Flo sat in Eno’s family sitting-room and brushed rain water away from her clothes while her friend just stared at her.
“Tell me where my friend is.” Eno said as she stared guffawed at Flower Jiya.
“Oh please. Stop being dramatic.” Flo told her friend with a little bit of annoyance.
“Tell me what is not alien about you coming to my house in the middle of the rain. Everybody knows that even though your name is Flower, you will never enter the rain for any reason at all. And now, you are telling me that you are here because you are supposed to go somewhere with Max.”
Okon, Eno’s younger brother peeped through the kitchen at the young women and Eno shushed him away. “Humph. No respect. So what is this new thing with you and Max? I’m curious oh. I don’t know you again.”
Flo was obviously exasperated. “Please, it’s not everything that has to do with “romantic” relationships.” She quoted with her fingers. “I have not really forgiven you for for that stunt you pulled at Tunde’s wedding oh.”
“Sorry. But tell me nah. I want to hear all the juicy details.” Eno urged her.
“There is nothing to tell. It’s not everything that has to do with dating. Unlike you, there are more important things in my life…” She stopped herself in the spur of her anger.
She knew that rather than a romantic connection, what pulled her to Max was a kind of curiosity. People like him were a rare breed. He thought differently, he was a philosophical being, he didn’t have a shallow bone in him. She knew that those kind of minds were great minds; minds that could change the world. She wanted to learn more from him. Someone like her needed such an intellectual being to impact fresh ideas into her mind. She saw him like one of her books. He held promise of an adventure.
“We are going to a church. That’s where we are going to. It’s not anything special. He said he wants to teach me something. He’s supposed come and take me to the venue from your place.” Flo said apologetically. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Hmmn.” Eno said as her eyebrows shot up. “I never understand my cousin. Sometimes he’s cool, then he becomes very weird.”
“Exactly.” Flo said but they meant different things. His air of mystery intrigued Flo while it bothered Eno.
“That reminds me. I wanted to ask about him. Did something traumatic happen to him? Is there some kind of dark secret or something?”
Eno looked up thoughtfully when suddenly, there was a knock on the door.
“He’s done it again.” Flo muttered to herself. Just as she had guessed, it was Max who had just come into the house. Eno stood up and let him in.
“Hey, sorry I’m late. This rain was something else and the traffic… The service should have started already but we can still make it if we leave right away. Eno-Obong how are you.” He greeted his cousin. Okon, who had probably still been eavesdropping from the kitchen ran out and hugged Max. Max received his hug gladly.
Flo told her friend bye and left with Max.
Since Max had hinted his villainy, Flo was curious about what he really meant. She was aware that there must have been some event or series of events that had driven him to develop this kind of mentality. Looking at his family background, he must have had everything he wanted, he went to the best schools abroad, he didn’t lose from the gene pool, so insecurity was never really his problem. There must have been something that had changed him and had made him to have a mentality which was based on selflessness, which caused him to see good within pain, and made him to fight so as to stand out from those around him.
“I want you to give me your opinion at the end of the day.” Max’s voice broke her from her deep thought. “I want you tell me if the church we will be going to is a fake or if it’s authentic. I want to know your judgement.”
Flo was aware of the different churches that sprang up nowadays. Many were run like businesses. It was like a ploy to draw people in and extort the desperate who thought that their solutions could be found by a magical man of power. Some of these men, she had heard used despicable means to get this power. Some were deceptive and spoke lies, she had heard but she had never witnessed it. She didn’t know what to expect though.
They reached the church when the preacher was ministering and it was so dramatic and played out that Flo found herself chuckling at one or two moments. The appearance of the pastor was not Godly at all. He wore trousers that were way too tight and a flamingo pink coloured jacket. His lips were black like a smoker’s and his eyes glowed like fire (definitely not Holy-Ghost fire.) Flo didn’t want to judge based on appearance so she tried to ignore his looks and dwell on what he was saying. That was based on his personal achievements and what miracles he had performed throughout the years. The title of the sermon was ‘If I can do it so can you.’ At one point of the sermon, he started a chant of “If I can buy a car..” and the congregation responded with enthusiasm “…Then I can buy a car.”
