Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 38)

Day 8

Tires squeaked. Horns blasted. The quiet of about forty hours had come to an end. The participants were back. They arrived at different times but all within thirty minutes as they had been prior informed. As they arrived, they were welcomed by conference officials and told to go straight to their rooms. They were to reconvene in the hall for briefing at 10 am.
Tara sat on her bed, unpacking her bag. She had a lot she would have to wash later. She hadn’t known working in the governor’s office was so much work but now she did. There had been one thing or the other to do. There were some lazy staff there but with what she saw, she discovered there was a lot of work for whoever really wanted to work.
She and her other colleagues had been given a ten-minute audience with the governor. They were ten special minutes as she got to see the man behind the progress of Rivers State. He was already doing his campaign for his second term, so it was a great sacrifice on his part to spare time for them; a sacrifice Tara sincerely appreciated.
He asked them if they wouldn’t mind going with him on the rally he had that day. They obliged gladly. George seemed to be the happiest as he was able to see some of the procedures involved in the execution of a political rally. It was indeed tedious work and many faceless people were doing all the underground work.
With how interesting it was, Tara couldn’t discard the dirty things she perceived were being done behind closed doors. Politics was indeed a dirty game. She wondered if there was any hope for Nigerian politics. She had voiced her fears to George when they returned to their quarters and he had said that was the major reason he wanted to be actively involved in politics; to make right as many wrongs as he possibly could. She admired his courage.
The twenty of them had been put in a guest house. The guest house had about thirty posh flats. Each flat had five large rooms. They were given one flat. The girls had two rooms to themselves, while the guys had three rooms. There was a sitting room where they met to talk and watch TV. They also had unrestricted access to the Mini-Sports complex that had a lawn tennis court, a basketball court, a mini football field, and a swimming pool.
Tara and George took many strolls within the guest house; they had ample time to talk. Tara smiled as she remembered. She knew George had a good sense of humor but she didn’t know how much until now. He was a character. He made her laugh on several occasions till she had to hold her sides; her ribs aching.
Tara was glad that her fears hadn’t materialized, and for that she was grateful. She had noticed other colleagues of theirs act in ways that made her know they were doing stuff but George did nothing of the sort. He treated her as a sister; a sister he cared about. She felt safe and protected around him during their stay there.
What tripped her the most, however, was his openness and sincerity. The previous night, their second night, he had called her aside and said he wanted to talk with her.
“You know you confided in me about your pain when we first met?” he asked rhetorically.
She had simply nodded.
“It’s my turn”, he had said. And with that, he told he the whole story of how he first fell to lusting after girls. He told her how it had graduated to pornography and then masturbation. He said he was very grateful for God’s deliverance at the meeting they had but asked her to keep praying for him. He said the battle was a continuous one and he needed all the strength possible.
She had felt so unworthy of his trust when he said all he did. She had felt responsible to pray for him since then; she owed him that much. She sincerely hoped they would remain friends for a very long time. She had sought to have friends who would sincerely love her and care for her without wanting anything in return; friends that won’t take advantage of her, and she was beginning to find them. George was one of them. She was beginning to feel loved indeed.
Tara then remembered that the conference was almost over, and she would soon be back home to her nagging mother. She was about feeling bad but scolded herself. She had to make the best of the three days left. God would take care of what happened afterwards. With that, she put her travel bag aside and walked towards the convenience.
She looked forward to enjoying every bit of the conference; opportunities like this came once in a lifetime.
If there was anything like a happitometer, George was sure his reading would exceed the highest calibration. He felt like someone who had just gone to war and conquered. In actual fact, that was exactly what had happened. He was just won one more battle and he couldn’t curtail his joy.
The moment he had gotten to his room, he had dropped his bag on the floor and jumped on the bed. He lay face up, whistling so loud and clear. He wished he could see the devil’s face. George was sure the devil was seething with anger.
When he was leaving for the Career Orientation, George had known he would have fun working in the governor’s office but he had sincerely dreaded what would happen after office hours, especially with Tara in his group. He had failed God and himself so often that he didn’t trust himself anymore.
He had pleaded so hard with God to help him. Just before their bus took off on their departure day, he picked his bible and opened it. Tara was already seated next to him then and he was already feeling uncomfortable. He had repented of lust and sincerely desired to run away from it but he had been so deep in it just a day ago and he was just recuperating. He could easily relapse, and he hated even the thought of that.
He opened 1st Timothy. His eyes found Chapter five and he began reading. When he got to verse two, he stopped and read it again. He was reading the Contemporary English Version. “Show the same respect to younger women that you would to your sister.” He was sure he had never seen that verse before. The words from that verse popped out to him as he read that line over and again.
