Sixteen-year old Ooreoluwa was broken. Physically, she was exhausted. Spiritually, she felt drained. Financially, she had nothing. She was battered, bruised, worn out. Her body felt numb even though it racked with pain. Her eyes had run out of tears. She had had enough! Her biological parents had passed on in a gruesome car accident in Oyo when she was two. As such, she had never known a true sanctuary. From one foster home to the other had she gone, searching for a meaning in life. But none of them had really wanted her. She had been treated like a nonentity, unseen and ignored. And so, she had packed up her two duffel bags full of worn-out clothes and run away again. Just like she had from all the others. The rain poured heavily, almost as if weeping for her, as she whisked off into the night. Perhaps the Layiwolas wouldn’t even notice her disappearance until evening, the next day, when she would be summoned to make dinner. Mr. Layiwola would probably come home drunk as a skunk and beat his wife up to a pulp. And then he’d search for Oore…
She wondered how they even ever got the adoption agency to give her up. No real surprise there though. She recollected how she had heard the chubby, bald-headed owner complain of too many orphaned babies showing up at their doorstep. He didn’t forget to divulge to the Layiwolas his need to pay his house rent urgently. “Take her!” he had said eagerly. That wicked man had turned them to some sort of money-making venture after his successor had died in a mysterious drowning incident. The others kids didn’t see it, of a fact they were very grateful to him; but ever meticulous Oore did. As she had rightly seen from Mr. Layiwola’s yellowish, hard eyes that he was no decent man. His fragile, fair-complexioned wife looked timid and, if you’d stare deeply into her brown eyes, somewhat frightened.
Oore snapped out of her reverie as she felt a tap on her arm. The dingy, half-completed building she had rested her head for the night was now full of construction workers. It was one of them who had woken her up.
“What are you doing here?!” the lanky yet husky-toned man said.
Oore jumped to her feet, her brown skirt even browner with dirt, and started to fidget.
The man sized her up with his beady eyes, toothpick going up and down in his mouth and Oore could vividly hear her own racing heartbeat.
“Yo, Diran! We got work to do! Watchu doing over there?” someone called out.
As soon as Diran turned around to see who had spoken, Oore fled, leaving one duffel behind.
She didn’t stop running, even after she had checked the umpteenth time to make sure she wasn’t being followed. Stopping briefly to gasp for air, she looked up and saw a huge cross from afar off. In awe and curiosity, she walked closer to it only to realise it was an edifice. Slowly and frightfully, she went in. The door was ajar, seeming welcoming..
The floor seemed to creak as she walked on and the sound of it echoed through the large space. Rows and rows of mahogany pews she saw. The bright sun streamed in through the glass windows which were high up, illuminating the building, and small Oore felt even smaller. At the far end, there appeared to be a shadow, kneeling before something. Oore could count her steps as she walked tentatively, closer and closer to the figure.
She came to the altar and the figure gazed upon her with squinted eyes. It was a feeble, old man. The wrinkles seemed to adorn his pale face somehow.
“Young girl, what do you seek?” His voice sounded so pure and irenic.
“A home,” she replied simply.
He nodded and gave her a knowing smile. “Ah, the eternal quest. Many have searched far and wide for it yet the answer is quite simple. The creation can only have a true refuge with its Creator. Only when they are in sync will one truly find rest for his soul,” the sage said.
“What does that mean?” Oore was perturbed.
“Why not take it to the Lord, m’dear?” And with that he stood up and plodded away.
Oore was left, dazed. She remembered going to church when she was much younger, at the first house she stayed after she had lost her parents. The Kehindes were probably the nicest. But after his darling wife had passed on after battling with cancer, Mr. Kehinde decided to give Oore up. She was a reminder of what once was. Last she heard, Mr. Kehinde committed suicide.
Oore inhaled. Exhaled. She shut her eyes and mumbled some words to the Lord. Minutes rolled into hours and at the end, her face was left moistened with tears. She had told it all before her Lord. And strangely, she felt lighter. She hadn’t realised she was on her knees.
Slowly, her eyes fluttered open and she winced from the room’s light.
Here, kneeling in front of the altar, Oore knew old things had passed away. She knew her Lord had taken all her burdens and cares. And for the first time in a long time, she smiled. She took in the fresh air. She wasn’t filled with despair and hopelessness again. And then, she knew for certain that she was finally home because God had chosen her.
Ojuolape Kuti is a lover of Christ, student medic and aficionada of words, colognes and afros. She can be reached at [email protected]
30 Days 30 Voices series is an opportunity for young Nigerians from across the world to share their stories and experiences – creating a meeting point where our common humanity is explored.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.