Distance Episode 10

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The school where he (Bro James)
taught was located on the same road
as the hotel, and he was just leaving
for his second shift at the home of one
of his students where he gave private
English lessons. Tobi did not see him
until he was standing right in front of
her. By then, it was too late to escape.
“Sister Tobi, how are you doing?” said
Brother James, genuinely happy to see
her. He could not believe his luck, and
his smile was only outshone by the
bright sun.
“Fine, thank you,” replied
Tobi reluctantly.
Oh God! Where did this man come
from? Is he stalking me?
“Sister Tobi, I looked for you after
service yesterday, but I did not see
you. What happened?”
I ran away from you! That’s what
happened. I wish I could run away
again. If I had a horse, a camel or even
a donkey, I would ride far, far away
from you, Brother James. Where are
the horses in Asaba?
“Oh, Brother James, I … er … I had to
leave early. I had an appointment
right after the service.” Tobi did not
mention, of course, that the
appointment she referred to, was an
appointment with her bed. She had
taken her cherished Sunday nap as
soon as she got home.
“ Issokay , Sister Tobi. These things
happen. So where are you–?”
“I don’t want to miss my bus, Brother
James,” Tobi interrupted impatiently.
While they were having this
conversation, she had watched three
buses she ought to have boarded, stop,
drop off passengers and then leave.
All because of this yeye man.
Either Brother James did not realize
this or else he pretended not to notice,
and instead, continued talking.
“So, the thing I wanted to discuss with
you, Sister Tobi,” he began, pulling his
suit closer to his body as if he was cold,
even though he was sweating like a
Christmas goat, you know all those
church brother like that, them no sabi
toast.
“Can’t this wait, Brother James? I’m
kind of in a hurry,” said Tobi. She
was thinking of an excuse to give so
she could rush off, but none was
forthcoming. Besides which, there
were no other buses coming at that
time. So, she was forced to stand
there and listen to Brother James’
speech.
“Ah, Sister Tobi, it can’t wait o. In
fact, it’s an emergency,” said Brother
James, a sly smile spreading across his
face. That smile made Tobi uneasy
and at the same time piqued her
curiosity. What could be so important
that he wanted to discuss?
“Okay, go on. I’m listening.”
“The first matter has to do with your
soul, Sister Tobi.”
“My soul?” said Tobi, unable to hide
her surprise. “What about it?”
“Yes, I’m glad you asked. You see, the
Bible says that the soul that sinneth
shall die,” Brother James started.
“Ehen … And so? Aren’t we all
sinners?”
“Sister Tobi, the Bible also says that a
believer should not be unequally
yoked with an unbeliever. I know
you’re a child of God. I have watched
you serve in the Children’s Ministry,
and I can see that you love the Lord–“
Stalker alert! So this man has been
watching me? Chineke, have mercy!
Which kain person be dis? See how he’s
just jumping to conclusions left, right
and center. Make I hear wetin he go
talk finish.
“I see. Continue,” said Tobi, with a
calmness that surprised even her.
“… But that man you are dating
is not a child of God. He is bad news.
That man is a deceiver, an unbeliever
and possibly even a molester.”
You dey craze! Na all your family dem,
na dem be deceivers! Useless man!
With her eyebrows raised and even
though she could feel her blood
pressure rising dangerously high, she
managed to ask him:
“And, what makes you think you can
level such accusations against
Dimeji in my presence? You don’t
even know him.”
Tobi knew she was under-reacting to
what Brother James said, but
something inside her told her to be
patient and hear him out. Although
she was on the verge of knocking out
the something inside her with an
uppercut, she obeyed nonetheless. She
knew Brother James was not done.
“You see, Sister Tobi, you are a
treasure, not just to the body of Christ,
but to me as well,” said Brother James.
Tobi could have sworn she saw him
blushing.
“You are a rare jewel, more precious
than rubies, sapphires, and even
emeralds. I consider it my
responsibility to acquaint you with the
character of the man you think you
know. Believe me, Sister Tobi, there is
more to him than meets the eye.”
Ehen! See grammar plus toasting! So
men too gossip? Wonders shall never
end. No more Sunday school for me,
after this. Definitely. And how did he
leave out diamonds? For that reason
alone, person suppose vex.
Tobi was past the point of vexing, but
she waited for him to finish. Brother
James continued.
“I know you must be wondering why I
would say these things about him, but
I have my reasons.”
So you can’t even say his name?
Rubbish!
“Oh please, enlighten me,” Tobi said,
folding her hands across her chest,
her purse dangling from her right
shoulder. That posture was strategic.
It was calculated to restrain her hands
from reaching out and decorating
Brother James face with assorted
slaps. He deserved it for the insults he
was hurling at her, but she waited for
him to finish. Her time would come
soon enough, and she would certainly
not let this one slide.
