The previous semester.
I was not even planning on going for that party. Being a student leader, and a fourth year, there was a front that I was expected to put up; a façade that forbids me from attending bashes thrown by Second Years. But I could not stand being in Kamaloka Hall either. I was thirsty for a cold Tusker in the house of the Lord. Which did not feel right.
He’d understand, I presumed. After all, didn’t He turn water into wine as his very first miracle? He could have healed a blind boy or exorcised a few demons to grace His glorious debut on earth. But no. He chose to brew.
Obara had dragged me to church. It was a Friday night, in the middle of the semester when most of my student loan had run out. A budget proposal for Health Week was still stuck at the Finance Department. The cashier also wanted a share. The fucker refused to process the release of money from the students’ kitty. Until that proposal passed, I was broke.
For two weeks, I had been eating at the Mess; the common cafeteria where they sold bland, university subsidized food. All the stews served in that place were not as thick as the ones in the Poolside Café. By some unknown Mbalariany University culinary standard, they put carrots in everything. Sukuma, Beef Stew. Undercooked carrots that dug craters of cavities in your tooth, and left evidence in between your teeth.
Running on fumes, there was no way I could go to Wambugus. That is why when Obara suggested that I should join him for the Christian Union service, I figured; what’s the worst that could happen? A miracle could as well come my way. He also mentioned something about an interesting speaker they had invited to preach to the congregation. Obara was also the choir master, and his music was okay. Even though I always thought he was better with the piano than the guitar. Anyone who played the guitar in Westlands Campus was better with another instrument. Except me of course.
Sarah, my then girlfriend, had gone home for the weekend. She would be back on Sunday evening with milk and potatoes from her mother’s shamba. I was alone. I hated it when she left. Yet she had no choice. She was a PK; daughter of a strict Adventist dad who monitored her every move. One time I convinced her to stay, so that we could finish watching Big Bang Theory, and get naughty in between episodes. The following day, on Saturday morning, she was too tired to go home. We were woken up by a call at 8 am, from her dad. He was already at the parking, standing next to a white Noah.
A sudden bout of malaria had to attack her within seconds.
The speaker that had been invited, a Reverend Joseph Malago, spoke with vehemence in his voice. Even as he did I kept on wondering what kind of God he was talking to. I was raised a Catholic. I was used to slow hymns, candles and incense, in between reciting the same prayers from a little book. A reverent atmosphere for self-reflection and communication with the creator.
But Reverend Malago served a strange God. One who was okay with people calling his son Jay C. This God was spoken at. Commanded. He was given ultimatums. Rev. Malago told Him that “if you do this, if you grant us this, we will praise your holy name.” I pitied this God. He had no choice but to grant these wishes if he ever wanted Reverend Malago to praise his name. Poor guy.
Thirty minutes into the sermon, I was already missing the choir. Obara and his people led the praise and worship. A session that started with exuberant songs, Obara asking us to get up and dance. The most intriguing part of praise sessions is the way brethren danced. I could tell the girl next to me was in a painful struggle to maintain herself from dropping her ass down low for the Lord. The guy in a black T-shirt at the front, the one whose moves everyone else was trying so hard to emulate, winding his waist in a way I have seen in a Konshens video. Clearly that was a congregation that spent a lot of time on YouTube. Hallelujah!
The worship part made me want to cry. A girl – she was my classmate – took over the lead from Obara. She sang as if someone was scratching her soul. She opened her arms, and with her eyes closed, she opened her heart.
I sent Obara a message. Off to sleep now. Busy day kesho. I lied.
By then Reverend Malago’s face was already glistening, the hall lighting bounced off the sweat on his face and made them glow. The pious fervor summoned from divine inspiration, typically involving speaking in tongues, wild, awkward movements of the body and wiping the forehead every five minutes were entertaining. But after a while, I just got bored
Westlands Campus was the smallest of all campuses of Mbalariany University. The hostels and Kamaloka Hall are just next to each other, separated only by a thin strip of tarmac. Walking around that place on a Friday night, it was impossible not to feel forces of good and evil engaging in a tug of war. On one side was a heavenly saint with an incandescent halo; urging you to go for Friday fellowship. On the other, Johnnie Walker inviting you for a walk to an inebriated destiny in the halls. Especially on a night like that when some Second Year was celebrating his birthday.