raised. Around me, echoes(not words, just ‘shhhhh’ sounds) of worshippers, petitioners, praying mantises rising like a drone).
Somehow I felt I should go to my sick friend. I dunno, maybe I just wanted to be there. To make her feel less alone. To provide my broad shoulders for her to lean on.
So I walked to her. I bent to whisper and motion her to stand. I gestured at her to practice walking, to take tiny steps of faith. Baby steps of belief.
She stood up slowly.
And to my horror, she took off.
And she started to run.
I just stood there stunned.
I watched as the woman I carried here, the one who could hardly take five steps without flinching, I watched her run. She RAN? Jesus! Joseph! Judas! She ran!
I was so filled with joy. My heart wanted to explode. I watched her turn back and run to me. I did not take my eyes off her, I willed her not to fall. She did not fall, she did not even stumble. She just ran round the place like a kid who had just gotten his dream birthday present.
When the shock wore off, I ran to her sister, to Joy. I couldn’t speak, I just pointed. They followed my gaze. They stared.
I dunno, but I was the happiest that night as I watched her follow the male usher to testify. To pastor Chris who blew on her…and she hit the floor, cushioned by a junior pastor.
‘ Otipari.’ I said. It is over.
It was later that I remembered there was still me, but I only shrugged. God and I, we are still going to reach an agreement one day. Till then I will hold on to these miracles, these proof that He is indeed good and He sure IS. I don’t always understand God. But I do understand He is good. You can’t see the suffering my friend was going through and then the smile on her face as she walked back to the bus that night on her own and still say God sucks.
God doesn’t suck. It is our perception of Him that sucks.
I never carried her again.
There was no need to. Seeing her whole, it just made me want to pat myself on the back and say “All that work no be for nothing.”
And when they waved goodbye for the last time, I felt I was leaving a part of me. Especially when I returned to my apartment on Monday and saw the tissue Joy used to wipe her errant lipstick lines off her mouth. I was like ‘shit, she is really gone.’
Well, I have come to understand that it is the memories and moments that matter. No matter how brief they were and how nostalgic you get afterwards, be thankful they happened.
And boy, am I thankful?