When Dapo had suggested an ‘apology’ lunch, it had been a joke. At first. But the more he thought about it. The more he realized he would love a redo of their first meeting. What he hadn’t expected was that he would enjoy her company this much, but as he sat opposite Imade, icecream cup poised in his hand, he felt more relaxed than he had in a long time.
He had particularly enjoyed the look on her face when he told her in not so many words, that he was single. Single. There was something about the word that rubbed him the wrong way. So, what? When people got married, they became double? Well, definitely not according to God’s system – two married people were encouraged to be “single”, single but not alone. Yes, man and woman become one.
Why wasn’t he married? She had asked, after she recovered from his news.
Why hadn’t he? He wondered to himself. He had come close a few times, but somehow it just hadn’t worked out. He had some baggage that the women that came around him were not able to carry or understand.
Old things have passed away, the Bible says. Yes, but sometimes the consequences of your past hung around as a reminder. His old things had left a glaring reminder, a constant presence in his present.
But he did not tell Imade all this when she asked. Why? Maybe because he had grown so used to being alone that sharing parts of himself did not come easily to him. So even though he enjoyed being with her, talking with her, there were parts of him that he could not share. Not yet.
She was unmarried too, she told him, saying it almost like it was something to be ashamed of. He saw the way she tucked her head to the side, a posture of shame? regret?
He wanted to know why. Why wasn’t she married? Because in his work in the ministry, he had come to realise that the why of a thing was more important than the thing itself. The why determined the subsequent events or actions. He wanted to know why, but he didn’t ask. Yes, he was curious, but he was also sensitive.
He remembered her from secondary school. She was one of those pretty and brilliant girls, the ones that the boys called on to teach them not because they didn’t understand, but because they wanted an excuse to talk to her. He himself had not cared much for girls at the time; he had been more concerned with what they had to offer – they always seemed to have money. So, he delivered letters for them, sometimes wrote the letters on their behalf because he was really good at English plus he spent his free time hiding to read romance novels and so was often inspired when writing their letters. They regularly rewarded him with cash which he stashed in his stockings, making him one of the richer boys especially since he had no girl to spend it on.
The incident with Jerry that had set her off during their first meeting, had been the talk of the boys’ toilet for a couple of days. Jerry himself boasted of his escapade amongst the boys, ignoring the fact that Imade’s slap had stung. For the first time, Dapo had the urge to hit someone, and not in self-defense. He had sisters and the thought of a boy like Jerry touching them inappropriately without consent, enraged him. He had felt sorry for Imade, for the punishment she had to endure because she refused to disclose what had transpired between Jerry and her.
After school that day, he had written a short note because he didn’t think she would look kindly on him, on any boy really, at that moment.
I’m sorry he did that. You didn’t deserve it was all he could muster. He slipped it into her school bag when everyone was outside and hoped she would find comfort in those words.
In retrospect, those days were the easy days. Days when they went through life doing what they felt like, whenever they felt like, having no regard for consequences, wanting nothing more than to be happy, finding happiness in the simple things like winning a football match, passing an exam, finding two eggs in one egg roll, being with friends that made you laugh. Life had been much simpler. No responsibilities, no cares.
If they had known what the older years held, perhaps they would have dawdled just a little. Basked in their childhood and teenage years a little more, not been in a hurry to grow.
“We have an outreach with the children at the orphanage coming up soon,” he said, rerouting his thoughts to the woman before him. “Would you like to come?”
He watched her face light up with anticipation, her lips curling in a small smile. It was the smile that warmed him. Okay, true talk, everything about her warmed him, but he didn’t know what it meant yet. All he knew really, was that he needed an excuse to see her again, and so when she said yes, he gave a victory punch…in his mind.
“I had fun today,” he said. “So, apology accepted.”
She chuckled, her eyes narrowing to slits when she laughed.
“Thank you, sir,” she said eventually.
They paid for their order and strolled out of the restaurant, easy in each other’s company.
“So, how do you handle the attention at church? I mean being unmarried and being in a position of authority?” Imade asked.
“It’s not like women are falling over themselves for me,” he replied with a shrug.
What Dapo did not tell her was that he was used to getting messages from women in church who claimed God told them he was their husband. A particular woman who had come into town from Australia looking for a husband, had wasted no time in sending pictures of herself half-naked to him to convince him of what could be his. He had blocked her instantly and when she had seen him in church the next Sunday, she had asked if he had prayed about it and received confirmation.
“I don’t believe you,” Imade said. “I’ve been in a church with some seriously single and hot Pastors. We know what the women do to get the Pastors’ attention. So, tell me.”
“Wait, you think I’m hot?” they were at his car now, leaning against the hood.
“For God’s sake, are you always this vain?” she asked.
“Only when it gets on your nerves,” he replied. “So back to what we were saying. You think I’m a hot Pastor?”
“Okay, this conversation is officially over. Please take me back to my hotel or I can call an Uber.”
He laughed, a boisterous sound. “I like how easily I can rile you, Sister Imade.”
“It has to be a sin, Pastor Dapo.”
“No, what is a sin is you lying.”
She blinked at him. “Lying?”
“Yes, lying that you don’t think I’m hot,”
“Okay, that’s it. I’m out of here.” Imade grabbed her bag that sat on the hood of the car and began to walk away in a dramatic huff.
Dapo couldn’t stop laughing. Gosh, he hadn’t had this much fun in years. It was like being a Pastor had made him uptight so much so that he had stopped loosening up, stopped laughing, or making jokes.