“First of all, Sister Tobi, I want you to
know that if you persist in this
relationship with that man, you will go
to hell. He is an unbeliever and he
will surely lead you to sin. If you are
serious with your relationship with
God, you will leave him and be joined
with a believer instead. In fact, I had
a dream where I saw you and me in a
boat–“
“Brother James, I am not interested in
your dreams, visions or
hallucinations,” Tobi spat in anger.
“Your proposal is hereby rejected.
Next!”
“Ahn ahn wait now, Sister Tobi,”
Brother James pleaded. “It’s not like
that–“
“Oh really? So tell me, how is it?”
“Look, I did not make this up. That
man is a deceiver! He has a child with
a woman right here in Asaba and if
you ask me, he might even be the Aba
rapist!”
Tobi felt like someone had just poured
cold water on her. What did this idiot
just say?
“Brother James, repeat what you just
said,” said Tobi, breathing heavily.
“That man you’re moving around with
already has a child with another
woman. And he’s a criminal. So, it’s
better you break–“
“You are mad! As a matter of fact, you
are out of your bloody mind! How
dare you?!” Tobi thundered, inching
closer to Brother James, who
instinctively took a few steps back. He
knew he had crossed the line.
“No-o-o, Sister Tobi! It’s what I heard
o. I did not make–“
“Shut up! I said shut up there! You
know what? You’re right. My soul is
in danger, and so is your life too if
you don’t vamoose from here right
now. Na by force? Am I the only sister
in church? You must truly be a
coward, running down another man
with baseless accusations just because
you want to take what he already has.
Aba rapist indeed! Of all the
accusations to level against an
innocent man. Why did you stop
there? Why not take it further and
accuse him of all the armed robberies
in Asaba? Who knows if you are not
the Aba rapist? And Dimeji has a
child? You’re just a pathetic liar, and
a disgrace to Christians everywhere!”
By now, Tobi was shouting at the top
of her voice and had attracted the
attention of other people waiting at
the bus stop. Some of them began
begging her to calm down, while
others told Brother James to leave
since he was the one who had angered
her. Brother James reluctantly left,
but before he did, he yelled one last
time to Tobi:
“If you don’t believe me, ask him! Ask
him about his son. And look in the
newspapers for the sketch of the Aba
rapist. You’ll know who is lying then.”
That was the last thing Tobi heard
Brother James say as he walked away
and disappeared further down the
road, fuming. But his anger could not
be compared with Tobi’s own. She
blamed herself for waiting to listen to
all the rubbish he just said.
I should have slapped that his mouth
shut. I should have thrown my shoe at
him. Foolish man!
But as she considered the second
option, she was glad she did not take it
because she would have had to walk
home with just one shoe that day. The
people, who had calmed her down,
soon entered the buses taking them to
their destinations and so did Tobi, just
a few minutes after Brother James had
gone.
Throughout the journey home, she was
restless, reconstructing in her mind
what she ought to have done to
Brother James and how she had been
too lenient with him. But the one
thing that troubled her the most was
this nagging feeling that there was
some truth in what he had just told
her. What if he was right? What if
Dimeji had lied to her about fathering
a child and was actually the Aba
rapist? What if he was married?
To make matters worse, Dimeji was
still out of town and would not be
back till Wednesday. What was she
going to do? Should she confront him
with these accusations over the phone
or wait till he got back? Should she
even believe what Brother James
said? After all, he had ulterior
motives for levelling these accusations
against Dimeji. Tobi began to worry
that maybe she did not know
Dimeji well enough. Wasn’t their
relationship based on trust? Could she
really trust him?
All Tobi had were questions, but no
answers. She needed answers fast.
Her impatience made her want to ask
him these questions over the phone,
but she remembered her breakup with
Mayowa, and how he had broken up
with her in person rather than on the
phone. A breakup is painful, but the
seriousness of such matters makes
anything less than a face-to-face
confrontation less humane and less
personal .
Tobi wanted to look into Dimeji’s eyes
while he answered those questions.
Anything less would be
unsatisfactory. She knew her heart
would not rest until she had talked to
him in person.
So when she got home, she called him
and told him that when he came back
to Asaba, she had a very serious
matter to discuss with him. He noted
the graveness of her tone and asked
her to tell him what was wrong. She
refused and said this was not
something they could discuss over the
phone.
Dimeji reluctantly agreed to let the
matter pass and promised to see her
as soon as he arrived in Asaba on
Wednesday.
For the rest of the day, Tobi was
restless and lost her appetite. It did
not slip Auntie Priscillia’s watchful
eyes, but when she asked Tobi what
the matter was, her niece declined to
answer. Auntie Priscillia surmised
that she had quarreled with
Dimeji and that when Tobi was ready
she would tell her what had
happened. So, she let her be.
– to be continued