Flo knew that her spirit-o-meter was probably not so advanced but that church had hoax written all over it. She did not feel any sacredness, or the satisfaction which someone should have in a place of worship in the arena. The fact that the church members looked either scantily dressed and like thugs cemented this belief in. She wondered if the question which she was supposed to answer later on was a trick question.
“So what do you think?” Max asked her expectantly.
“Are you kidding me?” She said. “I wonder how people can be so vulnerable. I honestly don’t know what I’m supposed to say.”
“My point exactly. Why do you think the others are carried away by the hoax and you are not?”
Flo shrugged. “I don’t really know. The world is an amazing place. It’s a matter of perspective I guess.”
“The reason why I put you through all this trouble is to tell you about the fine line. That line that separates right from wrong. I don’t think I have enough knowledge to point out what that line is exactly. What I know though is that the line is not definite. It’s like a tightrope which our beliefs stand on. And without balance, we might just end up falling to the negative side. Nothing is definitely good or bad, there are little layers and elements that make and mar an individual or a group. For example, if we want to be good, we can try to be in a gathering of like minds who are also good. We might succeed in doing that and ultimately conclude that ‘We are all sinless’ but we do not know the thoughts or capabilities of every other individual in the group. My analogy can also apply to the church we just came from. We might say that church is just a ruse and everything and everyone there is a fraudster, but there are individuals in their midst who actually learn redeeming truths and get breakthroughs from Mr. Pink-Suit, whether it be a ruse or not. In the midst of fake, there can be real. My point is that we can’t really tell which choice to make until we know. And we can’t really know until we see the truth. Unfortunately, we don’t always see the truth. The thing about the fine line is that, it is the consciousness that determines the choice. Maintaining balance is all based on our mind.”
“Do you mean if we justify ourselves in our minds, If we believe it, then what we do is right?”
“I didn’t study ethics in school. I said before that I don’t know for sure but as we thread through the tightrope of life, we must be conscious to be balanced, to sift through with a keen mind so that we might not be oblivious of points in our life when we are falling into darkness. We have to be extra careful that we don’t do, or be apart of what is wrong without even knowing it. ”
Flo looked into Max’s eyes and asked the unspeakable.
“So what is your unforgivable act. What is this act of villainy which you are trying so hard to override.”
Max blinked at her. She knew that it must have been something terrible. She saw that look of regret flash across his face again and she knew that it still haunted him. He must have made a terrible choice in the past.
“Somethings are hidden in the dark for some reason. I’m afraid if I tell you, you just might not see me the same again.”
That didn’t stop Flo from prying. “It has been overridden. Has it not? I’m letting my curiosity get the better of me but I just want to know what seed sprouted to be your iron-clad conviction. What did you lose?”
Max blinked as if he wanted to remove the moment from his mind. “I lost my innocence. I was a kid, we went for an excursion on a hill and let me say I was the kind up person who you would expect me to be according to my upbringing. I believed that I was the best of the best. The coolest kid on the block. I was an egotistical bully. Anyway, I pushed a kid off the top of the hill…”
Flo’s eyes widened.
“It was not an accident. I had lorded myself over everything, everyone. I didn’t know the value of life. I didn’t care for anything except myself. The boy died, my dad covered it up, basically, it never happened. But I found myself deliberating, being pulled between darkness and light. I tried to find my place in this world. I had to decide if I was a killer or if there was a seed of goodness somewhere within me. I had to cross that fine line between right and wrong and that was when I decided that I had to try as best as I could to cleave to the right side. I realised that as humans, our default mode was set on ‘evil’. It was necessary for me to not be carried away, not again, by the slightest inch to a path where I would hurt another human being ever again. So that is it Flo. ”
Max stared at Flo for a long while expecting a reaction but he found none. All Flo said after absorbing what he said was “Ok.”