Adego strolled to St. Mulumba’s Chaplaincy like other penitents on the evening of a certain June Wednesday. The erstwhile gloomy cloud had emptied itself of the content it was pregnant with, making it appear pellucid; as if one could see the happenings in heaven if one could exert more effort at peering through it. Her Catholic background notwithstanding, she had abusively flouted most of the teachings of the Catholic Cathechism; or possibly has little or no memory of them any longer. Amongst those litany of teachings is: “You must confess your sins at least once a year, especially at Easter”. She has a faint memory of the slightest obeisance to this rule after she received her first Holy Communion and subsequent Confirmation. She could still hear the voice of Bishop Gbuji as it vibrated through the speaker affixed to the walls inside the church as he addressed the new communicants.
“You all look like angels”, he said, with a calm smile. “Immaculate. Taintless. You are now newbeings in Christ”.
“New being!” she scoffed, mocking herself.
“What if rapture occurs now?” she thought , “would my self-deceit avail me?”.
Overwhelmed by an abrupt tearfulness, she came to the dreadful conclusion- “I know where I am headed!” as the cover page of Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’ which lay on her reading table in the hostel obtruded on her thought.
She had crossed the Rubicon and the route backwards stretches seemingly to the very end of the world.
The church was engulfed by a palpable graveyard atmosphere that will leave the faintest whistle sounding like a detonated hand grenade. Adego entered, stood at the center aisle and genuflected in reverence to the ‘tabernacle’- a symbolic representation of the tent for carrying the Ark of Covenant- placed faraway on the altar; with its blinking crimson light. The sculpture of SaintMulumba stood sentinel beside the altar , as if it was guarding the tabernacle.
At her left were other penitents, numbering about a hundred or more, awaiting absolution. Shewondered what they all came to confess as she was being ripped off by indecision. Torn between going back or forth. At her right, there were other people, either seated or knelling, scattered like oil bean seeds, dispersed by explosion- ‘purging’ themselves- muttering what they and God alone knew. She again wondered if this is indeed how it would be on the ‘last day’. If people would stand at right and left hand sides with a chasm (the aisle) in between the two parallel divides.
She knew she could keep her sins to herself and nobody would ever find out. “Even the devil knows not the mind of man” a certain learned Lord opined she remembered. But she felt like Atlas, laden with the excruciating weight of the world. Her psyche was a carcass on which scavenging thoughts fed and she craved immediate healing; to get rid of that feeling of unwholesomeness that left her feeling like a bean seed that suffered a menacing attack by a host of weevils.
Her mind was made up.
She sat on the last pew on the left-hand side, joining the queue of penitents seeking absolution. Reaching the space made behind the head rest of the pew directly in front of her, she picked the Catholic Simple Prayer Book and flipped to the table of content. She looked exhausted and sweaty as if she was being pummelled by the reactive effect of some malaria dosage. She found what she was looking for in the prayer book. She needed to say the ‘Prayer before confession’.
Distraught, she said the prayer for what seemed like eternity; stopping in the middle of a sentence only to start all over again. Her palms were wet with sweat, leaving her finger prints engraved on the prayer book. To worsen her dilemma, the girl that sat beside her stank ofsomething she could not tell. Something obnoxious nonetheless. It nauseated her and made her stomach churn that she found herself intermittently tightening her jaws.
As her turn got nearer, her disconcerting dilemma found its way back; defying whatever the girl seated beside her reeked of.
“If this was the last day, what would I say?” she thought. “May be I would not say anything. It would be useless.”
She wondered for the umpteenth time if God is bound by the rule- ‘Innocent until proven otherwise’. Time sped with the speed of light, bringing her closer, with each strike of the clock’sseconds hand to her most imminent and worst nightmare of the moment. With each person that got up, she was hauled closer to the fierce blinding light she would not want to face…alone. She wished she could coopt her friends to help her get through. Alas! She was alone; like Christ at Gethsemane. Or rather, like the helpless, naked child crying in the bush; at the mercy of monstrous goblins.