A friendship remembered by one…

Uche watches her return and settle down  two pews in front of him from thanksgiving at the altar. It’s still tradition at Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral for the congregation to head to the altar row by row, giving thanks to God with music and dance to praise and worship songs while dropping offerings in strategically-placed bags if they wanted to. Uche just wants more hymns.  It’s been almost ten years. He had grown up listening to Anglican hymns in this huge cathedral every Sunday and the hymns are one of two reasons he still came here.  The other is his old friend, Ada.

Ada is settling down with family in a beautiful yellow embroidered, puffed sleeve blouse and a wrapper of a slightly darker shade of yellow. She also has a necklace made from coral beads on, looking like a proper Igbo princess, just like she did in kindergarten at St. Paul’s. Dark-skinned, chubby and ever so calm, Ada was always the neatest child in class. She always had the loveliest black, shiny, full hair packed in different styles with bands attached to cute miniature little girls in school uniforms, or roses, or pink handbags and such girly things made of plastic. 

They would spend the whole day at school  together and while Ada would return home early in the afternoon still as neat as she was in the morning, Uche’s mother tells him often about how a search for his books, sock, shoes, lunchbox, and even his backpack would delay her every time she picked him up from school. Uche is convinced his mother exaggerates at least a little bit, but vaguely remembers a handful of instances when the story was sort of true. He was a handful for his parents in all kinds of ways, but Ada was no doubt he direct opposite for hers in every one.

The church is alive with hundreds of people clapping their hands, thumping  tambourines and striking triangles to popular Nigerian praise songs, but all of Uche’s attention is on this long lost piece of his childhood. The familiar clash of cymbals and symbols in places of Christian worship has always irked Uche anyway. Living independently in Texas the last few years, he never went to church but every time he came home to Nigeria from school, he would have to go with his parents. Every time he walked into this cathedral, he’d hope to see Ada. Sometimes, like today, he did. Through the collects, psalms, canticles, versicles, responses, anthems and sermons, Uche would watch Ada, wondering what she was up to now and if she could remember him. They’ve made eye contact twice but she’s never looked at him like she knows him.

Does Ada remember sharing  lunches with this one loud, playful, untidy little boy named Uche who would always get distracted by anything from a spider on the window sill beside him to the sound of a distant car horn while the class was being taught, or does she just remember sharing lunches with some little boy? Does she remember that little boy at all? The one who pretended to shoot everyone but her in the bum with a finger gun, whispering “pew pew!” because it made her laugh.

Sometimes, Uche imagines walking up to her after a  service and reintroducing himself. He’s written several scripts in his head on how it would go down now. What if Ada remembers him? There’s a script for that and it’s his favourite one. What if she doesn’t? That one has a couple of different scripts too. What if she’s grown to an angry and condescending person? Script.  What if Ada’s huge, bearded dad vows to kill Uche on the spot for speaking to his daughter  in church? This script is very short. It’s about half a page. But Uche isn’t even sure he wants to know who Ada is now. Maybe things are perfect as they are.  She must be as imperfect as every other human being but as things are,  in Uche’s mind, she is perfect and maybe he should never ruin that.