You turned off the spigot and looked into the steaming pool of water in the bathtub that shone bright-white from a religious and painstaking scrub with bleach. You dipped the tip of your index finger into the water to determine how hot it was and withdrew it immediately. The water had seared your finger tip and sent an impulse that tingled up your spine. You turned on the spigot for cold water and watched as the water rushed into the steaming pool, while you gently rubbed your burned finger on the towel you were covered in.

After a while, you turned off the tap and dipped your hand into the water. You smiled with some satisfaction; it was mildly hot, just the way you wanted it. You stood up from the rim of the bathtub where you’d been sitting on, pulled off your towel and stepped into the tub. Electrifying chills went through your body in response to the mildly-scalding effect of the water. You laid in the tub, your legs folded yoga-style so the small space could accommodate your body, and you rested your head on the fore rim of the tub. You inhaled deeply, absorbing the humidness that surrounded you. And then, dropping some lavender-scented shower gel onto your sponge, you began scrubbing your skin.

Scrub every inch of your skin, scrub till every trace of sin is washed off.

Dike’s words resonated in your ears as if he were present and right there with you. You pictured him smiling happily and satisfactorily at you, telling you how much God loved a fallen child striving to get blameless again. So you scrubbed every inch of your body. You scrubbed your elbows, your armpits, your face, your feet, your groin. You scrubbed till you started to feel sore, and you smiled when you saw a scratch on your upper groin. Dike said that injuries from scrubbing off sin from your bodies was a form of physical absolution and that it pleased God, especially when it came as a cleansing from your sinful acts, whatever the world deemed ungodly or an abomination. So you scrubbed, the lavender scent of the gel filling the bathroom, its content seeping into your skin.

After scrubbing for what seemed like an eternity, you stood up. You took the spiral chord of the shower and began spraying cold water on your body to rinse off the soapy foam. Dike said that after scrubbing in mildly hot water, you should rinse with cold water. That way, your cleansing rite would become complete. He always said the word ‘complete’ like it was some sort of traditional African sacrificial rite.

You got out of the tub and dried your body with a towel. You stepped into your room and the cool evening breeze drafting from the open window whipped across your body. You took out your moisturizer from your dismountable wardrobe, and sitting on the edge of your bed – the bed that had witnessed so many ‘sins’ – you began to apply the cream on your skin, gently massaging it unto your skin. The scent of Dike’s cologne still lingered in the room and it made your stomach churn. The sheet on the mattress you were sitting on was rumpled, a reminder of – in Dike words – the sin you had both committed. You applied some hair cream to your budding afro and thereafter combed it. Then you made the bed. When you were through, you put on your shorts, and retrieving your leather-bound King James Version of the Bible from your reading table, you laid on your bed, the warmth of it feeling welcoming. You opened to Leviticus 18:22. Dike had said you should read the verse more, that you should continue reading it till the meaning penetrated into my heart. That way, you would come to understand the gravity of your sin and what the Bible says against it.

So you read the words slowly: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

You read it over and over, just like you’d been doing for the past four months since you and Dike discovered your shared taste for each other’s flesh. You’d been shocked that Dike wanted you, desired you. But you couldn’t judge him for it. How could you? He was a reputable pastor with thousands in his flock. He had a growing church downtown with a teeming congregation. He preached every Sunday on the radio. He donated gifts and offerings to orphanages. One could see the light in the eyes of little children when they talked about him during the television specials he was a part of. The adults in his congregation delighted in their admiration for him. Dike was a man of the people. In their eyes, he could do no wrong.

And for that, in all his wisdom, he got to tell you what to do and not do in order to be absolved of your sins. He got to tell you how disgusting and devilish being homosexual was, ever ready to cite Sodom and Gomorrah as a perfect example of God’s wrath on homosexuals.

And yet, on days when he had the urge, those times when, according to him, his “human nature superseded his spiritual nature”, he would come knocking on your door, asking for the same thing he abhorred and preached openly against in God’s name. Then afterwards, he would quietly go into the bathroom and spend hours inside, and when he emerged, his eyes would be bloodshot and teary. And in a shaky voice, he would say, “Emenike, let us pray.”

As you lay there on your bed, you read that verse again, slowly enunciating every word. When you were satisfied by its import for that day, you closed the Bible and placed it on your bedside cupboard. The room was airy from the gentle breeze that came in through the windows, fluttering the drapes. You shut your eyes and gently settled in to slumber.

Written by Hilanzok

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