Unlike any other Sunday, Zuba woke up at around 6 AM unable to go back to bed. She still had to decide whether she was going to church or not. Zuba figured there must be something to do beforehand but the dishes had been taken care of, laundry too, the house looked spotless, and her report from work was only due in a month. Bukuru was probably high on the Saturday madness and she did not feel particularly fond of Butoyi after last night’s conversation. In a country where Sunday, regardless of how crazy the weekend had been, was still considered a holy day where children and grown folks gather in cathedrals and churches, it was hard to find anything interesting to do in the morning. After scrolling through her social media feeds for hours, Zuba finally decided to shower and put on her best yet least provocative dress. The idea was that she would drive to church but that if she even felt the slightest doubt, she would turn around the car and go back to her house.
The drive to the Kibenga Pentecostal church felt so short she found herself at the gates in no time. Telling herself that she must have gotten over what happened ages ago and convinced that moving to a different country must have kept the past at bay, Zuba entered the gates and parked close to the exit as she did not know how long she could stand the place.
There was a certain familiarity about it such as the women dressed from head to toe, the men carrying giant Bibles, fedora hats, and canes to symbolize their elderliness. Kids were still not allowed to play and hence would occasionally run around their parents until one or both gave the deadly stare hence forcing the kids into adulthood for a few minutes. Zuba remembered how jealous other kids in her time were of her when she attended church with her grandmother as she would let her play longer or sometimes during mass.
The bell rang, and everyone rushed inside the church to hear the opening sermon. Zuba contemplated going inside the church for a whole hour before she gathered enough courage to get out of the car. She figured the congregation singing the psalms in unison was the perfect time to make an entrance as everyone would be on their feet facing the pulpit.
Zuba took two steps forward past the church’s door and found herself quite close to one of the empty benches when her eyes met a woman in her mid-60s staring back at her. At that moment, Zuba’s blood flow quickened, visuals of her grandmother defending her against the members of their old church came back. They had decided to excommunicate Zuba in front of the congregation when they learned she was born out of wedlock. The rejection that she thought had been tucked away came knocking her stomach so hard causing her to feel nauseous and unsteady. Her mind froze for a minute, her eyes watered as she ran back to her car and vomited behind the trees.
“Shit!” was all her mouth could come up with once she got inside her car and gulped a bottle of water. Turning on the AC and pulling the windows up, Zuba played her secular music and waited for the service to be over as she was determined to see her goal for the day all the way through.
As soon as the bell rang, a huge number of attendees walked out, and Mama Kwezi was amongst one of them. She looked just like in the photos and it wasn’t hard to spot the woman whose hands everyone wanted to shake. Also known as Mama Representante, she was indeed the choir director, and she came close to the pastor in terms of popularity. Zuba waited for half an hour in the car until it looked like the crowd was reducing. At that moment, Mama Kwezi was walking back inside the church which Zuba took as a sign of availability, so she quickly checked herself in the mirror and hurried in the direction of Mama Kwezi trying hard not to run. A few steps away from the entrance, Zuba shouted “Mama Kwezi?”
Suddenly, the old lady stopped in her tracks and starred at the young woman with a confused look on her face, nobody had ever called her by that name in ages.
“Excuse me?” she asked almost accusingly.
“I am sorry Mama Kwezi, I have been looking for you as I would appreciate it if you gave me five minutes to talk to you about something,” Zuba replied.
“Stop calling me Mama Kwezi young lady,” she said, “you can call me Mama Representante, I represent the Kingdom here on earth.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t think it would be a problem calling you by your daughter’s name. I thought it was every mother’s joy and pride,” Zuba replied rolling her eyes in exasperation.
“Hmm…Girls these days have appointed themselves as connoisseurs in everything just because they have degrees now. Anyway, how can I help you? Are you looking to join our church? I am just going to tell you right now that we can start with all the jewelry you got on your body and the hundreds of piercings. One shall come dressed modestly in front of God.”
“I’m sorry. I am not looking to be a member, but I wanted to speak with you about a project I am working on at my TV Network.”
“Yes, I recognize your face now. You’re the girl they send all around Burundi to interview the population.”
