Wanjiku sat on the kitchen steps staring blankly at the tall cathedral in the distance. Her head ached. A kind of throbbing that came and left so often. She could not remember when the headaches started, but they had become part of her. The church cathedral was beautiful, standing majestically in the East between tall eucalyptus trees. Sometimes Wanjiku woke up early just to see the mating of the sunrise with the newly painted cathedral walls. This was a part of home she would always remember. Her head throbbed again, and she questioned the effectiveness of the traditional herbs she had been drinking.
“Wanjiku! Wanjiku! Lunch is ready,” her mother called out from the sitting room. She had always been accused of loving her children too much, and rightly so. Neither Wanjiku nor her siblings were children anymore, but their mother insisted on treating them as such. If it wasn’t “Have you eaten” it was “Was the food enough’, and lately she had been nagging Wanjiku about going to church.
“Coming Mum!” she called back, unconsciously walking toward the toilet.
A falling avocado from the overgrown tree right beside the toilet startled Wanjiku from her daydreaming. The avocado hit the corrugated iron sheets on the toiled roof with a thud that left her heart racing. Wanjiku looked long and hard at the tree, that tree was older than her twenty-four years. It had seen more life than she had. For the first time, Wanjiku noticed the white mold on the tree trunk. The mold formed large and small patches, unevenly spread on the trunk, but more concentrated on the lower part. It reminded her of vitiligo patches on skin. Vitiligo amused her, the way it formed patches like flowers. Those mold patches also took her back to her primary school days.
There was that boy she always rode the matatu with to school. She did not remember his name. Their schools were along the same Matatu route, he in high school, and she in primary school. The boy liked Wanjiku, but she could not bring herself to share the same affections. Maybe it was because he said Nothember instead of November and called her Shiku rather than Wanjiku, or it was the pink patches on his lips that looked like those burns from drinking too much chang’aa, the local brew. Back then Wanjiku wondered when such a small boy drank so much chang’aa.
It was those lips that Wanjiku associated with the mold on the Avocado tree. Now she smiled at her naivety, she now knew better. Wanjiku turned toward the house to eat her mother’s food. This had to be a good day. After all, it was Sunday. Sunday always looked like itself, with the sun brighter and the air fresher. Wanjiku wondered if anyone else smelled the difference in the air on this day. Maybe it was because everyone looked good on Sunday, wearing their best clothes. Maybe it was a manifestation of the gloriousness of the day, a believer might say. Today Wanjiku would go to church.
It had been four months since she last attended a service. Church made her feel a type of way. On a good day, Wanjiku enjoyed the praise and worship session, but mostly she went for the preaching. Other days she wondered why she bothered with church. She did not consider herself much of a believer or a faithful. Wanjiku wished she could believe. It must be great to rest your burdens on a higher power, to believe that someone had a plan for us. The praise and worship team seemed so convinced when they sang and danced. She wondered how they did it. Wanjiku went to church because it is what people she knew did on Sunday, they went to church, so she would go to church. Let no one say her misfortunes were because she did not ask God for help… although she rarely prayed. But heck, she did not need nosy neighbors asking questions. Also, a part of her hoped she would go into church and come out a “new” person.
On this Sunday, congregants were smarter than usual. There was a feeling of excitement in the air, and the dressing looked coordinated. It couldn’t be that suddenly everyone had developed a loving for African attire. The Reverend walked in, and suddenly Wanjiku remembered. How could she forget! Wanjiku’s mother had told her this particular Sunday would be different. A day of special prayer. A lot would happen today. A complete reshuffle of the church clergy had been done, and a new group of God’s shepherds would be introduced. Also, the clergy would be praying for the needs of the congregation; marriage and finding love were topping the prayer requests among people of Wanjiku’s age. Wanjiku had a lot of questions about these prayers. She believed people ought to pray for themselves, after all, is it not true that we have the power within us?
“You become what you believe.” The pastor started her preaching with a word of motivation. This would be a good service. “These are Oprah’s words, not mine,” she continued, “The reason I’m telling you these were her words and not mine is to make you believe in them. Oprah believed she could be great, and she became great. When people associate facts with successful individuals, they take their meaning more seriously. We all define success differently. I am living my idea of success. I am living my dream. I believed in my dream, but it took motivation from someone who had achieved their dream for me to believe I could achieve mine. So, by all means, find that person. I could be that person for some of you, but I know few of you could even think of becoming clergy. And, because I see you are an even younger generation, how about Drake, or Meagan Good or even Cardi B! Yes, I just dropped those names in church, don’t look so shocked, I have teenage children, and they watch these people all day.” The older congregants looked confused, but those of us who knew the celebrities were amused. The rest of the service was without event, except for a controversial comment here and there from the pastor. Wanjiku knew she would love this pastor. Partly because most people would not and, partly because she was a woman.
After service within the church compound was a different ball game, one Wanjiku loved to play. People can be interesting to observe when you look in the right places. Their body language and tone of voice tell a lot and betray a lot too. As humans, we have this urge to be noticed, to look important amongst our fellow man. The followers of Jesus were no exception to this human attribute. Wanjiku decided to waste some minutes observing the latest hair and fashion trends before returning home. Maybe even catch up on church gossip. The youth choir offered a constant and reliable supply of village “tea”.
“Shiks! Hey Shiks! Wanjiku!”
That better not be Alice shouting my name all over, Wanjiku thought to herself, and Shiks! She knows I hate that name! Nicknames had always agitated her.
“Hey Alice, long time. How have you been?” Wanjiku was excited to see her friend.
“I’ve been good girlfriend, you’ve lost! Did you fall out of grace or what happened to you? Why don’t you come to church anymore?” Alice spoke quickly and looked at Wanjiku with wonder.
Wanjiku loved Alice, she was the grapevine. She had the tea on anything happening in the village. Alice knew which girls had or would give birth in their mothers’ kitchen, something the gossip women said to refer to girls who got pregnant before marriage. She had the information about which of their age mates was “doing well”, the person each mother used as an example for their “lazy” children.
“Fall out of grace? When did I ever have grace, Alice? I left that quality to you. Good praise session, by the way, your voice gets better with each song!” Wanjiku enjoyed teasing Alice.
“Why don’t you join the choir Wanjiku? I know you have a horrible voice, but we can turn off your mic while we sing,” Alice said with a grin. “You just have to stand there, move your lips, and be seen.”
Alice laughed at her stupid suggestion, a hearty laugh that exposed her white set of teeth. Wanjiku envied those teeth.
“Wanjiku,” Alice continued, “what I’m simply saying is you need to engage in a church activity, get closer to the church. Come closer to God, and he will come closer to you… find each other.”
Find each other, amused Wanjiku. It implied that she was missing something essential.
“Alice, I have found God, but I keep losing him… or is it her? You know, God could be a woman. Anyway, you’ll be the first person I come to when this situation God and I have needs external influence, but for now, what’s trending?”
Alice was shocked at Wanjiku’s reply. She was a church girl. A believer, and a real one at that. Sometimes Alice wondered what happened to Wanjiku. Why was she so sarcastic, so critical of everything, so difficult to understand? Wanjiku was passionate about most things. She loved to argue and debate, even on matters she had little understanding of, as long as the issue hit a particularly delicate nerve.
“Wanjiku, you have problems, you know.” It was more of a statement than a question.
“I know, Alice. One day I will write my story. I will tell my story, and people will have to listen. My words will be the windows to my soul.