When Lana visited I would hide the alcohol and make sure that the room’s window was wide open to let any residual of cigarette smoke out, not that it helped as the smoke clung to everything in my room. A day came when she just rocked up unannounced and found me hungover with a stale breath of tobacco and my room looking like a tornado had just passed through it. That was the day that she decided to invite Jesus to the table.
“You’re going to have to change into something more decent,” said Lana, walking into my room without even knocking.
“Hello to you too, I’m very well, thank you for asking. It’s that simple, you know?” It was my day off work and all I wanted was to be alone.
“Hi. If you don’t hurry we’re going to be late for church,” she said.
“Uh…we? I’m sorry but they never sent me a formal invitation and I’m not one to gate-crash, I think it is bad manners. You can go alone, I’m cool.” I threw my head back on the pillow. I was in only a vest and knickers. Sleeping around was starting to make me less conscious of my body.
She went through my closet dismissing what I had just said and started going on about burning in hell for blasphemy. “You’ve been putting off going to church for more than two months and today I will not take no for an answer,” she ordered.
“I can’t leave without showering. I thought they said ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ sooo…”
She pushed and nagged until I found myself at church and was not happy to be there at all. “Stop looking like I have just forced you to clean public toilets; you ought to be grateful because I’m helping you,” she said.
We were just in time and she chose seats that were right at the front row. Her reason for sitting there was that she wanted to be closer to the Lord and receive more blessings. If that was the logic then I felt bad for the people right at the back, they would only get a whiff of these blessings. As soon as the pastor walked onto the pulpit the choir blasted into a loud and powerful hymn. By the time the song came down and everyone had settled down, he had already said ‘Hallelujah in Jesus’ name’ about twenty times. I was counting.
He opened the sermon with ‘change’. He preached on how we had the ability to change and ought to do so to please Him who had created us in His own image. I zoned off for a bit and my attention was brought back to life when I heard him read from the Bible about how we cannot ‘pour new wine in old skins.’ Now that’s what I wanted to hear; I guess church wasn’t as bad as I thought. I didn’t really have a problem with churches and I let other religions be as long as they didn’t be around me. As a Catholic child, born and raised but not exactly in practice, it was difficult to blend in with other religions and that was the main reason I had been refusing to accompany Lana to her non-Catholic church, amongst other reasons.
It finally came to an end and just when I was relieved at the thought of going home for a drink Lana had other plans. “Come on, you’re coming with me,” she commanded and at my reluctance asked more politely, “Will you kindly escort me to see someone just for a few minutes? I promise we’ll be done before you know it.”
“Yeah sure, I’ll be your escort. I’ve been told I’d make a great one.”
We met with Pastor James and the first thing I noticed at close view was how young and handsome he was. He was an attractive man who I strongly felt was wasting a lot of his yumminess.
“I asked Pastor if he could pray for you and your problem and…”
“What problem?” I quickly asked, surprised by my own offended reaction.
“Sister Lana here tells me that you have a drinking problem and I believe with the goodness of my heart and the power vested in me by God, that you have come to the right place,” said Pastor James.
“I didn’t come, I was dragged. Sorry we wasted your time Father, Reverend, Pastor; whatever the title,” I said angrily. I could not believe that she dragged me to her church where she knew I was uncomfortable and then went behind my back to tell some stranger about my “drinking” problem. I pulled her to leave but she remained stubborn and braked on her heels, “Bontle, it’s for your own good,” she said.
I could see in her eyes that she meant well and of all people, she knew me best and wanted what was best for me. I stood there and finally said, “Okay, call Jesus then and let’s do this.”
He laughed, as if he had seen my type before and then told me that God could penetrate even the most stubborn of souls. He asked me if I had been born again and I responded that I wasn’t sure if my mother could repeat the same process, given my age, body size and weight and not forgetting the impracticality of her aging body to carry out such a miraculous task.
“Yes we do have more than a minute Pastor,” Lana jumped in.
I could have just slapped her big, shiny forehead. I could have been using that time to drink. I hated their sympathetic faces and the tone in their voices that said they knew what was best and could take care of my problems.
“May I ask you something Sister Bontle?” he asked. I nodded.
“Why is it difficult for you to stop drinking?”
“It’s not difficult for me to stop drinking. That’s where everyone is getting it wrong, hence the misconception of me being an alcoholic. I can stop, I just don’t want to. It’s that simple. I do not feel the need to quit because I don’t have a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I do have problems like everyone else but it’s certainly not what I put down my throat,” I answered him. I was hoping he had caught the pun but his facial expressions remained the same – concerned.
He nodded. I was beginning to feel irritated by this total stranger who thought he was some hand of God that could heal us who were weaker than him. Suddenly the cuteness I had seen faded and all there was before me was a self-righteous joke who probably robbed people of offerings by claiming to have some healing powers.
“Let us pray,” he said. He asked that I kneel in front of him and amused by the way it would look, I certainly obeyed.
I raised my left eyebrow and pouted questioningly and she gave me an encouraging look. Well, why not get it over and done with? I didn’t mind the whole praying thing but his hands pressing hard on my braids was not something I could work with. I had just braided my hair the day before and they were still stiff and painful at a slight touch. I pushed them off slowly and he said, “Bless my hand to fight the demons that are fighting inside this child’s soul.”
He carried on praying in some language that I couldn’t understand, I assumed maybe that’s what they called speaking in tongues. He was now pushing and pulling my head violently. Not only did it bother me that he was hurting me but I felt that the whole picture did not look pretty, and I couldn’t understand why the two of them didn’t see anything wrong with it. I was kneeling in front of him and he had his hands on my head, pushing it back and forth. She was busy saying Amen and Hallelujah while he continued speaking in his strange language. It took longer than I expected; my head and neck hurt, my knees hurt and I was starting to feel drowsy from all the head pushing and whirling. I just shouted Amen, hoping that it would speed up the process. He finally switched back to English and said, “Jesus, you have heard my prayer and I believe your child has been healed. I drive out the demons in your name, Amen.” He pushed me so hard on the forehead, I fell backwards and balanced myself on my elbows in order to avoid landing on my head. I lay still on the floor for a while and waited for him to cease panting as though he had been running a marathon. He said to her; “She has been cured and she will never touch a drop of alcohol again.” I stood up silently and looked at both of them.
“How are you feeling?” he asked me, “How amazing is the power of our Lord Jesus? My sister, He who died on the cross for our sins, He who was baptised by John the Baptist, He who healed many and continues to heal you and I has placed his hand upon you.”
My head was pounding and I was tired. I needed to get home.
“The Lord Jesus has spoken to you,” he continued. “Jesus, who resisted the Devil’s temptation, has touched you and you shall walk in his shoes and resist the Devil’s temptation,” he continued louder this time. I was getting tired of the man’s circus show. Although my head was still aching, my neck was recovering from the sudden thrust with his ‘demon-driving’ performance.
“Jesus was the one…” he was about to say when I interrupted him.
“Yes, Jesus who turned water into wine, hallelujah for that, Lana let’s go.”
Lana refused to speak to me for a week until I agreed to apologise to the pastor. I lied to him that I hadn’t touched a single drop and thanked him. The pastor was pleased, Lana was pleased and I was pleased to be able to go home and wash down my sins with a bottle of whiskey. Amen.