Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 42)


Buses again littered the car park. It was time for the ten different groups to execute their community project. Each group had chattered buses to take them to the different places they were going. Some groups had raised money among themselves, while some solicited for funds during their Career Orientation. It was now time for implementation and they looked forward to it. The best group was going to be given an award; an impetus that drove many of the students to do their best and be as creative as possible.
They had just four hours to make a difference in the lives of people in the communities of their choice. A lifetime opportunity.
Tunbosun had been wondering why the organizers would fix their project work and sports final on the same day; just few hours after each other. She felt there would be no strength left to either play, for those who would play, or watch, for the spectators. That was then. Now, she had changed her mind.
She watched George and his friends play basketball, and she was so alive and excited as were other spectators. The players themselves were bundles of energy. Her friends were with her. They had all decided to do it fifty-fifty. George was playing basket ball, while Utibe was playing football at the same time. They would watch George for the first two quarters, then watch Utibe’s second half.
Tunbosun sat on one of the chairs; the others were in different locations around the basketball court. As she watched George’s muscles move as he bounced the ball, she remembered how he had bent over several times as they lay the foundation for a public toilet in a nearby community. He did some digging, laying of blocks, mixing of cement and sand and more.
His commitment to the project had been a driving force for her and other group mates since they started planning. They knew ahead of time that they weren’t going to be able to complete the building, so they had delegated that responsibility to students who schooled in Port Harcourt. They were to ensure that they hired hands they employed finished the work.
The toilet wasn’t going to be something elaborate but decent enough for hygienic use. That had been a few hours back. Now, Tunbosun watched as George played as if he hadn’t expended any energy earlier in the day. She took note of the other guys too and just marveled; boys and sports were just inseparable.
She knew the other boys too would have had one part or the other to play in their respective groups. She heard a group went to an orphanage and paid the school fess of ten of the children. Another went to a community that had just lost so much to flood and gave them food stuff. Another group went to the nearby prison and spent hours with the inmates, giving them some provisions, in care of their wardens. About two visited different hospitals. Sounded like everyone had fun.
Tunbosun was glad that they had been given an opportunity to do something worthwhile for the community before they left. She returned her attention to the boys and the field and noticed the referee was blowing for the end of the second quarter. It was time to move to the football pitch to encourage Utibe.
Just as she was thinking it, she felt a tap on her back. It was Shade, and she was beaming. The message was all too clear. ‘Your George’s time is over; now it’s my Utibe’s turn.’ Tunbosun smiled as she followed her friend. Friendship was indeed a blessing and Tunbosun was glad she was meeting like-minded friends who shared a similar passion for Jesus and for excellence in their academics. She would definitely miss them when the conference was over.
She hadn’t known the boy was that talented. Christiana had just been loafing about when she noticed the tall Hausa guy on the basketball court. She went straight for the sidelines and watched him play. His team mates seemed to look to him for the lead. She didn’t really understand the game but with the tension she felt in the air, she felt the game was still on; anybody could still win and she saw the boy urging his team forward.
A few moments later, she saw him do what she only saw on TV once in a while. He jumped really high and slammed the ball into the metal rim that had a net attached to it. She didn’t know what it was called. She was tripped. She heard screams and she looked round. She obviously wasn’t the only thrilled spectator.
Then she began hearing folks shout. “Go George! Go George!”
She smiled. ‘What a nice name.’ She joined those chorusing his name. They name did sound nice. ‘George, you’ll be my next puppet; you’re for me tonight’, she thought as she screamed his name with the others.
The previous night, she had found a boy who she was sure had possibly bribed one of the security guards to get him cigarette as his eyes were red and his mouth smelling. She had noticed him almost immediately she stepped out of the hall. She walked over to him, knowing he was a done deal already and she had him.
She just needed to get one more good boy; preferably one of the so called born-again, and the George guy just seemed to fit the mould. Uche had been quite a challenge. She hoped the George guy would be easier as she remembered how he had stared at her the other night.
Shortly before the game ended, Christiana noticed that George had seen her. He looked at her at two other times before the game ended but what she saw in his eyes were not what she had seen that evening. Then, it had been raw lust and desire. Now, it seemed a combination of surprise and concern. That was obviously not what she wanted. She was uncomfortable with that look.
Only her brother had given her that kind of look whenever she visited him unexpectedly in school. Surprise that she came and concern for her welfare. That was before he died and left her alone with their mother. Their dad had walked out on them many years before. She had felt vulnerable, lonely and exposed after her brother’s death. And that was when her life had turned around.
She blinked hard and fast. She couldn’t afford to remember those days anymore. They were gone and buried. She would leave them there; forever buried.
