A Short Play Written by Joy A. Adewumi
(Small-sized but cozy office. Two ladies, Maggie and Kike sit opposite each other. Maggie is on a call while Kike shuffles papers and types away on a keyboard.)
Maggie: (drops the call with a smile.) Chai! Better pikin! Now, that is how a normal twenty-three-year-old should act.
Kike: (raises a brow as she glances at her colleague.) I suppose that was your younger brother?
Maggie: (grins) One and only!
Kike: (smiles as she squints at the monitor on her desk) And I suppose that statement about how a twenty-three-year-old should act is a small jab at your cousin’s sullenness. How is he these days, anyway?
Maggie: Kike! I’ve had it up to here (places her hand horizontally against her neck.) I’m tired. Am I the first person to take in a younger relative? What is it? Even my own little brother does not bother my life like this.
Kike: Your younger brother is a penultimate year student in a university all the way in Delta state. You wouldn’t know if he were as troublesome as your cousin.
Maggie: (shakes her head vigorously.) My dear, don’t get me started. There’s a distinct line between troublesomeness and downright delinquency. I have not seen him in three full days and I haven’t the slightest idea where he might be. This is like a graduation from sleeping out on random nights without any explanation. I am fed up, exhausted and frustrated. I can’t even call his parents to let them know this. I’m just hoping he has a crazy test that’s keeping him close to school. I don’t want to imagine there’s something else. I just keep taking consolation in the blue ticks that show on our one-sided WhatsApp chat. It’s the only reason I have not gone out of my mind with worry. It’s as if I will send him back to where he came from o. I have my life to live too.
Kike: (chuckles with a glance at Maggie.) You can’t send him back to where he came from. He’s a student here and you’re accommodating him. The worst you could do is to ask his parents to get him some other accommodation. But didn’t his parents request you house him because they wanted a firmer handle on his school life and interactions.
Maggie: (sighs exaggeratedly) Yes. Something about him being easily impressionable and showing signs of withdrawal and depression.
Kike: So, what do you think?
Maggie: I wish I knew what to think, Kiks! We used to be great friends before he came to stay with me but since he moved in, he’s been so distant. I think he hates me for collaborating with his parents and taking him in. He once said something about me babysitting him like a four-year-old and not the twenty-three-year-old he was.
Kike: (chuckles as she drops a paper and picks another.) Guilty by association and compliance, huh?
Maggie: (throws Kike a stink eye.) Stop that joor. It’s not funny. I haven’t felt so responsible for anyone in all my adult life. I just wish I knew what to do but he’s so withdrawn.
Kike: So, you do agree with his parents that he’s been withdrawn?
Maggie: That’s the thing! I don’t know if he’s being withdrawn because he resents me for being on his parent’s side or if he’s been withdrawn even before he came over to my place. The only thing I know is that this is not the Kelvin I used to know.
Kike: (sighs) Looks like you have a real issue on your hands.
Maggie: (sighs too) Say something new, babes.
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Kike: You should try talking to him. He’s probably dealing with some serious stuff and is dealing with it the only way he knows how.
Maggie: (scoffs and throws an incredulous look at Kike.) Are you kidding me? Do you think I haven’t tried? I am maxed out on all ideas to get him to talk. Talk about cajoling, pleading, reasoning, apologizing. Nothing works! These days, most of our conversations are one-sided. It’s like I’m always yapping like a parrot while he just grunts or nods in response.
Kike: (throws a surprised glance at Maggie.) That bad?
Maggie: The least of it, babes! The least! He doesn’t do his share of the chores. Barely eats whatever I cook. Sometimes passes the night outside the house. Stays locked in his room whenever he’s home. See, I am tired!
Kike: (shakes her head.) Sounds like full-blown rebellion to me. But students stay over in school all the time.
Maggie: Kiks, when you live with a guardian, that person is responsible for your welfare. It’s perfectly okay to pass the night outside as long as he does the right thing and informs me of when and where he is passing the night. But I suppose this is his way of proving that whether or not we approve, he can very well decide where he lives.
