This is completely unnecessary.
I stand up anyway and walk to the front of the church.
She had told me that her conscience was eating her up. That she wanted to come clean to her husband and seek his forgiveness. What good would come out of that? Who really needed to know that she and I had been unable to fight temptation?
I can feel the eyes of the men in the congregation looking at me. To some of them, I am a betrayer who broke the bro code. Yet to others, I am The ‘Ndume’ (Man) who was able to convince a virtuous (ex-virtuous?) woman to cheat on her husband. I can see it; the envy, the admiration… You daredevil! They say with their eyes.
The women look at me too. To all of them, I am the coveter of another man’s wife. I am a sinner. Despicable. Shameless.
I keep walking. The church podium has never seemed so far away, but like Johnny I keep walking. I purpose to hold my head up. Let him who is without sin. Yes Lord. Let him.
She stands before the congregation too, my partner in crime. Her face is downcast. She wears her shame on her pretty face. She is repentant, her eyes say. She never intends to commit such a grievous mistake again. She is very disappointed in herself, and her whole body frame agrees. The devourer of forbidden fruit. The unfaithful wife. The far cry from the Proverbs 31 woman.
I stand beside her. But not too close. Too little too late? This ‘safe’ distance should have been kept before our clothes came off. Even while shaking her hand, I should have kept my distance. Instead, my handshake lingered. I took both her hands in mine. I held them for too long. I drew patterns on her palm…it’s too late for distance to save us now.
Now I know the contours of her body. I know how her skin smells. I have seen the dark birthmark below her navel which contrasts with her yellow yellow (light) complexion. I know every inch of her. She is forbidden. Anything forbidden is sweet. I take a small step away from the sweetness.
Now we stand, both of us facing the congregants. There is considerable distance between me and her. The distance is an apology: She is not mine, I know. I am not touching her again. Promise.
She has not looked at me ever since she told. Betrayer! She looks down at her feet. Shifting her weight from one leg to the other. She keeps casting furtive apologetic looks towards her husband who is seated on the bench at the front row. I notice her husband. He doesn’t look at her. He doesn’t look at us. He looks straight ahead, at the statue of Jesus on the cross.
The congregation feasts its eyes on us. The adulterers.
I stand stoically and will myself not to be cowed. Makosa imefanyika. I have wronged. I look straight ahead, at the church entrance. Focus on the church compound. Outside, the trees sway slowly at the command of the wind. It is a sunny Sunday morning.
It was a sunny Sunday morning. Exactly one week ago. We met while coming to church. Her husband had gone ahead of her. Being the Church leader, he had to be early to help the Pastor prepare his sermon. My wife was nursing the flu at home.
We were walking on a narrow path, she ahead of me. We talked and joked as we walked. She was swaying her hips invitingly. I could tell that she was teasing me. I complimented her to test the waters.
“Your husband is a lucky man Stella” I said
She swayed her hips the more.
“Why do you say that Tony?” she asked.
I stopped. Sensing that I wasn’t catching up with her, she turned back to look at me.
“Because he has you” I replied as I closed the distance between us and held her by the waist. My manhood filled my boxer shorts.
She smiled and waited for more compliments. I could not disappoint her, could I?
“You are so beautiful!” I uttered under my breath as I touched her face.
We were sandwiched by maize plantations on both sides of the foot path. Nobody was in sight. It was just us.
I took her hand and led her into the maize plantation. I kissed her, touched her. I molded her curves in my hands. I squeezed her behind like I had dreamt of doing so many times before. She released my manhood and eased it into herself. She engulfed me so deeply with a hunger so raw.
The sun was high up when we came out of the plantation. She was stupefied. Clearly, her husband was not doing his job.
I walked back home a happy man.
This memory causes my loins to stir. I swallow hard.
“Brother Tony and sister Stella, our Lord is a God of forgiveness.” The pastor finally says. “By your thoughtless actions, you have caused immense pain to your loved ones…”
The church leader’s steady gaze never leaves the Savior. I wonder what my wife’s reaction would be if she were in church this moment. Her flu from last Sunday turned out to be morning sickness so she could not come to church today either. I however need not worry about confessing my transgressions to her because scandalous news travels like bushfire. I count on the news to reach her before I do.
I hope that she’ll be as forgiving as the forgiving God. I will in fact coerce forgiveness out of her by quoting the same “Our Lord is a God of forgiveness”.
“The Ninth Commandment: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. Tony, you are guilty of breaking this commandment. You need to seek forgiveness both from God and from your spouse.” Pastor rumbles on.
Stella and I give our heartfelt apologies to the church and to our spouses (mine in absentia). We promise to be better Christians and to emulate the life of Christ.
I have a private moment with Pastor after the church service where he counsels me on how to be a better man and husband. The rest of the congregation left an hour ago and I am therefore surprised to hear someone calling my name as I leave the church compound.
“Tony, wait up!”
I look back. It is Gichohi, aka the church leader aka Stella’s husband.
Gichohi catches up with me and starts walking beside me as if we are still the best of friends. I can see Stella following us from a distance. Maybe she’s waiting to call for help should punches fly around.
“Do you feel the urge to punch me?” I ask Gichohi.
“Yes. Honestly, I do” he says.
“Go ahead then man.” I stop walking and give him my cheek. “The good book says to turn the other cheek doesn’t it? Give it your best shot!”
Stella is closing in on us. She can hear me yelling.
“I’m sorry man. I know how it must feel. I am so sorry” Gichohi says
“You don’t know how it feels!” I grit my teeth.
Stella is now standing a stone’s throw away from us. She looks on quietly.
“You don’t know how it feels man. You have no idea how it feels! Not until your wife is pregnant with my child. That is when you will know how it feels!” I say, folding both my hands into fists.
“Look man. We need to move past this…”
“My good wife is pregnant with my best friend’s child! Gich, tell me how the fuck I am supposed to move past that!”
Stella stands speechless beside her husband. She is in shock.
God, I hope she is carrying my child!
Forgiveness is good. But right now, revenge tastes so much better.
I walk away, leaving the two to their forgiveness.
Let him who is without sin, Gich!
This article was first published on the Storymoja Festival Blog