She reminded herself of her assignment; George. She decided to walk away from the basketball court. She wasn’t ready to talk to him yet, with him wearing that look that reminded her of her brother. Moreover, she looked at what she was wearing; it wasn’t catchy enough. She was glad the evening program was Talent Hunt final. It would be an enabling environment for her to wear what she pleased and do as she pleased.
She walked towards the hostel as she knew the whistle would sound soon. It was time to dress to kill. She had just one target, and he was still on the basketball court. The tall Christian Hausa guy. He would be the icing on her cake by the end of the day. Christiana would make sure of that.
Dinner was over and many people were taking their time as they walked towards the lecture hall for the Talent Hunt final. George, however, was practically walking on his toes. He wanted to have a seat toward the front. He wanted to be there for Fatima when she did her drama; to cheer her like he had never done before. She was his dearest friend and he was so proud of her.
His other friends had left immediately they finished clearing the plates but he had been delayed by one of his group members who had something to tell him. He was sure the others would keep a space for him but he still longed to get there on time. He was about jogging, when he heard someone call his name. He turned and looked. It was the girl he had seen with Uche the night before their CO. Then, he wasn’t in his right mind and he had taken his time to look at her in places he shouldn’t have.
He had noticed her a few hours at the basketball court and was surprised to see her. He felt she had issues that were plaguing her; it only made him sad for her.
He stopped and waited for her. She was wearing an outfit that would had knocked him off his feet had she come to him four days back. But not today. Not ever again.
As she drew closer, George could guess what she wanted but that wasn’t his concern. He was bothered about what God would have him tell her. As she reached out to shake him, introducing herself as Christiana, George felt a grace he had only felt once prior to that time. The grace he had enjoyed when he spoke with Tara for the first time when God spoke through his lips to comfort Tara. He didn’t know what God was going to say this time but he was going to yield himself all the same.
He didn’t wait for her to start up the conversation as that would take it in the wrong direction. He needed to take the lead and that he would do.
“Christiana, nice meeting you”, he said. “Can we sit over there?” he asked, pointing at a bench opposite the entrance to the dining hall.
She nodded, with a smile on her face. George could imagine what she was thinking but he was about to disappoint her. When they were both seated, he opened his mouth and the words began to pour out.
“Christiana, are you going to mourn all your life?” George asked, not knowing why he was asking her that, just knowing Who it was that was asking her. And he could see with her taken-aback reaction that he was right on course.
“It wasn’t your fault that those things happened to you. Why are you killing yourself because of that? Why are you hurting yourself everyday because of what you had no power over?”
Christiana was dumbstruck as she just stared at him. George continued.
“That you were hurt doesn’t mean you have to hurt others. You can run to God and He will heal your wounds and still give you a life!” George kept his eyes on her as he spoke and saw how she felt when he said that last statement. He repeated it again.
“God can heal your wounds and give you your life back if only you will run to Him.” The tears now came running down her cheeks. “God has been waiting for you and will not send you away no matter how awful the things you’ve done are.”
Christiana started sobbing.
With that, George felt a leading to leave. This was not going to be like Tara’s case where he had to walk with her through her recovery. He felt God telling him his only role was to sow the seed and leave the rest to Him. Sounded like it might take some time before the work was completed and it wasn’t going to be George’s responsibility.
He stood up and left her there. He was sure she wasn’t going to leave there in a hurry. She was mourning her losses for the first time in years. George could feel the sorrow gushing out with each sob. Walking towards the lecture hall, George was reminded of one more thing. Every girl, boy, woman, and man, no matter how hardened or sinful they were, had a past; a past that haunted them and had turned them into what they were.
God knew that past and whenever he decided to visit it, all defenses got shattered. “It’s so good to know that you love everyone Lord, and none of us is beyond your reach.” George said to his Savior as he climbed the entrance stairs of the lecture hall.
Fatima was behind the stage. The Talent Hunt final had been on for over an hour. She was one of the many that had qualified from the first round held on Day One.
It was her turn to do her one-man drama again. She remembered how God had touched some hearts when she did the first one on their second night in the conference. George had later told her that it was when she was acting her drama that he had seen Tara crying. That was where her deliverance had started from.
Fatima went on her knees and prayed hard that God would do greater as she acted again. She was acting the story of the prodigal son, though a little modified. And she had again chosen a Cece Winans’ track. This time it was Mercy Said No.
If there was one person she hoped would listen to her; one person she prayed would be touched, it was Uche. She was sure God would open the heavens and pour out His grace. The question on her mind was, ‘Would Uche open up his heart?’
As she was still wondering, her name was called. She stood up, dusted her skirt and walked into the light. As she took the microphone, she could feel it beyond doubts that God had some work to do. Though the meetings had ended the day before, it seemed God wanted to do a general work now.
She released herself to Him and began acting. All she needed to do was do the motions and say the words. God would do the conviction and everything else He wanted to do. One last time, she breathed a silent prayer to God. “Please let Uche open up his heart.”

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