“Yes, that’s me” she replied with a smile as it felt like being a celebrity.
“So, what is this project about and what is it you want from me exactly?”
It was no easy task to get a minute of Mama Kwezi’s time let alone convince her to open her personal life to the public, in fact the whole country which is why Zuba started with statistics first. For about fifteen minutes Zuba spoke about the current state of teen moms, the pervasive rape culture, the cultural practices that pit women against each other, and lastly the disconnect between mothers and their daughters.
“I was hoping to start a movement of mothers and daughters coming together and inspiring the audience to reconcile with their loved ones. This is not just any show, it is not for entertainment, it is what our country needs, a step closer to peace. It starts in the home and with you and your daughter’s help, this dream could be a reality.”
Exhausted Zuba stared at Mama Kwezi’s eyes and right there she could see impatience building.
“Are you done?”
Before Zuba could even say a word, Mama Kwezi walked up the church stairs and for a moment Zuba thought it was the end of this short-lived dream of hers.
“Have you ever thought that maybe all these years your daughter has thought of coming back home at least a thousand times?” Zuba shouted behind her.
“Watch your mouth young lady, you have no business talking to me like that!” Mama Kwezi replied looking back at the young figure a few steps away from her.
“I can see why she actually never made it home.”
“I came here because after hearing what had happened between you and your daughter when I first arrived in the city, I kept hoping that surely you missed your daughter and that you might want to have her back in your home someday. All I’m going to say before I leave is that you might want to consider that there must have been a day or two when she woke up and was tired of living her life off money from men using her body as a pit stop for their frustrations or sexual perversions. That maybe on those days when she has felt it was time to come back home, she packed her bags and looked at herself in the mirror on her way out and at that very moment doubted you’d take her back…”
And on that note, Zuba left the church with a heavy chest and tears in her eyes. She had given Mama Kwezi her two cents and was rather grateful to have not convinced her as she could not possibly stand a minute with her after catching her attitude this morning.
Zuba decided to spend the afternoon at the beach sipping Pina coladas and enjoying the sound of waves breaking on the shoreline and crashing on rocks. Her phone vibrated; Mr. Gihu’s call interrupted her moment of stillness so she sent it directly to voicemail.
A second missed call followed by a message:
I’ve spoken to one of our sponsors and he might be interested in your project.
We can meet up next Saturday 8pm to talk about the pilot project.
I’d like to know how far we are on that.
I’ll forward you the location later in the week.
Miss you love.
There were several perks of being with Mr.Gihu and the freedom that came with it was high on the list. For someone who was not so big on commitment, this was working just fine for as long as they still had clear boundaries that protected each other’s interests. How long she would keep it going for, she did not know that yet.
Experiencing a series of heartbreaks for almost a quarter-century had driven Zuba over the edge when it came to relationships.
An hour after she had witnessed one of her favorite moments – the sun setting behind the lake – Zuba got ready to go back to her house when a call from Butoyi came through.
“Mabuja, how are we doin’ today?”
“I really need to find people to cast for this show.”
“How did it go with Mama Kwezi”
“Let’s just say she won’t ever speak to me in her entire life not that I would want to either.”
The two went on to talk about the new girl in his life he had met at the club on Friday night.
“How come you didn’t mention her last night?”
“Well cuz your crazy ass was all in your feelings over my comments.”
“When can I meet her?”
“Never! Remember I can’t trust you when it comes to my women. You might embarrass me. Speaking of your project, I have an idea.”
“Look B, I appreciate you trying to help but so far your recommendations always end up slapping me in the face.”
“Trust… I know Kwezi and I think you might know her too so maybe if you could convince her…”
“At this point I’m emotionally exhausted and this whole project might actually not be it after all. Gotta go B!”
It had been a crazy Sunday and in her heart of hearts she knew that this project of hers was reeking of deep wounds being poked hence threatening to bring up her own trauma to the surface. Despite her intuition, a small voice within was calling her in that direction forcing her to consider her choices of walking through the tunnel and meeting the light at the end or stay in her rather somber and starless bubble.
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* Chapter Four *