I was finally telling mum. And as she listened, calmly, one would presume what went on within her – parallel scenes that her motherly mind made from each piece I told. I made it real, the much I could, and she listened. Her affectionate eyes were journeying into the subconsciously created detail of what she heard. Somehow, she could see her son running; she saw me exposed and vulnerable. And I was sure she would run after me. I was sure mum would provide whatever covering she could. I knew, also, that she had her ‘What-Ifs’ – What if that happened? And what if this happened? Well, nothing beyond what happened would happen. An unforgettable 26th happened.
“July is here: 7th and perfect! Henceforth, God’s goodness follows you, God’s glory envelopes you, God’s grace sustains you. Stick to Jesus and enjoy July.”
That was a July first’s. Shared with quite a number of loved ones and, essentially, with myself. While that prayer-statement was a hearty and personal thought for everyone, it meant a whole lot to me. And a whole lot – that which only a proper meal of beans porridge presents some kind of relationship.
I was born on the 19th. And to me, July occupies a revered throne: the king of months. Special, solemn, and seventh. One month I wish for; one king I long to see. And In an enviable splendor it came, riding from the early crows of January, and through till the last salutes of June. Long awaited; hungrily welcomed.
As usual, I stayed up into the early moments of July, decreeing and declaring blessings upon the new month. It wouldn’t be a prayer time of carelessly tongue-lashing the air. And this awareness inflamed conscious desires and expectations – to enjoy every moment, to groove on every bit of July… because it was July. My only July.
I meditatively searched out Psalms 84:11 (a scripture that remains a blessing), summarized it, paraphrased it, and made it a new month’s wish. It was well prayed on, and in effect ministered blessings, motivated smiles, ‘Amens,’ ‘Thank-yous,’ ‘God-bless-yous,’ and ‘Same-to-yous.’ To me, it provided a reference for praying, inspired faith, and was more of a dictum throughout my July experience. There are much testimonies to it.
Tuesday, 26th July, 2016 came. That morning would be breezy and proper, spiced with the routine family altar, regular morning greetings, and random house chores. Everything was cool, and while the day’s responsibilities were handled and assignments tackled, there was this unique sense of satisfaction – a spontaneous feeling of happiness, an effect of the appropriate being done, and that, in July.
The day went on, with peculiarities of life in Aba: the unpredictable weather, the usual struggles with poorly maintained infrastructure, the lively moments of children enjoying their holidays, the drama of busy people who seldom get distracted but by a market or street fight or by catchy discussions about politics or bya random scene that attracted a mob of eyes. Aba na-anya.
While in transit, one would hear the bus conductors calling out to prospective passengers, the discourteous remarks of a passerby who got dirt-bathed by a careless drive, the lousy shouts of ‘Enyias…’ ‘Alobam…’ ‘Boy, ele way…’ and all that. Occasionally, you involuntarily smile at funny inscriptions on moving vehicles. Inscriptions like ‘Big Man 4 Your House,’ ‘Next Governor,’ ‘Nwa-Aba,’ ‘Onye na Way Ya,’ ‘Pray and Believe,’ would prompt you to muse, to wonder, to appreciate, or may be to disapprove. And all of these experiences make Aba what it is: not just a city, but an impression, an attitude, and to some, a lifestyle.
Sometime around 8pm, the sublime became ridiculous. I’ve been away from home and getting back was the primary thought. I made for a bus stop, reached, but there was no bus. I met a band of some worriedly waiting people and without choice subscribed to their waiting. I waited a while but there was nothing – no bus, no taxi, no keke… nothing. And I was quite a distance away from home. Not a walking distance; not at night, and not in Aba. I watched, waited, and felt like walking… walking into an undesired adventure.
I might be lucky, anyway, to catch a bus or whatever catchable somewhere else. But as I walked, I observed irregular movements. Folks ahead where inconsistent – they were walking and halting. Some moved as though they would run at any moment; others gazed in awe. I looked back and noticed I got company. This young man, likely an age mate, anxiously asked me of what went on. But I was blank, caring for nothing but home. I met another guy who seemed to be aware of the situation. He checked my curiosity with a question.
“I bu onye Igbo?”
That question appeared troublesome, at least at that moment. There was a mosque close by, so he asked to be sure I was Igbo, a Non-Muslim. I wondered on what inspired this inquiry. And in Igbo language, I responded that I was. He then explained: someplace in that area had been robbed and the police were after the robbers. We exchanged random remarks and I left him. Confused.
