A friend of mine, a few weeks ago, asked me to write something for her to be read in church. It was her graduation and she wanted to do a literary rendition. She wanted something on Light on Campus. With fraternal flourish I wrote this. When I sent it to her she said no, no she actually meant life on campus. Could I please rewrite? I actually heard light on campus. No, I said Life on Campus. But I heard light on campus. No! I said life… So we quarreled on. Life on campus was never written (I think she reworked light and presented it).
It’s been a while I published a short story here. It’s a record since I am not on any sort of hiatus. Ergo, this. Note: I wrote this from the perspective of a born again Christian (which I am!) (Shalom!).
Angela felt like crying. Indeed she cried on the inside, the tears just wouldn’t come out. It was the kind of crying that dries the eyes and eats the heart up. Her body was already weak with hunger, this piece of news had now paralysed her entire body system. So she lay on the bed, barely moving, just looking; and even this, looking, the effort, hurt her. With a brave move, she rolled to the other end of the mattress and picked up her cell phone. The phone was a rare BlackBerry product that had given her so much joy when her uncle bought it for her nearly a year ago, now it was this same precious phone that was her source of worry, that brought her such assorted bad news.
Angela tapped the touchscreen of the phone, scrolled down, tapped again, and sighed. She was staring at her inbox lined up with messages that held monstrous news for her. She clicked the first box. She read the message.
‘Please Angela, I beg you in the name of whatever you believe in, I don’t want you in that room by the time I return. I will disgrace you if I come back and meet you there. Go and stay with your new found boyfriend.’
Angela shut her eyes. Peace meant business. She was a sweet friend, her friend of three years; three years of staying in the same room, on the same mattress, enduring hunger together, being sisters. Early this year Angela’s family finance had hit the rock. A certain governor woke up one day and sacked her parents, both civil servants, for being non-indegenes, pushing them to the edge of the gutter. Somehow, Angela remained in school, helped by great friends like Peace. They normally shared the house-rent but this year Peace paid the whole rent. Now Peace wanted her out of the room.
Angela’s offence was that she shared the good news with Peace’s boyfriend, Bola. And he became born again. The fornication and regular stipends that came with dating Bola stopped. Peace lost Bola to Jesus Christ, but she thought she lost him to Angela. She abused Angela, cursed her and asked her to leave her room. Peace told her to leave the room on Friday before Peace journeyed for the weekend. Angela didn’t take her serious but today, Sunday, the text message came, bold, decisive, angry, ‘…I don’t want you in that room by the time I return.’
Angela opened the second message. It was from her father.
‘Please dear I ran around to no avail. Please help yourself.’
Angela had called her father after reading Peace’s bombshell the first time. He had been painfully sympathetic, and, although he was dead broke, promised to go to the end of the earth, if he had to, and get her something. Albeit, she knew he was never going to get her enough money to enable her pay for a new room tonight, nor clear the mountain of debts on her slim shoulders. But she felt encouraged by his will to get her “something”, now she was crushed by his inability to get “something”; the clause, “Please help yourself” mutilated her spirit.
She clicked the third message. It was from Ejike, a long-term admirer of hers. She liked him but couldn’t bring herself to go beyond just being friends; he wasn’t born again and didn’t flinch from the fact that he gave Jesus cold shoulders. He had called Angela on the phone just after she had read Peace’s message, and had insisted she tell him why she was sounding so sad. She told him. He said he would help her, he would get back to her. He got back to her with this text, ‘I will help you babe. Pack your things and come stay with me. But you have to keep your born again over there and be ready to play ball.’
Angela let the phone fall on her chest. She shut her eyes as sorrow flowed down her heart, washing her oesophagus, intestines, her entire abdominal cavity. She was standing on quicksand. Her bosom friend would disgrace her if she didn’t leave this room in an hour or two; her father couldn’t help her; the only person who could help, wanted her body.
Her cell phone began to ring. Reluctantly, she picked it up. The caller’s identity wasn’t known. She didn’t want to answer the call, but she couldn’t bring herself to disappoint the caller. The voice was familiar. ‘I can’t talk long,’ came the voice. ‘It’s my roommate’s phone. Where do we meet?’
The caller was Beatrice, Angela’s evangelism partner. Apart from Jesus, another thing Beatrice and Angela had in common was biting poverty. Beatrice was also being squated by someone, and this someone hadn’t asked her to leave since Beatrice hadn’t ‘snatched’ someone’s boyfriend.
Angela said they should meet in front of the school gate. ‘Ok.’ Click. The call ended.
Angela didn’t want to evangelise today. She was tired, embarrassed, angry, hungry, discouraged, frustrated. She didn’t feel like going to share the good news when her belly was full of not good news. She just wanted to lie on the bed and cry herself a solution. And going away to preach for at least two hours meant that Peace would return in her absence, which meant Angela could (trust Peace) meet her belongings by the gutter when she returned from evangelising.
But this didn’t change her mind. She was the light on campus, Jesus shines through her. No amount of evil prospects would quench the light in her. Thousands need to hear the good news. She would tell them the good news. If she returned and find her things thrown outside, so be it. Nothing, not hunger, not poverty, not the gutter would stop her light from shining. With this resolve, Angela summoned energy, lifted to her feet and made for her jotter and Bible.