Magdalene could not seem to stop the tears that sprang to her eyes unbidden. She felt the microphone slip from her fingers to the floor with a thud. The church erupted into a hall of wild, untamed noises and grunts. She heard their voices from all corners of the auditorium. Many spoke in tongues and others cried. She felt someone kneel beside her before she slipped out of her body, out of the awareness into a vast nothing.
She groaned, waking slowly to the silence of the wide hall. Had she been here long? How long ago had the service ended? Why did nobody tap her awake? She pushed her body up from the cold tiles.
She turned in the direction of the voice. Pastor Bassey must have seen her trying to stand from the window of his office. “Good afternoon sir.”
“You brought down the power of God in the service today,” he was smiling. “I am so impressed and happy that you are growing in your Christian life. Ever since you took on the role of choir director, you have been doing exceedingly well.”
Pastor Bassey stopped her with his raised hand then took a seat opposite her, “More responsibilities will be added to help you…”
“More?” She frowned.
“Responsibility forces growth, you see. Who knows God, maybe preparing you for a pastor.” He patted her back.
“I do not want to get married sir.”
“What do you know, child? You are speaking out of ignorance but I am praying for you.”
Magdalene bit on her tongue to stop herself from snapping at him, “Thank you, sir.”
“Me and your Mummy in the Lord, we were talking about how you and pastor Taiye will be a good fit especially as he”
“I do not wish to get married sir, truly I do not.”
“Calm down Magdalene. God wants every woman to get married, settle down and have children. God wants every woman to support a man’s dream and be a good wife.”
“And human being sir?”
His eyes flashed in a warning.
“I am very sorry sir. It is just that I thought about nuns and how they survive beautifully without being supportive wives right?”
“My dear,” he said, his face a tight mask of pity. “I am praying for you.” He enunciated the words making it clear he brokered no arguments.
Magdalene wanted to let it go, she really did but the tears came even as he turned his back to her. “Stop praying all the wrong prayers for me. I am not alright. I am not okay sir. I am not okay.”
Pastor Bassey stared at her now, his mouth hung open. It was like she had grown wings and a horn. The type reserved for Satan in children’s Sunday school.
“Ask me my problem, sir. Ask me what I want?”
She saw him swallow before the retort “Do you know better than God and his servant? Do you know better than the Holy Spirit?”
“Then you are fine in Jesus name.”
But Magdalene knew that she was not. She had reduced her existence to a lie, all the smiling and laughter. She could die in this lie she was living. She shook her head no.
“Did you commit sin? One can fall into these things. Do not be too hard on yourself. You are a human being. But you know church rules will require I suspend you. As a leader we will not announce your suspension, I will simply transfer you to another branch for the time being and tell your followers that you are on a higher learning leave. We do not want people emulating the bad traits of their leaders.”
“I know you feel guilty but it is okay. I will talk to Pastor Taiye. I will make him fasten the marriage proceedings. He will do it sharp-sharp. That will at least keep you from sin.”
“The marriage. Pastor Taiye is in love with you Magdalene.”
Magdalene swallowed. Pastor Taiye always avoided eye contact with her only commenting when her skirt was too high or when her blouse is too tight. Love? The same man that could not speak to her for more than 5 seconds?
“But we must keep all these things under the wrap; no one has to know…” The pastor was saying. What were they talking about again?
“I did not commit any sin sir,” she jumped from the ground aware that her voice had risen but too mad to care. “Do you only care if I have sinned? Sorry, I did not sin, not that I remember sha. I am just not okay. And not because of a man or my lack of a family. My friend just died by suicide. Is that okay sir?” She choked back tears crumpling to the tiled floor. “I want answers sir. I want to know why. Don’t you?”
“She lost her faith in God.”
“What? Till her death, you called her your spiritual daughter. Sir, Barile was the best alto singer in this church nationwide. She was the leader of the prayer team department. She was everywhere you wanted her and she lost faith?”
“Magdalene, the fruit of the Holy Spirit is contentment and peace. No real Christian can commit suicide. Barile was either not a genuine Christian or not spirit filled.” Pastor Bassey gripped her arm to keep her from shouting.
But she did. “Did you know she had attempted suicide two years ago? Of course, you knew. You said it was a demonic attack and you put her on a fast. Three days dry. You conducted the deliverance yourself. Did the devil not leave?”
Pastor Bassey pulled a chair and sat, his face contorting into a grimace.
“Sir, Barile your spiritual daughter “in whom you are well pleased” killed herself on Friday and the church goes on, as usual, today Sunday. No one is talking about it. If I die today, the church will go on next Sunday right? No one will even mention my name in the service or pray for my family. No one will visit my family.
“Sir, what if Barile was not attacked by a demon? What if she had a mental health condition? What if—”
“Do you want to say depressed? Everyone in Nigeria is depressed. Have we all died? My wife is seriously threatening to leave me. To leave our marriage of over ten years and our three children. Do you think I am not depressed? Have I killed myself?”
Their ragged breathing filled the room as Magdalene tried to piece the words together. Wife. Leave. Leave? They were so cosy in church.
“Sister Magdalene, life is hard.”
“Why then do we sugarcoat it? Make it seem like we have no problems and do not need help. Why act like it is all fine? Barile could have been sent to an expert the first time not delivered and you need a relationship expert sir and maybe a sexologist. I need to talk to someone and find my perspective.”
Pastor Bassey stood his smile mask back on his face, “I am praying for you Magdalene. There is nothing God cannot do.”
“This is what killed my friend.”
Abasiama Udom grew up in Port Harcourt, Nigeria where she spent her days dreaming of being a goalkeeper and doctor. She is interested in new chocolate and pad brands. When she is not reading or writing books, she is watching FC Barcelona, trying to understand humans, writing music or dancing to songs she may never understand. Her works have been featured On Isele Magazine, Conscio Magazine, Stripes Literary Magazine and elsewhere. Connect with her on Twitter @Abasiama_Udom
One thought on “AFTER THE SERVICE by Abasiama Udom | Fiction | Parousia Magazine”
This is a very timely story. The church should be a safe space for the haunted, where the weary can find rest. God gave therapists that talent and seeking help does not translate to denying God’s healing power any more than washing one’s body with soap means not trusting God to cleanse both our soul and body. We shouldn’t die for lack of knowledge. God bless you Abasiama.
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