You have never liked the way Lagos drivers cut lanes, make dangerous turns or speed through curves. The old lady sitting in front of you, seems to hate it too, and she’s a lot more vocal than you, complaining about how the bus driver has been over-speeding, like he has a spare life somewhere in his back pocket.
A murmur rises, as other passengers voice their agreement. You lean your head on the window. Your eyes are still aching because you stayed up all night, working, and you wonder if your breath smells like coffee.
You know the rules. Whenever you’re in a bus;
Make no eye contact.
Block your ears with headphones.
Bury your eyes in your phone and for the love of God, say nothing. Nothing at all to anybody.
Yet, you feel they might be harder to keep today. Maybe it’s because everybody is talking now. And no, it’s not about the driver, they’ve all over pass that. A conversation has come up about Nigeria’s day of independence. The day that marked the beginning of an era, the day she was given freedom, to be herself.
The man besides you hisses. He is reading a column in the newspaper about the president, and he shakes his head.
You can see his eyes have that look of heavy disappointment, the kind your Dad wore when you broke his mother’s set of fine China.
The man grunts and says Nigeria doesn’t deserve to be free and you watch as some people nod in agreement. You’re not sure if you agree or not, but you decide not to say anything, to follow the rules. Yes, what were they again? Eyes on phone. headphones on. . . ah! You left them at home.
There’s nothing to stop you from listening to these people now. You shift on your seat, and crack the windows open, a little. A woman carrying a baby says she doesn’t agree. We all deserve freedom.
You listen as the word is sent bouncing around you, before catching it, and putting it into your mouth, and you feel its weight on your tongue, as you try to move it around.
Freedom. It tastes like the cold breeze that would lick your face on those early morning rides to church when your dad would roll down his windows, so you wouldn’t feel carsick and throw up on his head.
Freedom. It tastes like the times your mother would call you into the kitchen, and smear Afang soup on your palm because she’s fasting and doesn’t want to break with anything that is not the Holy Communion.
Freedom tastes like those moments your dad would tell you to say the closing prayer of the morning devotion, and you’d raise your shoulders, proud to be given a big-boy responsibility.
Freedom. What you learned was paid for you in blood. You were attending a prayer meeting because you wanted Aderonke to see how spiritual you could be, and the leader decided to start off with the beauty gospel. Your eyes opened to it for the first time, and it was like seeing a smile in the vast blue of the sky.
Tears rushed out your eyes that evening while you jumped and sang ‘beautiful name’ with the congregation.Freedom…You remember how long it took you to accept, that the devil no longer had anything on you…you were no longer sin's hopeless slave, but God's beloved son. Click To Tweet
Freedom. You remember how long it took you to accept, that the devil no longer had anything on you. You remember moments where you’d cry and judge yourself, for not being as holy as your new fellowship friends. One of them told you that at moments like that, you should run to the arms of the father, not away. You didn’t understand then, but you do now. A son who knows he’s loved doesn’t hide when he stains his clothes. You were no longer sin’s hopeless slave, but God’s beloved son.Freedom… A son who knows he's loved doesn't hide when he stains his clothes. Click To Tweet
Freedom. That’s what you have. The word still feels slightly heavy in your mouth but this time, you can relish its taste. “Freedom,” you say out loud, and everyone turns to look at you.
You have broken all the rules. You fix your eyes on the lady with a baby, and you keep talking. What are you doing? You’re not sure, but it feels right.
“Did we ever deserve freedom?” You ask. “No,” you answer immediately, with a smile, as bright as your mother’s favourite gold watch. You don’t know where the confidence is coming from, but you can’t complain.
“The truth is, we are all born sinners, slaves to sin, never ever earning the rights to taste of the vineyard of redemption, but God set us free anyway.”
The words roll out your tongue like a song, like a prayer, or even a poem. Once again, that prayer meeting flashes in your mind, and you can see yourself crying. Holding your chest and singing.
You have managed to capture their attention now, so you decide to use it well. You let the Holy Spirit turn the key of your heart, and the gospel gushes out, like water out of a cracked dam.
Fifteen minutes have passed, and they’re still letting you talk. You wonder why. Lagos people are not fans of bus preachers. So why haven’t they stopped you yet? Is it because of the stories you’re telling, digging up from the core of your soul? The ones about a boy who found a fountain, born when a rock gave his head to be smashed. So water would gush out and you could drink, and be filled forever. You soon realize it’s because that rock is here with you now, helping them see, that these stories are not just yours alone, but can be theirs too.
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