by ‘Seun SALAMI
From childhood, you wanted to be an airline pilot, not a priest of the Catholic Church.
You felt it when you woke up this morning, that lump in your throat you had first felt as a boy approaching your twelfth birthday, the day you woke up to sounds of an argument between your parents about you. You began to feel the lump when you heard your mother’s loud voice yelling, “To the seminary he must go!” while your father’s more placid voice was almost muffled, saying, “Let God decide,” repeatedly.
You did eventually go to the seminary, even though you didn’t understand why you had to, neither did you fully realise the implications. But you soon understood much when you got there. God must have decided it from heaven, just like your mother said to you later. Because you are his workmanship, created unto good works which he had before ordained that you should work in them. She had shown you that in the bible – the tenth verse of the second chapter of the book of Ephesians.
If only you were her first or only child, maybe your mother wouldn’t have insisted on sending you to the seminary. But your elder sister’s six months old condition gave your mother hope of a grand-child, and so on you, her next hope of respect and honour was hinged. You had always observed the honour and worship and gifts that were regularly bestowed on Father Francis and his family, even though he had no nuclear one.
It’s been well over twenty years since that night now and you are still celibate. You’ve never known what it means to be with a woman. Whenever the thought of the unknown pleasures of coitus crossed your mind, you picked up your rosary and made the sign of cross three times, from your forehead to your chest and across your shoulders. Such thoughts are of the devil who will always try to attack your conviction with evil thoughts. That was what you were taught at the seminary. If it persisted, you had to depart from solitude and seek the company of other children of God.
The closest you had ever come to knowing this pleasure was the day before that night of the lump in your throat. You had been out playing hide and seek with the other children in the yard. You had found Ngozi, your neighbour’s daughter, where she hid behind the make-shift toilet slightly shielded by banana trees, and she had gestured to you not to declare your findings. She must have been about three years younger than you. You don’t remember where the idea came from, but you quietly demanded that she pulled her skirt up for you to see her pants if she didn’t want you to declare that she had been found. She reluctantly but quietly obeyed you. You didn’t remove her pants, but you put your hands between her legs and just as you did, you felt yourself harden between yours. It was the sound of the footsteps of another child pacing in your direction that made you drop her skirt. She began to avoid you from that day.
You decided to get out of bed before the thoughts became defiling. You swallowed your saliva. You picked up your bible and rosary from the miniature table beside your bed. As you got on your knees to pray, you heard the sound of the door bell coming from the living room. You looked up at the wall clock; it said 5:30am. You decided to wait a bit; you thought the bell must be on the blink. The sound returned after a few seconds, so you got up and walked briskly into the living room, past the dinning table and chairs unto the front door. You looked through the door hole and saw the frame of a woman, darkness still cloaked the morning. You opened the door.
“Good morning Father.”
You recognised her. Sister Jennifer was one of your parishioners. She always wore different gaudy scarves and a smile. She didn’t wear any today. Her hair was full and let down. She had a wrapper woven around her body from her neck, as if to further shield herself from the cold.
You opened the door wider and stepped out, shutting it behind you.
“How may I help you, Sister Jennifer?”
“It’s a matter of life and death Father. Please can I come in? I don’t want people seeing me in front of your house so early.”
Your heart beat faster. You looked around, and then you thought, all in quick succession. Was someone dying? What could she be here for so early? Then her voice interrupted you…
You turned and opened the door. You entered and stood by the door as she walked in. She stood close to the entrance and silently requested for some water.
You asked her to take a seat as you walked smartly into the kitchen, opened the fridge and brought out a bottle of water which you poured into a glass before returning to the living room.
You were looking at the dinning table when you entered the living room, your eyes searching for a saucer on which to place the glass before presenting it to Sister Jennifer. Then you heard her voice.
“Father, I came to offer myself to you. Please take me.”
The glass of water fell from your hands as you turned to look at her. It shattered its contents and container unto the concrete floor.
You stood still as shivers travelled from your feet through your spine into the back of your head. You wanted to scream and you suddenly became thirsty. You had never seen such bareness offered to you on a platter, along with its owner.
Then she began to walk towards you. Impulsively, you began to scream. You screamed at the top of your voice and took rearward steps till your back was against the wall. You can’t remember exactly what you said, but it must have contained ‘the Blessed Virgin Mary,’ ‘Jesus Christ,’ and any other thing that made her stop walking towards you. It must have frightened her, especially the thought of the neighbours hearing your voice and coming to your rescue.
You watched as she picked up her wrapper and wrapped herself just the she came. You tried not to look at her but instead you focused on the frame of the Blessed Virgin Mary hanging on the wall behind her.
She turned her back reluctantly and began to walk slowly out of the door. You wanted to stop her, to tell her not to leave. You wanted to see, know and experience what she wanted to do, but you didn’t want it to involve you.
You sat slowly on the floor and swallowed your saliva as the lump in your throat returned. It reminded you that she would be back soon.
‘Seun Salami is a writer and editor. He is the author of ‘The son of your father’s concubine’, a collection of short stories. You can follow him on twitter @SeunWrites