Love In A Photograph – Grace Ochigbo
The strange man withdrew a bit to see Linus’ face. A pair of tears raced down his cheeks. Salty tears were drifting into his mouth. The man pulled away gently from the hug and in half a minute, the both of them stood there, staring at each other. The strange man’s eyes appeared to be assessing him, assessing him as though he was a prey and he simply looked ontoo because he noticed the stranger has the most wonderful eyes. The man seldom smiles with his lips but it is his eyes that shine instead, and it’s the radiance coming from there that made Linus think how wonderful they looked.
But who was this strange man? The question rang out loudly on the walls.
“Could you remove this?” the man broke through Linus’ thoughts referring to his grease-stained shirt and trouser.
Linus hesitated for a short while before pulling them off, leaving him with his undergarment – a white polo and pair of shorts he was more thansurprised to see how white and clean they still looked after all these.
“Leave them on the ground.” The man said firmly
Linus hasn’t gotten a wind of what was really happening but one thing was sure now. The lost feeling had disappeared completely. The strange man held Linus’ hand and they headed in the direction of the hallway that separated the kitchen from the bathroom. While they walked, Linus expected his feetwould dip in the slippery oil-stained floor or hit any of the empty cans laying carelessly all around the room but no. Like yesterday night, he couldn’t feel his legs touch the floor. It was as though he was floating some inches above the ground. He simply relaxed into the stranger’s firm grip as they move around the wide house.
Upstairs was not any different from thedisaster that was downstairs. They pushed a door that led into the master’s bedroom. Cramped, a cheap wooden framed bed was forced to fit into the room with a rug graying with decades of filth placed on it. Tothe right of the bed was a wide window layered in aging mould and dust, covered by a curtain Linus placed at twenty-something year old. They were swaying mysteriously in the shadows. The wardrobes were overflowing with moth-eaten clothes and bedding designed with maggots and bugs. The paints on the wall were peeling off an inch more every minute and dirt encrusted the bare walls
The old staircase creaked and groaned in complaint as two pairs of feet came thumping down. It looked tired and worn down and Linus feared it may give way while they were halfway down. Back in the sitting room, they headed for the door which opened just as they got there. A very gorgeous lady stood in front of them, grinning from ear to ear. Linus willswear the lady at the doorpost could have graced any billboard or magazine cover but she was still better than any of those. She was the kind of lady that women loved to hate. She wasn’t just flawless in her bone structure, her skin was like silk over glass and she radiated an intelligent beauty.
“Guess I am still on time?” She had the smile that melted Linus’ heart plastered on her face.
“Of course. As always!” The strange man responded nicely. “We were just going to Abba.”
Abba? Linus had confusion colouring his eyes.
“I’ll meet you when I’m done here.”
They gave way for her to come into the house and moved out afterwards, the strange man shutting the door behind them. Linus had a couple of questions on his mind.
What could such a fragile beautiful lady do in a house as disarrayed as that? A house he – as masculine as he was – couldn’t do anything in?
“That’s why they never invite her to help.” The strange man cut in as though he heard his thoughts.
Linus raised his left eyebrow and lowered the other one. “Excuse me?”
“You were thinking about what the beautiful lady could do.” The strange man had an unusual smile on his face. “All men think, ‘it’s my life after all. I got this’. We hear a lot of comments every day. Many, including you, think they can clean up their own mess by themselves without requiring any help, at least not from someone as soft and gentle as that lady.”
Linus swallowed as they walked down the short flight of stairs onto the trimmed neat lawn stretched out in front of them.
“The exterior of this house doesn’t match with the interior, sir.” He decided to voice out his curiosity. “No one would think that such a mansion had a mess for an inside.”
The strange man took in a deep breath. “Your heart doesn’t match your outward appearance either.” He paused in his steps. “Anyone looking at you outwardly will see a man with well-built muscles, the gait of a warrior and face of a gentleman. But what lay deep in your heart?” He found Linus’ gaze and held it. “The mansion here is your outward appearance and that interior, that mess of a habitation? That’s your heart.”
“When Abba created man, he looked at him and knew that he was good. He was a mighty colourful mansionwith endless noble potentials. Man would be forever secured if only he could just trust his creator’s ability to take care of him. But we both know that’s not the case. The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things enter through the partially opened adventurous door of a man’s heart, dropping wastes and garbage that will make the interior of man uninhabitable…”
Linus spotted the elderly woman from earlier that had brought empty cans and dirty materials as ‘some of his things’.
“When the center could no longer hold, Linus, you opened the door of your heart to so many persons and things. People who had their own baggage, pains and insecurities. Guess what? They succeeded in dumping them in your own mansion via ungodly conversations, advices, counsels.”