And just like that, he felt something change in his heart. George could literarily feel the burden lifted off his chest. He was free indeed. He just had to imagine how he would treat his younger sister and he knew how he would treat Tara and any other girl henceforth. If he wouldn’t be staring at his sister’s chest or stealing glances at her legs, he wouldn’t do that to any other girl. If he won’t look for opportunities to touch his sister in inappropriate places, then he had no business wanting to that to any girl.
As he was still meditating on those words, he saw Tara bring out something. He looked and saw she was also bringing out her bible. He was already being a good example to her; that was good. He asked her for her bible. He wanted to read it in another version. She was holding a KJV bible. “…the younger as sisters, with all purity.”
There was an addition there; the purity part. So, it wasn’t just enough to respect them, he had to do so in purity; with no dirty intentions lurking anywhere in his mind.
He returned the bible to Tara who collected it with a smile on her face. He smiled back. He was sure it was going to be a lovely time out. God had just given him a life-saver.
Looking back, it had indeed being a lovely time. He had shared several moments with Tara, and times with the others too but he hadn’t even felt like lusting after any of the girls; not once. He had gone and retuned without hurting God; he was more than happy; he was ecstatic.
When he knew their time was almost up, he had felt obligated to talk about his past with Tara. And when he did, he was glad he did. There was no condemnation written on her face. Instead, he saw understanding there. She felt his pain and struggles. She prayed for him there and he felt strengthened even more.
“Thank you Jesus”, George mouthed as he lay on his bed. He couldn’t imagine his life without God. He had three more days to go and he remembered God telling him he would have to tell his story to others, to help them. Trusting God to lead him aright, he proposed he would not hold back, but would yield himself to God to be used as God deemed fit.
‘I hope someone invents a happitometer someday.’ George thought to himself, laughing. ‘I think I’m about to burst’.
“Thank you Faith. I can’t imagine the guilt that would have been eating me up now had you not been with me.” Tunbosun was saying. “I act like a child at times.” She said, shaking her head.
“It’s not your fault dear, it happens!”
Faith couldn’t blame her. She noticed right from the time they got on the bus that Tunbosun wanted to be as far away from the Stanley boy as much as possible. She could imagine why. The boy wasn’t Tunbosun’s type. Faith remembered how she had slept with him on the second day of the conference. She just wanted a distraction that night and it seemed Stanley wanted the same and they indulged themselves. That was it. Players knew their game.
They had only said hi on few occasions after that; nothing more. It was just a one-night fling. Thinking back at that night brought a pang of sadness to Faith but it was soon replaced with gratitude to God that that episode was now in past. So, she could imagine how repelled Tunbosun would be to be close to him. At least that was what she had thought.
It was later when she talked with Tunbosun that she discovered that it was Stanley that had attempted to rape Shade. That made the whole picture clearer. Neither of them knew then how things would turn out.
They had been sitting on opposite settees in the common room of the female staff quarters in Government Technical College, when Stanley walked in on the second day of their stay. It was already getting late and Faith was surprised to see him. She was about to ask him what he was looking for when she saw him walk towards Tunbosun. It was an interesting sight.
Tunbosun hadn’t noticed him until he sat down. When she looked up, from where Faith was sitting, she could see a combination of emotions in her eyes; fear and disgust. Weird combination.
“Yes?” Tunbosun had asked, the word dripping with hate.
“Please can I talk with you for a moment?” he had asked, and Faith noticed he was not himself; he seemed rather sober.
Tunbosun laughed rather too loudly, pointing her finger at him. “The kind of talk you had with my friend?”
Stanley hung his head but it seemed Tunbosun didn’t notice. “You want to finish what you couldn’t finish that day abi? You want me too?” she asked, sarcastically. “You always wanted me, right? Don’t take me for a fool.” She stood up and eyed him till Faith thought Tunbosun’s eyes might pop out. “I hate your guts. The sight of you irritates me”, she said and walked out of the common room.
When she did, Stanley sat there unmoving for a full minute, then stood up and walked towards Faith. ‘What do I say’, she asked herself. When he got to her, he sat down.
“Please help me beg your friend. I really need to talk to her.”
He seemed genuine enough but Faith couldn’t tell if he really was. “What do you want to talk to her about?”
“I have confessions to make and I need her to forgive me.”
“Why do you think I would believe you?” She paused. “Why do you even think you can convince me to talk to her?”
“Because I know you’re not the same girl I slept with days ago.” He said, frankly.
Faith smiled, but it was a sad one. She was glad he could see the difference in her life already but she still wished she had never done it. She thought about apologizing to him for agreeing to it that day but she felt it wasn’t the right time. She stood up. “I’ll be right back.”
Faith then went outside to talk with Tunbosun who was just staring at nothing in particular. “Tunbosun”
Tunbosun turned. “Don’t tell me you actually want me to talk with that…that thing!”