Kike: Yea, I reason with you there. Still, what if he has a right to be angry? You don’t just rob a young adult of his independence, as limited as it may be, just like that. What if his parents overreacted in bringing him to you?
Maggie: Two things. One. He’s a third-year student, Kiks. Parents don’t take such drastic measures in sheer overreaction on a boy who has been on his own for two years prior without any problem. They must have seen something that worried them. Two. You might be right, but he’s not acting any mature about it. He’s doing absolutely nothing to prove them wrong. If anything, they’re probably more worried than ever and feel their suspicions have been confirmed.
Kike: (nods) You do have a point there.
Maggie: Now, I feel like he just might get worse. If he’s comfortably passing nights outside. I can’t help but think he’s trying to sort himself out, independent of his parents.
Kike: I think that would be rather hard. Yea, Lagos is a city of opportunities but still… He’s a busy undergraduate in a fairly expensive school. Even if he sorts out his accommodation, he’ll still have to think about his school fees. No matter how I look at it, his parents still have a hold on him there.
Maggie: (shrugs) You’re right, but still, never say never. After all, I never imagined it getting this bad. He used to be very sweet. (Short pause.) I can’t help but feel I’m getting the brunt of everything here.
Kike: (hikes a brow.) Why would you feel that way?
Maggie: His parents sent him to live with me for a reason, but that is being defeated. And I am afraid to let them know things have deteriorated this bad. Just imagine he decides to ghost everybody one day or God forbid, something happens and no one can reach him. Whom will everyone turn to? Me, of course. And what will I say? Just think of this call scenario with my aunt. (Places her thumb close to her ear imitating a phone call.) Maggie, how are you, my dear? We’ve been unable to get a hold of Kelvin. Is he okay? Ah, Aunty, sorry o, I don’t have an idea. I haven’t seen him in days. (Throws her hands up.) Great, just brilliant!
Kike: But they would understand. If his parents could not handle him, what could you possibly do?
Maggie: Still, it would be obvious that sending him to me was useless after all. How would you feel if you were in my shoes?
Kike: (sighs and sends a sympathetic look to her friend.) Pele, my dear. I understand your point.
Maggie: I don’t know what to do again and it breaks my heart. He used to be the most amazing boy. There were even times I preferred his company to my brother’s. He was really fun to be with. But now, all that has evaporated into the air like it was never there. Feels like he has a wall around his heart with girth and height that is only rivalled by that of Jericho’s wall.
Kike: (laughs and stops suddenly.) Wait, did you say Jericho’s wall?
Maggie: Yeaaaa. (Waves one hand.) You know, an exaggerated comparison.
Kike: I know. What I’m saying is, think about it, what did the children of Israel do to bring down Jericho?
Maggie: (makes a show of thinking as she rolls her eyes upward, hither and thither.) You want me to march around him and… I don’t know what you are saying.
Kike: Not that, duh! Okay, let me put it this way. Why did the children of Israel march around the wall of Jericho despite it being a ridiculous and illogical strategy?
Maggie: Because God asked them to? (Spreads her hands out.)
Kike: Okay, how did-
Maggie: (interrupts with a raise of one hand.) Ehn-ehn, ehn-ehn. Don’t create any more puzzles. Just say what you want to say.
Kike: (chuckles) Spoilsport. Fine. Look at it this way. The children of Israel came across a formidable enemy with the tallest and thickest physical barrier they’d ever encountered in all their sojourn but rather than put heads together and come up with a badass strategy, they went to God. They prayed. Why would they do that? Jericho’s wall was not some evil spirit they needed to cast out. It wasn’t anything spiritual in the literal sense of it, yet they took it up spiritually, why? (After a pause.) I’ll tell you why, honey. They were smart! They knew two things. (Raises her index finger.) One, everything in life, no matter how ordinary or secular has a spiritual backdrop. The spiritual indeed controls the physical, regardless of the situation. (Raises the middle finger to join the index.) They knew that route was a sure banker! You cannot go into any battle with God on your side and come out defeated. It is an anathema. Never happened. Never will. If there is a man to pray… (Lets her words trail off.)
