“You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” — Eckhart Tolle

Putting on my barely ironed shirt, I briefly wondered if it was worth it, I mean, I was sure I could miss one more Sunday morning service. And plus, the Sunday ones were more annoying, the chaplain using the opportunity of a weekend to waste more time. My time, time I could have been using to maybe sleep or catch up on my shows. I scowled at my tie, purple with red swirling patterns. Before Covenant, my feelings regarding ties were fairly apathetic, I didn’t really care for them, but after, we had what you would call a complicated relationship. An annoying shout drifted through the air, the same annoying sound that woke me up, and I tucked the tie in my pocket with my ID Card and left the room, locking the door. My roommates had left earlier, thinking that I was going to add this Sunday to my growing list of services I stabbed.

I joined the bumbling crowd of students as we left on our harrowed path to the chapel, the lights above us glinting. The sky was still shadowy but you could see the orange tendrils of sunlight peeking out from the murky darkness of night. Itching my chest, I patted my pockets and realised that I didn’t bring my inhaler, dammit, I knew I was forgetting something. I got some stares as people passed but at 6am, I was past caring.

I was barely awake, actually.

I didn’t own a bible and my tie had been effectively silenced, for that morning at least. Combing my hair was out of it and I must’ve looked strange amongst the crowd, but again, I was barely awake, thinking mostly of the sleeping position I would try out this service. I mused on how effective putting my legs up would be when I heard my name called from far beside me, interrupting my reverie, I looked and saw three of my friends, or at least I think I saw them, my eyes were still adjusting.

“Hi,” I said, waving, walking up to them. Asika smiled as she saw my bare neck. “Anthony, are you allergic to ties?”

I shrugged. “The doctor at the health centre seemed sure of his diagnosis.”

She shook her head grimly, “Poor you, it must be so sad, and tucking in your shirt?”

I looked down and realised that it was out. I smiled, looking at her. “I actually didn’t know.”

Mọ́remi looked over. “You don’t know about a lot of things, like how to greet.

Seni gave me a sideways glance as she hummed in agreement.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I said raising my hands up in defence. I waved and greeted them too, and after seconds of mock anger, they accepted my peace offering. I looked over to three of them and nodded appreciatively when I saw their hands carried nothing but iPods.

As a personal rule, I avoided people who carried notebooks to service. Bibles could be argued, but notebooks? Now, that was just weird. If you heard one pretentious man of God, hadn’t you heard them all? And why would you possibly want to recall forty-five minutes of a long convoluted sermon that would mostly revolve around basic life truths packaged to sound preachy and wise. And of course, nothing was complete without God bombing.

“If you train, that will, with God’s grace, put you on track.”

Someone moved really quickly and in the dark, I flinched. Asika laughed. “How long have you been missing chapel? Those are just the students welcoming people to service.”

“Did they forget that we’re forced to come?” I said, giving a bald guy in a three piece suit a cold look.

“Maybe it slipped their mind.” She replied.

I hmphed.

We walked the shallow steps into the chapel, ushers at the doorway directing us to where we could sit. Four us waited behind, paying them no mind as the front rows filled up. I had learnt through many run ins with MSS that middle was the way to go. Stay to far in front and unless you were a bible carrying drone, taking notes, you were in big trouble. Stay in the back and your hair looking too bouncy that morning could easily land you in trouble with those men and women who seemed bleached from all warmth and kindness. But the middle? That was the sweet spot.

From home, I knew that sleep on Sunday mornings was the best. Actually, sleeping when you were meant to be somewhere else always felt good. But sleep in the chapel on a Sunday morning was unbeatable, the AC cooling my head as I cuddled and slumped lower in my chair, finding that spot where my head touched the top of the purple chairs.

It started like all the other annoying services, there was a praise and worship thing that they did for a few minutes, few minutes I spent thinking about what I wanted to eat for lunch. Coming from a catholic home, that was the strangest thing I found about their services, the incessant shouting and pleading with God. We were more covert about the prayer thing but these guys? They went full on and I always wondered if maybe you got more Christian Points for shouting the loudest.

Then there were the prayer points. Three of them, actually, all of them I sat through, actually regretting my decision that morning, I knew I should’ve stayed in my bed.

Asika rested on my shoulder as we sat.

“You’re so soft, you’re like a teddy bear.”

“What? No,” I said. “Me, I’m…hard.”

She gave me a look and I quickly took back my words. “No, no, no, I’m just the opposite of soft, I’m…” I said, searching for the right words. “Tough! Yes, tough, that’s what I am.”

She laughed went back to resting her head on my shoulder. “Sure, you are.” She rubbed my chin a little.

“See you, your mates are growing full beards, yours is still like this.”

I gave her a look and she burst out laughing. “See ehn, you guys should just wait. December of 2022, none of you will be ready.”

“Oh? So that’s your own ‘Vision 2022’?”

“Count on it.” I said, like it was a true prophetic verdict.

Aside from the testimony section, another part of services I could stay awake through was the singing part. That day, two guys came forward and began to sing. Their voices, backed up by the smooth instrumentals, weren’t actually that bad.

It was a melody that was rare on that cursed stage and I sat up, Asika losing her pillow. They sang and people were singing along, I looked around, maybe jealously. I didn’t know the song, had never heard of it.

But I hummed to it, regardless. It was a nice song, one of those inspiring upbeat ones. Just the kind I needed.

Just when they were about to hit the chorus, my ears perking up, the lights and mic turned off, the low hum of electricity flowing through the building slowly fading, dying.

They had taken light.

As I sat back into the chair, thinking the whole thing was done, regaining some of my good senses, a voice called out the beginning of the chorus from the far end of the chapel. And then another joined, it didn’t sound the best but it was enough. Another voice joined in, and then another. They all sung the chorus in a volume that would’ve matched the speakers, clapping to replace the beats. It was a cacophony of voices, a menagerie of sounds and it was, truly beautiful.

Only one person wasn’t singing, though, Asika. She was in shock, maybe, mouth open as she watched a wonder that could match almost a thousand students singing in unison, it was a young man with a bare chin, who for maybe the first time put his resentment aside and sang along, to a kind song with kind lyrics he never knew he knew.

Thank you very much for reading. If you liked it, please clap and share to let other people read too! ;)

Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.