At the opposite end of the lawn they walked, Linus spotted the newlyweds who had brought in the jar of condemned engine oil.
“When these dirt come in, Abba’s spirit is left with no choice than to walk out. She cannot cohabit with dirty things.”
“So, she?” Linus queried, pointing in the direction of the house.
“Yeah. She’s Abba’s spirit.” The strange man said. “She had a room somewhere in the corner of that house subtly telling you what to do, what to let in and what not to. But when you decided to disobey and do your own bidding, she was grieved. Abba’s spirit will not strive with man forever. She would only excuse herself.”
Linus let out hot air.
“You felt disgusted while in that house, not so?” The man didn’t wait for the obvious answer. “You felt disgusted living in your own heart. A heart that had originally been built to taste by Abba but for many reasons had turned into a waste heap. In the process of time, you drifted gradually until you forgot the place of Abba. You began doubting His existence. You failed to trust him. When your mother ran away from home? That was the beginning of your anger towards Abba.”
Linus was shocked to his bones. He hadn’t told anyone about his mother. Not even Ajuma. It was safer to simply say that his mother was dead than explaining. His mind drifted to that day. His father had informed him of his mother eloping with her enstranged lover. He’d felt completely abandoned but much more, disappointed in God. Earlier that year, he had been aware of the chaos that’s become his parents’ home and prayed earnestly for God to help his family.Instead, what he feared most happened to him.
“Then your father turned an alcoholic and injured his liver.”
“He died only three years after his wife left him. He couldn’t bear the pain.” Linus eyes welled up.
“Abba’s spirit was speaking to you even then, trying totell you what to do. She tried to comfort you but you were too bitter to listen. To you, that was the end of believing the existence of Abba. He couldn’t have been real, you said all along. If He was real, He wouldn’t have let your mother go away let alone allow your father die. Though you still lived a morally upright life, you had no reason whatsoever to relate with your creator. You opened the door of your beautiful mansion for just any seeming ‘reasonable’ thing to come in.”
Linus seemed to be watching his life play out before him as they walked. He recalled all his struggle through school, the relief and excitement he felt when he finally found a woman he could call his own and got his dream job.
“When the waves of troubles blew, you reverted to drowning your sorrow in the transparent green bottles of hard liquour. You knew, like your father, that it would also destroy you but you couldn’t help it. Everywhere in your heart had been stuck full with heap of dirt yet the shallow feeling never seemed to give way.”
Linus went back to where it happened, the last straw that broke the Carmel’s back. That fateful afternoon when his life ended. The bottles didn’t kill him like it did his father. The bottles instead made him take the life of the one he loved the most, his best friend. He wanted to badly take away the painful memories when flecks of golden sunshine hit his eyes and almost blindfolded him. He held tighter to the strange man.
The sun whose abode was the sky was approaching where they stood, Linus thought and kept his eyes shut. Right now, the sun acted like a cruel mistress, beating down on them in her relentless way. He felt the hand of the strange man holding him firmly and that encouraged him to force open his eyes. All he saw was a bright blinding light standing in front of them at first then slowly the brightening mellowed some and his eyes could stay open.
“Your son is back home, Abba.” The strange man said and Linus could almost hear joyful sounds from a million music instrument.
“Linus Okolo Ojochegbe Atede, welcome home my child.” Linus wasn’t shocked anymore that the blinding light in front of him could not only speak but also knew his full name. Abba knew his name. Everyone here seem to know him a lot more than he could have ever thought possible.
“I have been in pain all these years since you left. It’s even more painful that I didn’t only lose a son but he also lost faith and trust in Me. I am the I am that I am. I am faithful, son. Believe me when I say this. I know there are unlimited troubles in the world. It pains me that my children ever have to go through pain at any point. But I always want them to know that through it all, I am faithful. I am always with them. I know the thoughts that I think towards them. Thought of peace and not of evil to give them an expected end.”
Abba’s voice wasn’t as thundering, scary and loud as Linus had expected. His voice was the opposite – soft, kind, loving. Abba himself, Abba’s spirit, and the strange man all sounded really kind and have been nice to him. So who made him think that Abba was some dangerous hardhearted creator that would strike one dead over a mistake?
“I tried to reach you on several occasions, son. But you were bent on fixing your life yourself. You thought your staying unfaithful to me would make me less faithful. You were bent on running farther away.” He turned to the strange man. “Thank you for bringing your brother back home, Emmanuel.”
Emmanuel! Now Linus was sure who the strange man was. Emmanuel; God with Us.