“There might be shootings at anytime… How safe would it be to walk on? Do I go back to the waiting band?”
These thoughts bred much confusion. But then I had to decide. And that, quickly. I watched, waited, and walked. Although the mind talked on, raising an awareness of danger lurking, I dared whatever. I moved on – forwards. Any strange sound or movement would send a cold shiver. But I still braved the walk. Forwards!
I came to a crossroad. There was a bus stop some walks away. Fortunately, as I made to cross, I noticed a bus waiting to pick passengers, but, I was unsure of its route. It had no conductor to announce that. “What if not in my direction?” I thought, as I crossed the road’s second lane. And then, at a snap, the unexpected happened.
The streetlights weren’t awake, and if at all there was a light source around, its light was of little use. My eyes peered through the poorly lit space and at my left, few metres away, I caught a frightening sight of an approaching van. On it, there was an inscription, ‘Scorpion.’ The message was clear: The Police. Hmmm… Those guys!
Their presence should have provided some kind of psychological relief – an assurance of security. But it didn’t. And there were reasons why it didn’t: the possibility of you being their target; the uncertainty of where the robbers were – they might be somewhere close waiting for an offensive, which would mean an event of bullets-exchange. Anything was possible, and my frightened heart was affirming those possibilities.
Almost immediately, their intimidating charge sounded: “Stop there…! If you move…!” In vagueness, I caught glimpse of some three or four men in black, jumping down the van. It seemed as though they were making for my direction. Hush! That feeling came, accompanied by an unholy thought.
“What if a disturbed fellow among these men decides to misbehave, to play with his trigger? What if I was seen as an enemy? What if the surrounding darkness didn’t help their sight that they shoot at an unintended direction? What if I was sho… No way! God forbid! I reject it! It doesn’t happen, not at all in July… But at the sound of any bang, go for the gutters… Lie down flat… Take cover…” I literally heard my mind talking. But then, there was still an option — the bus.
I kept sight of it, and although safety was uncertain, nothing else provided a reachable solace. The open space with virtually nobody around caused a feeling of vulnerability. I needed cover. And impulsively, I ran: I went for the bus. I’d never done that – running along a moving vehicle. But Adrenalin was working in my favour. And in a blink, I was in. I was covered. Miracle! I tried to sit but wasn’t sure of sitting. I couldn’t even trust myself talk more of trusting the seats. My fears obsessed me. Poor Godsgrace.
I was nothing less than funny, but nobody cared. Other passengers had their concerns to deal with too. They had scampered and ran in fear as well. There were heavy breathes in the bus. And while some managed to vent out their fears by emotional remarks, others repeatedly stared around – left, right, and back. I, now seated, must have been wondering why this was happening in July. And In an instant, I’d forgotten home. There were other thoughts.
I thought of how funny I had acted while running. I ran when there was nobody after me. I thought of how others saw me – probably childish or emotionally immature. But that wasn’t true: I was acting out my being human. And of course, all of us did – the driver, other passengers, and Godsgrace – we were all afraid… afraid of something that never happened. And we consequently played out our fears by different expressions of uneasiness.
We drove on and on, and gradually, I began to cool off. I suddenly realized that the bus wasn’t just a cover: It went my direction — It was taking me home. Awesome! I thought of how it all got started: the waiting band of people, the random guys I had met while I wandered; I remembered running, and all that had already happened. Those scenes replayed over and over. And like some movie, I watched myself acting the lead role. Lucky me. Funny me. I got down the bus, and in some 10-minute walk, I was home.
From everybody’s 1st, to the United State’s 4th, Cadosky’s 9th, Fortune and big sister G-g’s 11th, Joe’s 18th, my 19th, Kenna’s 20th, Chivisco’s 21st, Tim’s 22nd, that unforgettable 26th, and younger brother’s 31st, July made sense!
Faithfully, God’s goodness followed us, God’s glory enveloped us, God’s grace, ultimately, sustained us. Our Elohim stayed close all the way. I was never alone – even during that funny adventure. He was, is, and will always be present. An Invisible Company. Our Shepherd. Our Refuge. Our Deliverer. And just as Psalm 84:11 states, He remains our Sun and Shield, giving us grace and glory, withholding nothing good from us. Unforgettable 26th is gone, July is gone, but He doesn’t go. Eternally ours. Always awake. Twale to you, ABBA.