Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
-Psalm 23: 4
The alarm rang through the air and I groaned, hitting the snooze button on his tab. My other roommates were all still snoring but I didn’t mind, that was fine. It felt good to be alone in a room full of people.
I put on my jogging clothes carefully, zipped up my hoodie and left. A lot of people were heading out at the same time for C.H.O.P, bible clad and wide eyed but I just walked past the sea, eyes to the ground, minding my own business. I never wore earphones on his route back home; I never needed to. I liked the sounds of the birds in the wee hours of the morning, the leaves in bushes rustling.
I had reached the Hebron Arch where, spelt boldly, were the values of the ideal Covenant Student: Spirituality, Integrity, Possibility Mentality, Responsibility, Diligence, Sacrifice. I paused and looked up at the sign, scoffed and started running.
Pat pat pat.
My feet hit the cold hard ground fast and strong as I moved, as Iran.
“You look a lot like your father,” she had said bitterly before I left, her back on me. “If you like, go and end up like him.”
Pat pat pat.
I kept on running and I could feel my chest rise and fall as my breaths got faster, deeper, and I was moving like a freight train. I turned right at the University Chapel, past the roundabout into a long stretch of road where even the streetlamps didn’t work. But I didn’t think about that now, I just kept on moving, my eye on the end of the road.
The thing about running was that you never thought too much about the distance you were about to cover, you didn’t even look to far ahead nor did you look beside you. Your head was straight and you focused on the present, putting one foot against the other. You didn’t stop and you didn’t flinch, you just kept on going, kept on moving.
They had found his body in a hotel room after a woman in the next room had head two loud bangs and then shouting and then running footsteps. They said he had booked and then entered the room with a woman.
A woman that wasn’t my mother.
When they came to our house to tell us the news, my mother had only one question. “Was he wearing his wedding ring?” She asked.
He was not.
Pat pat pat.
We never went to church, my father, mother and I were always in our house on Sunday mornings. It just wasn’t our thing. I remember asking my father why one day.
“See, Osagie,” he said, bending down to be face level with me, “this religion thing in this country, it’s a disease, my son. That’s all it is, a disgusting dangerous disease passed down from generation to generation. It kills and steals and destroys until there’s nothing left. I’ve seen friends throw their whole lives away on the altar, give everything they had to the church. Promise me, Osagie, promise me you’ll stay away from it. Guard yourself from the disease.”
My seven-year-old self nodded quickly, promising.
My father had left more than enough money for us, we didn’t have to struggle after he was gone, at least not financially. But I remembered the promise he made me make. I would guard myself against the disease, guard my mind against it every day.
Pat pat pat.
We were close, him and I.
I think we were close. He taught me how to think and behave. How to talk and how to listen.
I think we were close, him and I, but I’m not…I’m not sure anymore.
The tears were falling down my eyes and I just kept on running.
My wrist watch beeped as it hit 6:30 and I started circling back to my hall, my eyes red rimmed but my head was straight and I focused on the present, putting one foot against the other. I didn’t stop and I didn’t flinch, I just kept on going, kept on moving.
It was almost time for class.