“Just trust me, son…” Abba brought back his attention. “Trust me to fix your life for you. Trust me, son. I am the potter, all I require is for you to just be an obedient clay.” He stretched forth his flange and drew Linus nearer.
This close to the sun and not burnt yet? Incredible.
“In any situation, call upon me, son. Call upon me and I’ll answer you. I’ll show you great and mighty things which you know not.”
With this, he drew Linus in for a warm hug. Linus felt the huge weight on his shoulders roll away as he sank into the strong hands and soothing chest of the big breasted Abba.
“Abba, I’m done.” A soft voice interrupted the moment.
Linus could palpate Abba’s joy in the way He held him.
“Oh! Thank you, dear!” He said to the beautiful woman before turning to Linus. “In the world, you willhave tribulations but be of good cheer, Emmanuel has overcome the world by the blood he shed on the cross years ago. Just believe in the potency of that blood.”
Linus nodded carefully as Abba continued.
“Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
At this point, Abba released Linus and Emmanuel moved to go stand at His right hand side. “You need some sleep, dear son. It’s been a stressful period. My spirit will show you to your room.”
Abba’s spirit moved gorgeously and threw her right hand over Linus’ shoulders like two teenagers in love. As they turned to go, Linus paused and looked at the duo beside one another.
“I love you, father. Thank you for saving a wretch like me.”
“I have always loved you, beloved and will do, forever and a day more.”
In split seconds, they were back in the mansion. Linus didn’t know how they got in so quicklybut he was sure he didn’t walk all the way back here. The sitting room now looked like a perfect magazine cover. He was afraid to sit in case he would wrinkle the couch or stain it with something he doesn’t even knowcould be on his shorts. The couch was sparkling white, and so were the walls. He had never seen a room with so much exquisite furniture, gold finishing nor a room he loved this much.
“Please, go in and rest. Remember I am back to live in here with you now. Don’t hesitate to call me anytime. And I mean, anytime. Don’t forget to listen to my whispers all the time. I always tell you the mind of Abba. If you listen, you’d hear me. Don’t forget that I care and love you so much.”
Linus struggled to keep his eyes open asthe beautiful lady spoke. But it was so hard, and he got so uncomfortable. In another half a second, he found himself in the bedroom. It had the aura of a king’s palace, sparkling beddings, gold railings and wardrobes with glistering floors. Soon, that was all that he was aware of: the soft mattress underneath him, the warmth of the sheets around him. His eyes began to drift closed until he was blissfully unaware of what else was going on around him.
Slowly, Linus drifted into consciousness. Then unsure, back out. The world was a blur, and random images seemed to float aimlessly around in the pool of his thoughts. He heard indistinct voices farther and farther away. He felt a tap on his shoulder, then another the next moment. He felt someone trying to look at him, staring deeper into his face but he couldn’t pick it clearly. Confusion blossomed in his thoughts and he knew it was time to wake up.
As he rouse he was first aware of the coolness of air and its subtle noise. The ground was hard as if he was on a bed of earth and rocks. His clothes felt as damp as one soaked in sweat. He tried to raise his head but it felt heavier than a cornerstone.
“Easy.” He heard the weak voice of an elderly woman. “Baba Seyi, è wá. The young man is awake.”
Linus forced his eyes open to see the woman. Nothing in his environment looked familiar. Neither the bamboo hut nor the mat on the floor which he laid on. He half wondered if he just woke up from a dream or he just started dreaming now. He sat up to take in the shafts of light bursting through gaps on the mud walls.
“Ah! You are awake.” The joyful voice of an elderly man who trudged into the hurt turned his face in that direction.
Linus tried not to look frightened.
“It’s okay, son. Waking up now after laying there unconscious for three weeks is enough to frighten anyone. We almost lost hope.”
He just had an accident and was taken home by the strange man last night.
So how was it already three weeks?
“Please rest while my wife will get you something to eat.” He signaled to the woman and she walked out of the hut in haste. “I will explain everything to you. I promise.” The elderly man’s face was reassuring.
TO BE CONTINUED.
How was your weekend?
In all that’s going on in the world, I bring Abba’s message to you. He says He still loves you. He is calling out to you, sinner, please come home. His spirit can’t wait to fix your life and pitch His tent in your heart. Please, heed Abba’s call today and return to your place of rest.
If you want further information and/or instructions on how to go about receiving this call and harkening to the pleas of our Abba Father, please send a mail to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
We shall approach the throne room together boldly.
May God give you rest.
NB. I hope the last 3 scenes are clear now?
Episode 7 tomorrow.