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“Why are we going to a prison?” I ask, the silence was becoming awkward.
“It’s part of my duty as a priest to visit those in prison.”
“I don’t know any priest who still does that”
“You know me.”
“Not as much as I want to” He throws a quick stare.
“You are sitting with me in a car, alone.”
He emphasized “alone” as though I didn’t know and had to become aware of the special moment.
“Are you happy being a priest?
“ More than anything else I’ve ever been”
“You used to be something else then, what was that?”
He kept driving in silence till we reached the gate of the prisons. It was a gigantic gate, surrounded by even thicker and higher walls. The officials at the gate seem to have acquainted well with him as praises flew out of their mouth for him.
“No one can ever escape these walls” I whispered loudly.
“It’s even worse, I was once here.” I imagined him now draped in immaculate cassock, once in torn shorts, in a mosquito infested room. He grimaces as he steps out of the car and heads for one of the open offices.
“I’ll wait in the car till you are done.”
“That was not the agreement.” he smiles faintly and gives me his hand, I smile back and go with him.
I’m sitting in the car, trying to recover from everything I’ve seen. He’s still outside talking to one of the Prison Wardens, they exchange handshakes and he gets back to the car and starts the engine.
“So, how did you get out?”
“If I tell you, you won’t believe me”
“I’m not quite convinced my Darling” I liked how he said My Darling, how it flew out of his mouth unabated. Those lips I long to kiss, I’ll worship at his feet if I have to. We are driving towards the outskirts of the city, an enya song is playing from the radio but not as loud.
“Okay, divine intervention” he says, conclusively.
“Haha like that of Paul and Silas where chains were broken you mean? That ridiculous story! Tell me what happened jor”
“That was it.” He brings the car to an abrupt stop.
“I promised God I’d dedicate my life to his service if he got me out of prison. That night, a crucifix appeared in my cell and led me out of those hefty gates, to this place” there are tears in his eyes.
“Sounds like a deal” I mutter.
“So you believe God rescued you”
“That night changed everything Rita. I don’t know why you don’t believe but I think you should try“
“I believe there’s a God, I just don’t believe in him.”
An awkward silence settles between us. I step out of the car and start to run, it was the only thing I knew to do to get all the pressure I felt in my heart.
I get tired and stop in front of a hill, I look back to see him walking towards me, he had taken his robe off, he looked smaller in his jean and T-shirt. It was as though all his form resided in his priestly garb.
He puts his arm around me and leads me back to the car.
“I know you are probably dealing with a lot but God is Good. You have to believe to see that all these is happening not just to you but also for you.”
Tears filled my eyes as his words flowed. I didn’t tell him about enduring abuse from my uncles, about the hysterectomy I had as a teenager, I didn’t tell him about losing my lover and about the one who treated me like trash, I didn’t tell him a pastor molested my brother till he passed away and there wasn’t any justice.
But maybe God will show him, it wasn’t my responsibility.
“You’ll find peace beloved”
Beloved, it felt so right to have him call me that.
“Call me that often. If you can’t date me, you can at least call me sweet names.” He laughs.
He kisses my forehead. “You deserve better”
“I want you”
“I’m taken” he flashes the rosary ring on his index finger on my face and we both laugh again.
The drive back to town was again silent and serene, except Enya’s album on repeat.
“I’m leaving back to Lagos this weekend” I say, as he parks in front of my gate.
“I’ll miss you” he says.
“Please don’t forget me” I say
“Not in this life. I cherish every moment I spent with you and i don’t take your feelings for granted, but I know you understand we can’t be.”
“Let’s pretend I do. I’ll keep praying you change your mind about priesthood”
“Aha! You’ll start praying at least.”
We both laugh. He brings me to a warm and long embrace before I alight form the car.
“Be well beloved”