Uchenna didn’t have a devotional, but he had decided that that wouldn’t hinder him from learning from God. He woke up each morning and after thanking God for another new day, asked Him to tell him what He had for him. He randomly opens a Bible page and studies it. He was aware of how misleading it could be, but he always asked God to take control. The only setback was that sometimes, he lands on a page where the verses don’t seem to relate to any of his life issues. Like that of this morning. He had landed at the twenty-second chapter of the book of Proverbs, but the verse which that page of the Bible had started with was verse six. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. He had no idea what the verse was trying to tell him, so he prayed a second time.
“Lord, please show me and teach me what I am supposed to learn from this page.” He had forgotten about it, going about his normal duties, frying akara and selling pap. His mother in law had suggested the addition of pap to his akara business, volunteering to help him in making the pap, all he had to do was to buy the corn. He had agreed immediately. It proved to be a good decision on his part, but it also meant his work load increased. He always came home very tired, and worn out.
Rita was back from the hospital, but he didn’t want her anywhere near where he sold. He needed her to rest, he was yet to recover from the shock of the possibility that she was going to die.
He was grumbling to himself in the evening, about how tedious the work is, and how he needed help, when he remembered the Bible text of the morning. His first child and son, Stephen, was almost twelve years old. He knew he could be useful in at the shop, since he knew simple mathematics. The frying and selling at the same time was wearing Uchenna out. He took a break each weekend, but it was not even close to being enough. He already knew how to make Stephen work with enthusiasm, but how will his wife and in-laws take it? He decided to pray about it when he got home, even if it will mean he had to still work alone for a few more days. He gathered up strength and continued his work.
On getting home later in the night, Uchenna was having his late dinner and listening to the news, when Stephen came into the sitting room, and sat down by his side. After greeting him, Stephen stayed silent. Uchenna knew his son should be sleeping like the rest of the building occupants, but it was obvious he had something to say, and will say it when he was ready. He remained quiet and fixed his gaze on the television, acting engrossed in the news. Nothing prepared him for what he heard Stephen say.
‘Daddy, I want to leave school and start working’ Uchenna forgot all about patience and turned to his child
‘what did you just say?’
‘I said I want to leave school and start working.’ Uchenna knew shouting wasn’t the solution as it only increases the blood pressure without necessarily solving the problem on ground.
‘Why do you want to do that?’
‘So I can help in bringing in money for our needs, so we can go back to our house and you can stop selling akara.’ Uchenna didn’t know if he should feel happy or sad. He was happy his son wanted to help, but he was sad he believed dropping out of school is the only way. Uchenna felt ashamed, the thing he was afraid of has happened. Ignoring his regret, Uchenna faced the issue on ground.
‘I am very impressed that my first son is already thinking like a man. But there are decisions that if you make now, will affect you later in life, and one of them is dropping out of school.’ Stephen tried to explain his point, but Uchenna held up a finger.
‘I’m not done talking. I know you want to help, but right now, all you can do is to keep being the good boy that you are, and helping your mother and me in any way you can. But having said that, I have something you can do to make some money each month. You can save it for something big.’ At the sound of money, Stephen’s face lightened up.
‘Ok, Sir.’ He said, barely containing his curiosity.
‘But there are conditions applied to your salary.’ Uchenna continued. ‘You have to still excel in your school work, or else I stop you from working. Agreed?’
‘Good. Now go to sleep. We will talk about the rest tomorrow. It’s already late.’ Uchenna knew his son was curious to know more, but he couldn’t tell him yet, as he was yet to tell Rita that their first son was going to join him in what was becoming a tedious business, selling akara. He hoped she don’t see him as a bigger failure.
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‘Please tell me you are kidding me.’ Obinna said with voice so low Chidi could barely hear him.
‘I wish I am, Obinna, I wish I am!’ Chidi could see the disappointment in Obinna’s eyes before he said the next thing. So he was not surprised at Obinna’s next words
‘Chidi, I am truly disappointed at this action. I know the pull of sexual lust, but I always saw you as someone who was more enlightened and… and wise.’ Chidi felt the shame getting bigger; it took a conscious effort on his part not to physically cover his face.
‘I am sorry I disappointed you and everyone who knows me. I also disappointed God, and myself. I can’t change the past, but I truly wish I could. But what I need, why I came to you, is so you can be my brother and my friend and help me through this. I am afraid, I have never been this afraid in my life. Please be the brother I need. My conscience is doing a thorough job of chastising me.’ Hearing those words, it dawned on Obinna what could be the result of Chidi’s actions, and how he must be feeling presently.
‘I am sorry I was harsh, I shouldn’t hav…’
‘Yes you can’ Chidi interrupted. ‘Your scolding gives me the peace that comes with knowing that you love me, and will be there for me. I am not worried about the reproof, I only wanted you to know that I need you close to me in this trying period, of which I don’t know how long it will last.’ Obinna didn’t know what to say to that, he simply took Chidi’s hands and said ‘Let us pray.’ After praying, Obinna told Chidi, still holding his hands,
‘You have to go for the test. The fear of the result, may be more destructive than the result itself. Chidi nodded his head. He was still paralyzed with fear. What if it turns out to be positive?
‘I will go with you, if you want.’ Obinna said, trying to help his friend get back on his feet after a fall. Chidi nodded again. Obinna watched Chidi for a while, that was when he noticed that he had grown slim. He knew it couldn’t be as a result of the Virus, it was too early. It had to be lack of food, and worry. He also remembered he had picked on his food during dinner. He knew he had to help him face his challenge.
‘Chidi, it is possible that you are HIV positive, it is also possible that you are HIV negative, but either way, you have to live life. Take care of yourself even while we wait for the outcome. You are looking thin, and you need to feed well to fortify your body. That’s the truth and you know it.’ Chidi nodded again. Obinna knew he was losing his friend to despair.
‘Chidi! Snap out of it! We will smile again. Tomorrow we go for the test, but until then, make Psalm 56:3 your watch word and stay. Are you staying over it’s getting late.’
‘No’ Chidi said, standing up ‘I have an early day tomorrow. What does Psalm 56:3 say?’ Obinna reached for the family bible on the side stool
‘Here is a bible, check it out yourself.’ What time I am afraid, I will tust in Thee. Chidi nodded again, and handing back the bible to Obinna, headed out to go home. Obinna followed him out, asking God to give his friend peace. Chidinma, couldn’t contain her surprise and sadness. She had heard some parts of the conversation between her husband and his friend, before she had realized she was eavesdropping and had left. But before then she had heard enough.
‘God please help him’ she muttered out loud.
‘Who are you praying for?’ Olanma asked, ‘Obinna?’
‘My dear, every man needs prayers’ Chidinma said. She didn’t want Olanma to know anything, and she didn’t want to tell a lie. It was not her place to spread such news. She thanked God that she just nudged Olanma to notice Chidi, and nothing serious had happened.
‘Exactly, all of them need prayers.’ Olanma supported, interrupting Chidinma’s thoughts. ‘Especially that Obinna’s friend that came visiting this evening, Chidi.’ Chidinma turned to her,
‘What about him?’
‘Nothing, just that he was looking like a nice company, when he suddenly withdrew. I don’t know what happened.’
‘Well that’s why they all need prayers.’ Chidinma said, and quickly changed the subject to distract Olanma from Chidi.
‘So how was the job. Did you get other opportunities?’ Her plan worked.
‘Yes. I got two more jobs to be done in two months…’ As she talked on, Chidinma watched her friend, and thanked God she succeeded in distracting her.
‘God please help him’ she prayed again. Silently.