I walked on the dusty brown road, looking around to see if there was anyone I could talk to. I spotted a light-skinned petite girl walking towards me. She had a smile on her face that didn’t seem to have an off-button.
“Excuse me” I said, trying to be all civil and polite.
“Do you know where I could find the pastor of this church?”
I asked, pointing to the rectangular yellow-painted bungalow that lay on my left.
The girl, in her never-going-off smile, told me the pastor lived in Ntamulung, a locality in that city, Bamenda, Cameroon. She gave me graphic descriptions about the neighbourhood and the pastors’ abode. I thanked her and took my leave from the dusty road at that locale called, Fish Pond, to the Pastor’s house in Ntamulung.
I was on a mission to interview the pastor on his take about the proliferation of churches in Bamenda at that time, the August of 2005. It was for a feature as my wrap-off assignment at The Post newspaper, where I interned as a student journalist.
I arrived at the pastor’s dwelling, and the house itself could be hardly seen. It was hidden in a high wall made of stones and mildly rusted gates. I pulled the smaller gate, meant for human passage and made my way to the door. After ringing the bell, I was greeted at the door by a middle-aged looking man. In direct contrast to the constant smiling girl, he seemed to wear a permanent frown on his face. He ushered me in and diligently responded to my interview questions. I would later use his words as the conclusive statement for my article. It sounded something like,
“Christ is coming soon. We should focus on getting ready for His return instead of focusing on how many churches there are.”
I really liked the pastor’s point of view so as a charismatic recently born-again Christian I decided to visit his church; the long rectangular building at Fish Pond Hill. It was there that I first saw the brother. He was robust and wore a suit that did not match his trousers. He sat at the front row and seemed to agree with everything the pastor said. He was so absorbed into church services that one could confuse him for the pastor’s assistant.
I can’t remember if we spoke to each other at this point. I loved the church so I became a regular there. Months down the line, the pastor asked me to work on a documentary project. It was a story about a retired occultist from Nigeria called, Joshua Balogun. He had worked as a native doctor, a magician, a cult leader, a Rosicrucian and had repented to become a Christian. The pastor assigned the suit-wearing brother to work on this project with me.
This was the first time I related closely with the brother. Our work consisted of setting up shooting locations, me doing the presentation and he doing the direction. There was also this awkward stage where we both had to sit down and interview Mr. Balogun. The brother was a like-able one yet I never saw him as a potential spouse.
On one of the days of the documentary production, I had to train a group of girls mimic a true life scene in which Mr. Balogun raised up a dead pregnant lady. I love the performing arts and I led a few drama groups back in the day. Anyone who knew me then knows that I was skilled at causing people make a fool of themselves on stage and causing the audience to laugh. That’s my way of saying I was a drama director.
So there was I, teaching these girls to get into character and act like people at a funeral. This brother was there with us and for some reason, I didn’t think his body language was that of someone who enjoyed the performing arts as much as I did.
I was only 18 at the time but there was so much marriage talk among the born again sisters I related with that I started considering marriage too. In fact, I assessed any brother who came very close to me in the light of a potential spouse. I was certain that I would know my partner as soon as I see him because we would be have similar interests. I quickly wrote the brother off. I could deal with the heavy suits and santiago shoes but I could not deal with someone who wouldn’t appreciate a multi-talented highly ambitious girl. A marriage ring is the smallest handcuff people wear so I was bent on choosing my prison mate wisely.
The brother maintained close proximity to me. He would buy me meat pie while I was in the studio doing post-production and I would be too shy to eat it. He would come over to hold discussions with me and provide support when the video editor was getting on my last nerve. He would invite me to the photo studio where he worked at the time as a part-time photographer. He was a friend and I liked him that way.
One day, he asked me to lunch. I agreed and we went to a restaurant on Sonac Street, Bamenda. I sat down with him at a corner of the restaurant, sipping my bottle of Malta. I could tell that that he was really into me. The way he looked at me. The way he smiled at my not-so-funny parlance. The way he felt so comfortable in my presence.
The brother said he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I had heard somewhere that you should never turn down a man’s offer with pride. So though I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with him, I put on a polite hat. I told him I didn’t think I was the perfect fit for him. I told him there was someone out there who was better for him.
I still remember how we walked out of that building that day. Right now I just want to run and kiss the brother to make up for whatever he felt that day. Our conversations did not end though. He called me regularly, and at some point started sending me the most romantic text messages. At some point his text message read,
“I will break into your heart, even if it means breaking into it like a thief but not to steal. To love and furnish it.”
Good poetry, I thought. But this isn’t going to work. In between the brother constantly chasing me and me going to Nigeria for more school, I had a relationship that didn’t work out. The brother communicated with me every now and then.
Then one day, three years after we sat at the restaurant, he asked me if I remembered the restaurant incident. I told him I did. He told me it was worth remembering because that was going to be a significant day for us. At this point, I was on vacation with a friend in Port Harcourt, Nigeria while the brother was in Douala, Cameroon. The brother called me every day. Every single day. His calls were so long that I thought MTN Cameroon has drastically reduced the calling fee. They hadn’t. He was spending about 10,000 CFA Frs ($20) daily calling me to talk about all sorts of things which I can’t even remember. Then something happened. Let’s just say, I fell in love with the brother. The robust-looking brother in santiago shoes became my Mr. N.
I could go on and on about how our love blossomed from there but let’s talk about you. How did you meet your spouse?
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