“If you fall, I’ll be there.”
Brother Daniel was the one taking the worship session this Sunday. He sang or rather worshipped God so passionately, that one could hear it in his voice, his brash voice that broke limits and pushed barriers. His voice was the closest I’ve heard to Lewis Capaldi’s.
He brought out a white handkerchief occasionally to wipe sweat off his forehead as he sang heartfelt worship songs. He raised his left hand up occasionally too as though he would literally touch the heavens. He carried the church along in his worships and the whole church followed his lead and sang along, the whole church except for me. I stood quietly observing and once in a while my mind would drift away.
There was a time or maybe even now, this particular church for me revolved around brother Daniel and maybe it still did. He introduced me to the church and everything about it, and I gladly accepted it because of him. I used to be, as they sometimes preached in church, a lost sheep, an unbeliever, carnally minded and so forth before Brother Daniel rescued me. Though I was a “going to church Christian”, but it was just that; I had not fully grasped the true meaning of Christianity.
Not my words, but Daniel’s.
The church was quite huge and exquisitely decorated. It was beautiful and most of the people worshipping there were also beautiful. That was one of my first thoughts on entering the church. When Brother Daniel first told me the name of the church, he said it with so much pride and confidence that I already loved the church even before I even saw it. “True Worshippers Church” was boldly written on the top of the flier he gave to me that day in the taxi, just before he dropped off and gave me a smile, a smile I dreamed of for weeks.
The praise session had started and everyone was soon dancing to the beats. Their instrumentalists were good by the way; they had every instrument one could possibly think of, ranging from foreign to local. And more so, they had good and sufficient hands to play it. I remembered Brother Daniel teasing me that I could also be part of the instrumentalists and I had laughed so much happy and content. He told me this after I had complimented him about the choir ministration and all. It was on the second Sunday of me worshipping there, if I remember correctly. As I did remember, something lurched in my heart. I didn’t know if it was hurt or regret.
The lady taking the praise was dark complexioned, short and plump, and she sang so ecstatically, practically jumping up and down the pulpit, I wondered how she was able to carry herself. Praise session was still going on and the best thing I could get myself to do was clap my hands lazily and sing absentmindedly to the songs I knew. I didn’t know most of the songs they sang. Firstly because I wasn’t all that familiar with Christian songs, especially the new ones, and secondly, the church I grew up in and still even attended up till the week I met Brother Daniel, or as he would like to put it, the day I met with Christ, consisted mostly of elderly people, So we usually sang their old songs instead and did everything the old way too, and we the youth did not mind, not like we had a say or anything.
So this Sunday I just clapped my hands lazily and very reluctantly. Not like hands clapping were needed though; the instruments were enough, and all you had to do was dance, dance like David did, dance away your sorrows, dance to your miracles, dance to your blessings, dance to your breakthrough, dance out of sadness. Sadly for me that was impossible. I was totally wrecked, and I felt so empty and useless. Who was I to nurse dreams and wishes on prospects I was not even sure was mine?
I saw it, I liked it, loved it. In fact, I took it away as though it were a thing and not Brother Daniel. I was too stiff to dance this Sunday; I felt heavy and weak at the same time. Other Sundays,dancing came naturally to me, majorly because of what was beating in my heart, and a little part because I didn’t want to be left out. Anytime praises started, the whole church would go into a dancing frenzy, even to the pastors, and the choirs dancing usually got me into fits of laughter, especially Brother Daniel’s. One look at him dancing, and I would laugh, blushing at the same time. But now, here was I too scared and angry to even sneak a peek at him.
Finally praise and dancing session ended, and it was time for prayers. Prayer here was different and much simpler, though with big grammars, long sentences with big grammars, and they made me wonder if everyone here was educated enough to understand what was being prayed about. But I liked it though, and I preferred it to the prayers we prayed back at my church where we were always killing one enemy or the other, asking God to burn our enemies, prayers to return stolen glories, to kill household witches and wizards and many more. We could spend hours there; it was tiring, but you mustn’t stop, because if you did stop or you mistakenly slept off, there’s a good chance that you’d carry another person’s problem home as we were told and so everyone was at alert. But prayer in Brother Daniel’s church was only two prayer points and at most three, it was mostly thanksgiving. If the prayer points were not thanksgiving, it was either a prayer for the church or for the kingdom and I loved it.