Faith frowned. “I won’t be so quick to condemn someone that God loves.” That seemed to calm Tunbosun some. “Why not just listen to what he has to say. I’ll sit with you, so you don’t have to worry about him attacking you.”
“You sound so sure. How do you know he has something genuine to talk about?” Tunbosun asked, wary.
Faith put her hand around her friend’s shoulders. “Because I have been a player before. I know when a player has finally come to his senses like I came to mine that evening in front of the dining hall.” Faith prodded her forward. “Let’s go listen to the young man.”
With that the two of them returned to the common room, and went over to where Faith had been sitting; where Stanley was now seated. Faith sat beside Stanley and Tunbosun sat on the stool opposite Faith.
“Thank you Tunbosun for giving me a chance. Thank you too Faith for helping me”, he started. “I’m here because since I spoke with Shade and Utibe yesterday, I’ve had no rest.”
Faith saw surprise register on Tunbosun’s face when he said he had spoken with Shade.
He took his time to tell his story. “I was sexually abused by my aunty when I was a small boy and she consistently used me for about five years. By the time I was twelve, I knew more about the female anatomy than most men did. That was how my problem started. When I started having female friends in school, I started making out with them. It soon became second nature to me, so much that I just did it without any feelings or emotions for the girls. I also felt no remorse for what I was doing to them.”
“A part of me knew it was wrong but I shut my conscience down completely. I grew worse with every passing day. I had become an addict and I couldn’t help myself.”
Faith was looking at Tunbosun all the while and noticed her features soften gradually. The hate was gradually turning to empathy.
“I’m so sorry for what I did to your friend. I was mad then that I didn’t succeed but I’m happy now that I didn’t. Your friend didn’t deserve it.” He paused and looked like he wanted to say something very serious.
“Why I am apologizing to you is because from the onset it was meant to be you and not Shade.”
Tunbosun’s hand flew to her chest and her mouth hung open. “I’m so sorry. Okpara challenged to have you and I took up the challenge.”
“Okpara!” Tunbosun mouthed slightly above a whisper.
“Yes. The whole story is complicated.” Stanley shook his head. “In summary, when Utibe said he wasn’t doing with Shade again, who was supposed to be my key to you, I decided to do it for him.” He hung his head.
Tunbosun closed her eyes tight, obviously fighting the emotions welling up in her. Faith reached out and squeezed her knees. By the time Tunbosun opened her eyes, Stanley was on his knees in front of her.
“I have been in bondage since I was seven. I saw something different in Shade and Utibe yesterday. I can see the same in you and Faith now.” He looked at Faith.
“You don’t have to tell me. I know it is Jesus that has made a difference in your life. If He could save you, I guess He can save me too.” Stanley’s voice was beginning to shake as tears spilled out of his eyes. He bent over and began to sob. “I’m so sorry, God. If You can, please save me.” He said and kept sobbing.
Without being told, Tunbosun and Faith joined him on their knees, placed their hands on him and began praying for him. When he had calmed down, they led him in the sinner’s prayers. Tunbosun then apologized for her initial outburst, and Faith and Stanley apologized to each other for what they had done.
Minutes after, he walked out of their common room a changed man, with a heart committed to God. Faith and Tunbosun smiled through their tears as they saw him off. Faith knew it would be hard process for him starting afresh with God and running away from fornication but she knew that with God’s help, Stanley could make it through.
Now, back on the conference ground, Faith was glad they had had the opportunity to touch someone’s life.
“I have learnt my lesson”, Tunbosun said. “I will never again turn down anyone who comes to me, no matter how bad. I will yield myself as a willing instrument to God for His use as He deems fit.”
Faith smiled. “Now, we’re talking.”
“I hope Stanley will come for the meeting tonight.”
“He promised he will”, Faith said, reminding Tunbosun.
“Shade and Utibe would be so delighted.”
“You bet!”
“Let’s hurry with these stuffs so we don’t get late for the briefing’, Tunbosun said, pointing at the laundry they hurriedly wanted to do.
The first thing Stanley did when he returned to his hostel was to go on his knees and thank God for saving him. If God could save someone like him, then he promised to live the rest of his life seeking Him and pleasing Him. It seemed too good to be true. He was indeed grateful to God, and to those He used to find him.
There were two things he regretted the most. The first where the many girls he had deflowered or defiled; there was no way to return to them what he had stolen from them. The second were the many boys who looked up to him and he had led astray. There was no way he could call them back and show them the right way. The best he could do now was make right as many wrongs as he could and refrain from doing any more wrongs.
Stanley knew the first step was to keep a safe distance from girls till he got his footing back. It would be hard but he knew he had no choice than to do so.
There was a girl, however, that he still needed to talk with before he started his girl-abstinence. That girl was Shade. He owed her an apology.

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