When I woke up on Saturday morning, I showered quickly, had breakfast – leftover beans from the previous night – and rummaged in my wardrobe for my acting costumes. I came up with a stick-on moustache, some dark powder and a thick afro wig. They were just perfect for what I had in mind. I knocked on Jide’s door and he opened up. Jide was my next door neighbour and a member of one of the white garment churches.
‘How far, Jide?’
‘Kay, I dey o.’ he answered, ‘You no play ball?’
‘Not today. I have to go somewhere important.’
‘Abeg, can you borrow me your church garment?’
He raised an eyebrow. ‘My sutannah?’
I had already prepared my lie. ‘You know I’m a Theatre Arts student na. I want to join one drama troupe like that and today’s the audition. They told me to bring some costumes along.’
‘I see.’ He backed into his room and was soon back with the snow white robe. He handed it to me and immediately dashed back into the room. He came back bearing a long blue girdle with shimmering strands at both ends.
‘Have this one too,’ he said, ‘here’s how you’ll tie it.’ He showed me how to tie the girdle.
‘Thanks so much, man.’
‘No problem.’ He replied as he locked his door and headed to the field.
I went back to my room and changed into the robe. I tied the girdle the way Jide taught me and proceeded to make-up. I used some of the dark powder until my fair skin was closer to the colour of my hair. I stuck the moustache above my upper lip, donned the afro wig and looked in the mirror. I was satisfied with what I saw. Even mom would not recognize me like this, I thought. Instead of the 22-year old unserious fellow that I was, I looked like Noah in My Book of Bible Stories. I went out, hailed an okada and was soon at Professor Johnson’s house. I alighted, paid the okada rider and waited in an uncompleted building beside the house. As if on cue, Prof soon came out. He was headed for Saturday morning cleaning at his church. I let him walk for a while, keeping him just ahead of me on the deserted path.
I looked around to make sure no one else was in the vicinity before I increased my pace and caught up with him.
‘Good morning, child of God.’ I hailed in Yoruba, my heart beating wildly against my ribs.
‘Good morning.’ Prof replied, also in Yoruba. He didn’t even break his stride.
‘The Lord has sent me to you.’ I said. He stopped and turned to face me before I continued. ‘He is well pleased with your devotion to him.’ I looked at his face to gauge his reaction. The man had a look of reverence on his face and I was emboldened.
‘The book of 2nd Chronicles, chapter 29, verse 5 asks a question: “who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?”’ I was not such a bible scholar but that passage was a favourite of dad’s and he quoted it anytime he wanted to do one thing or the other for our church back home. Luckily for me, it stuck in my head.
Professor Johnson nodded.
‘The message for the day, child of God, is mercy. God asks you to show mercy unto whoever comes to ask for it and by so doing, your service shall be made whole. Peace be unto you.’ I made a sign of the cross and turned to another path. I had no idea where it led but I had to escape. My heart was now beating so loudly in my ears that I was afraid Prof would hear it. I didn’t look back but I heard him move away too. When I felt he would have gone far enough, I retraced my steps and found the familiar path. Mission accomplished.
The following Monday, I activated the second phase of my plan. I went to Professor Johnson’s office and knocked on his door. I heard his voice asking me to come in. I said a silent prayer and went in. He was seated behind his desk with a laptop open in front of him. A stack of answer booklets were on either side of the computer. My heart skipped a beat. The man was already recording. He had marked the scripts over the weekend!
‘Good morning, sir.’ I said in a straggled voice.
‘Good morning,’ he replied. ‘What can I do for you?’
I looked at his craggy face and I almost lost my nerve but the sight of the laptop and the answer scripts spurred me on. I took a deep breath and tried to look as miserable as I could before I spoke.
‘Sir, I was ill during your exam so I didn’t do it well. I don’t know how you can help me, sir.’
‘What course is that?’ he asked, focusing on my face.
‘History of the Arts, sir.’ I replied, feeling a surge of hope. The man could have sent me out of his office by now if he so wished but he hadn’t and that was a good sign.
Professor Johnson leaned back and thought for a while. Then he started to chuckle. I stared at the man. What on earth could be so funny? I wondered.
‘What’s your matric number?’ he asked suddenly, the laughter still in his voice. I told him. He typed on his laptop and looked up at my face again.
‘Do you know what I researched for my PhD thesis?’
I shook my head. ‘No, sir.’ I wondered what his PhD thesis had to do with my History of the Arts score.
‘Voice analysis for clinical assessment. What that means, young man, is that I am an expert on voices. You want to know why I chose that topic?’ This time he didn’t wait for my response before he continued. ‘Because I never forget a voice. When a prophet approached me on Saturday, I believed in him, completely. But hearing your voice now, I know it was you. Do you double as a prophet during the weekends or something like that?’
My mouth dropped open. He knew!
His smiling face suddenly hardened. ‘The next time you pull a stunt like that on me, I’m going to have you rusticated, understand?’
I could only nod. I was stunned beyond words.
‘Now, get out of my office.’
I turned on my heels and walked as fast as I could to the door. I twisted the door knob and was about to go out when I heard him speak again.
‘By the way, you got a B.’