I go to church every Sunday. Ok…not all, but most. That’s how good mama raised me. It may or may not have involved a bit of violence from her in my younger years. (She knew her way around slippers and mwikos). Church is wonderful. It’s peaceful. It’s the only place you find true pure joy. (And a bar maybe?) Especially when we’re singing Sarah Kiarie’s songs. Eh, that woman! Her voice! She just gets to me. As is my norm, last Sunday I went to this new church I moved to; a branch to Nairobi Chapel. It’s one of those churches where the oldest folk are 40. The pastors wear Giorgio Armani; both suit and watch. They soak their hair in gel in the morning. They drive a sleek VW Passat. They have American accents though they were born in Majengo, Nyeri. The church itself is like a plush five-star beach resort somewhere in Kilifi. I’m talking a church with a foyer and valet parking (a little exaggeration won’t kill anyone). But I go there anyway. Partly because they give potent sermons and partly ‘cause there’s high chances they may invite Sarah K.
So I enter and find a seat in the left wing where there’s like 10 people. Find an empty row and sit right at the edge. If you’re a guy, deep down in your heart, you’d prefer some pretty lass to sit beside you to a bearded 6’4” monster of a bloke… and I’m a guy. Aiii Simon, when you go to church si you go to worship. To serve the Almighty One. You shouldn’t care who sits beside you. Well, I care. Come on; don’t roll your eyes like that. It’s no sin, just a preference. Allow me to show you how tender an issue it is.
We’ve now sat down. We’ve just finished the praise and worship bit powerfully with two Sarah K songs, so I’m especially ecstatic this morning. I’m hyped. I’m feeling all T.D Jakes-ish. I want to sing and shout and dance till evening. Have I mentioned Sarah K really gets to me? Anyway, the church has started getting full. Two chaps have joined my row, not beside me, two seats away from me. So I’m still game. My preference is still upheld, but not for long.
As the moderator goes on with announcements, some chap comes and sits. Right there next to me! He’s in his late thirties. He’s rocked some blue fitting (not skinny) jeans, black polo shirt and brown Lacoste loafers; those overpriced ones at 4U2. You also can’t miss the Benz logo on his car keys. And the red shot eyes. I want to think he has eye problems. I really do, but I can’t. Si people with eye problems wear glasses? Oh…and he’s rocking loafers! Loafers! They really don’t help his case. I’ve always had some stereotype about people in his age that rock loafers. Also, a man who prefers holding his car keys to pocketing them tells a lot about him, don’t you think? So I can’t help but think he’s nursing a hangover and he’s here trying to reform. A hangover so bad he woke and thought to himself, “This drinking has to stop. It has to! I need to act my age. I need to change. I need to find me a wife. I need God. I need church.” And he puts on the loafers and heads to church. Ironical how people judge in church, eh?
I’m a little unhappy now. A little livid. Doesn’t he know this unwritten ethical preference? Like the rule on urinals. That there must be an empty urinal between you and the next guy. That if a man comes to relieve himself in this empty urinal right beside another man; he should be lynched there and then. I bet he doesn’t know. But he’s about to, because the moderator is about to screw us; hard.
There’s this issue that was in Kenya about a year ago; nyumba kumi initiative. I don’t know much about it. I only know it’s about familiarizing yourself with the people that live around you. It was to help the security situation back then. This my church has adopted a bit of this. It is why the moderator will finish the announcements and take us through the most inept of moments.
“Church, turn to your neighbor and talk to them. Get to know them. Don’t sit through the next hour with a stranger. Come on church, bond!”
And as if she hasn’t done enough damage:
“You never know, they might be the one. Where else do you want to meet the one if not in church?”
You need to understand men are gawky. They’re wooden. Handling such a conversation would require immense fortitude. It’s a bit of a pickle. I mean, even turning to look at him is difficult. So I test the waters by only turning my eyes, subtly. He is uneasy as I am. Am I supposed to say, “I’m Simon, na wewe unaitwa?” I swear I cringed typing that.
“Martin.” (While stretching his hand for a handshake)
Plastic smiles and nervous glances are exchanged and that is it. Si I’m acquainted with my neighbor? I have done what moderator said?
I’m glad it has happened though; all that awkwardness and uneasiness. Now Martin knows better than to disrespect another man’s preferences. Next time, he will sit alone and hope for a girl. But woe unto him! A clueless lad will comfortably settle beside him. And he’ll be a bit nettled. And the vicious cycle will continue. It will never end.