The heat felt foreign, like an entity had hung on the ceiling the entire night and sucked all the air from the room. Uche fanned himself with a small book. The beads of sweat on his chest made him uncomfortable. He sat up from his bed, walked to his kitchen, and got a bottle of coke from the fridge. The bottle stood warm in his grip. In silence, he cursed himself for forgetting to switch on the fridge after he turned off the generator. He looked at the incandescent bulb that hung in the middle of the white concrete ceiling by a short electric cord. He wished it would flick with light, just for a second. Such a sign would give him little hope for sustained power but the bulb stared back at him: lightless. He walked to his bathroom. He turned on the shower. He let the water fall into an empty blue bucket. A mirror hung on the wall of white tiles. It was big enough to let him see his whole body. He pushed down his boxer and got into the shower stand. He let the water fall on him. It eased him. His breathing became heavy then it relaxed into steady a rhythm. His mind dwelled on the sound of the falling water. Images of what happened in the early morning played in his head. The sting of irritation in his chest lifted. He became more relaxed and felt a smile growing to purse his lips. He reached for a bar of soap. He rubbed it on a piece of coarse rubber fabric so it would lather. He rubbed the lather all over his skin, rinsed it, and got out of the shower. He stared at himself in the mirror. He eyed his reflection from head to toe and thought: No wonder I have so many girlfriends.
The church stood like a tall woman. It made dwarfs of the mango and almond-fruit trees by its side. A small shed stood between the church and the trees; it housed the children’s Sunday school. The children had begun singing choruses when Uche arrived. Their voices chorused praising the lord with all my heart always, and Uche felt he was not as late as he had imagined. He wasn’t interested in going to church but he was certain his mother would call to ask if he did. He didn’t want to lie like he did last Sunday and all twelve Sundays before that. There was no need to add to the sin he already committed just this morning. He always preferred to attend the last mass for the day when the church was less crowded and the atmosphere wasn’t so pretentious and thanksgiving at end of mass didn’t stretch on to become another episode of mass where he had to suppress the urge to leave and grapple with his mother’s voice in his head which said leaving mass before the priests says ‘the mass is ended, go in the peace and love of Christ’ counts as not having gone at all. Even for this mass he had no plans to stay till the end. He felt impatience grow as he stood behind the line that separated late comers from those in church. The lector began the reading: ‘The reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians’. Uche rolled his eyes and imagined how long it would take. The woman warden in purple vest lifted the purple rope that made the separation line. The first reading had ended. People scurried into the church but Uche turned to walk in the opposite direction. He walked to where he parked his car. He would drive to Peter’s house. They would discuss what happened in the early morning.
To be Continued
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