But this Sunday I only mumbled nonsense while on my seat, all the while reminiscing on how Brother Daniel’s hands had felt on my own whenever we held hands for prayers. Soon enough prayers were rounded off and choirs were ushered in for their ministration. Aside after the service period where I would get to talk with Brother Daniel, the choir ministration was my favourite part of the service because of different reasons. The first and most important one was because that was Brother Daniel’s department and he gets to lead the ministration most times. Those times when he led the ministration, I always felt like that moment was just for me alone, specially for me alone, and nobody else. And so I would hold my breath all through that moments, and if I knew the song, if I wasn’t so shy, I would get up on my feet, dance and sing along. Yes, I was that high on whatever substance he had been feeding me on. My other reasons were that the choristers themselves were good. I used to be in the children’s choir in my former church, but my voice compared to each of them was like a shivered-up plant beside a huge Iroko tree. Brother Daniel said I could work on it and I made up my mind to do so.
Brother Daniel wasn’t the one leading the ministration this Sunday and I felt relieved by that. I knew that if he happened to lead the ministration, I would be completely overwhelmed with the grief I had been trying to hide. It was instead a brother Daniel had once introduced me too, but whose name I had forgotten that took the lead. I heard nothing of what he was singing, and the choir sounded bland to my ears, just like the way food tasted when it lacked the necessary ingredients, and I was made unhappier. The choir ministration always lifted my spirit but not this Sunday.
Offerings were collected, and I dropped a token in the basket which was being passed round, I dropped it for my conscience sake. Brother Daniel wasn’t the owner of the church after all. Soon, the pastor came up for the sermon. At that moment to me, it seemed like forever before the sermon. Time indeed flies when you’re happy, and it is strangely slow when you’re sad. Other Sundays, everything would have gone by fast, and soon enough I would be speaking to Brother Daniel.
But not this Sunday.
I had no hope of such, though in a corner of my heart I sincerely hoped he as little noticed me enough to acknowledge me. That could have helped me feel better. He was my pain and my medicine. I hardly listened to the sermon. The pastor was funny as usual, and the church was soon chuckling up, but I wasn’t listening. Instead I sneaked a peek at Brother Daniel to at least see his reaction, but he also had a smile on his face, wide, sincere and unbothered. I cringed. If not that I had not forgotten my manners, I could have walked out of the church angrily, never to come back again, never to see him again. But that was a superpower for me at that moment.
At last the sermon ended and the altar call was made. We were told too close our eyes, so it would help whoever wanted to give their live to Jesus or rededicate to feel less ashamed. I went out the first time I came to the church, on Brother Daniel’s instruction of course. The service ended, but I was completely awashed with anxiety, my palms were sweaty and to pass time, I wiped them on my handkerchief while on my seat. I was still stealing glances at the choir stand, and I saw him talking to some choir members. It must have been a serious discussion because they were all engrossed in it, and had straight faces. Brother Daniel had once told me that he was the assistant choir chord. I watched him as he kept talking, gesturing mostly with his hands, he liked doing that a lot when he talked.
I didn’t know I was so deeply engrossed until someone tapped me behind and called my name “Sister Molara.” I looked behind to see who it was, and I came face to face with a sister, whose name I had forgotten too. I had so much been into Brother Daniel that I forgot most people’s names; they didn’t matter to me. I recognized the lady – she had ministered to me when I came out for altar call the first time. She was thin, dark in complexion and beautiful too. I stood up and answered her greetings in the cheerful way I could, which I guessed from the look on her face wasn’t cheerful at all. She knew something was wrong, my countenance told her, and I was probably not too good at hiding pain. Not this kind of pain especially. She asked what was wrong, looking concerned. I wanted to so badly tell her, so I could get it off my chest, but I couldn’t. She was a suspect; every lady in this church was a suspect, except for the married ones. And besides I wondered how I would look if I told her that I had followed a man here, and because of the man I stayed, and now that the man had picked me so high and dropped me, now I felt like nothing.
So I told her I wasn’t feeling too well and I needed rest. She asked me if I was sure and I affirmed it. She gave me a brief hug and promised to call me later. It was at that moment that I turned around and our eyes, my eyes and Daniel’s, met, and my heart almost jumped out. He looked surprised as though he didn’t expect me to be here, and I immediately wished I wasn’t. I should have probably stayed at home and drink my grief with garri. He only smiled and waved stiffly and that confirmed it: I should never have come. I should never have thought that because he was being nice and so sweet, he was into me, because he wasn’t. He was not the one that put me on cloud nine; my imagination did that.
The thing was that Brother Daniel didn’t tell me explicitly that he didn’t see me that way. It was in one of our meetings that he told me he was engaged and soon to be married. That was the moment I was dropped from my high ladder. And what a great crash it was, with the sound reverberating through my heart. I blamed myself all through. How could I have been so stupidly assuming or dreaming? It was never going to happen. We were never going to walk down the aisle in the big beautiful auditorium of this church, with friends and well wishers cheering us.
I said my goodnight and left a surprised Brother Daniel standing in the middle of the road. He never should have been so nice; never should have checked up on me from time to time; never should have made me laugh. I spun around without making as much as a gesture and marched out of the church almost in a fit of rage. At least I had a life before I met him.