Maggie: (Takes the cue.) There is a God to answer. (Blinks rapidly.) Chai! Kike, blessed are you amongst women. It’s a shame how we believers think of God as a last resort when things have completely gone out of hand. Imagine, he gets worse and we realise he’s gotten himself embroiled with some dangerous elements, is that not when we’ll begin to run from pillar to post. From pastor to prophet. When we could have tackled it right from the start and taken it up in the secret place. I feel like such a dunce for not thinking of this earlier.
Kike: Don’t beat yourself up. I guess we just haven’t normalized intentionally making everything in our lives, down to the last detail, God’s business. We tend to think some things too ordinary or too mundane to take into the secret place. We forget God is concerned with and involved in every detail of our lives. And whatever we don’t feel comfortable taking to Him in prayer is contraband. You know, shouldn’t be in our lives in the first place.
Maggie: (exhales audibly.) We’ve been shooting at the wrong target. Using the wrong methods. What a waste of precious time. (Clicks her tongue against the roof of her mouth.)
Kike: It’s not too late. TGIF. (Flashes a smile at Maggie.) What do you say about tonight? Two of us. WhatsApp call, midnight.
Maggie: (gives Kike an incredulous look.) What do you think I’ll say? Of course, I’m in!
(Both ladies laugh and move on to other subjects as they continue their work.)
(In the wee hours of the next morning. Kike and Maggie are praying while connected through a call.)
Both: (Sing) Way-maker, Miracle-worker, Promise-keeper, Light in the darkness, my God that is who You are. You wipe away all tears, you heal the broken heart, you’re the answer to it all, Jesus!
Kike: Oh, Lord God, you have made the heavens and the earth with your great power and your stretched out arm, is there anything too hard for you to do?
Maggie: Absolutely, nothing.
Kike: You said, with men this may be impossible, but with You, all things are possible. Father, we believe.
Maggie: I don’t have an iota of doubt in my heart. What you God cannot do does not exist.
Kike: Your word confirms that for this purpose was the Son of God manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil.
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Maggie: You also said the thief comes only to steal, to kill and to destroy but You have come that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Kelvin, I have no idea what’s up with you but I know my Father not only knows but He cares. He knows your whereabouts and your dealings. He knows your worries and your challenges. He knows your heartache and that which you’re trying so hard to hide from the world.
Kike: (Prays in tongues.)
Maggie: Father, You know what the root of all his rebellion and withdrawal is. You know why such an amazing young man has become the very embodiment of such terrifying angst and resentment. I can’t see beyond my nose and I’m done making useless guesses. Father, into your hands, I commit my cousin. Don’t let him get lost. Draw him back to you and those that love and care for him. Bring him back home in the literal and spiritual sense. Holy Spirit, penetrate the walls around his heart and bring down those formidable and terrifying barriers. Give us back our Kelvin, even a better version than before.
(Both pray in tongues.)
Kike: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of darkness in high places. You principalities and powers involved here, listen to me. I come in the name of Jesus, the name that is above every other name and I come standing on my authority as a daughter in the Kingdom, for as many as receive Him, to them He gave the power to become the children of God. I decree using the key that has been handed to me, that whatever I permit on earth is permitted in heaven and what I disallow here on earth is disallowed in heaven. All those of you behind the scene, well, I have come to inform you that the party is over! We are not ignorant of your devices you old serpent. Neither are we oblivious to your three-fold ministry. But you’re just bark and no bite, because as Christ gave up the ghost that glorious day at Calvary. He declared that it is finished. So this is me, reminding you that, it is finished! In Kelvin’s life, your wiles are finished, your plans are finished, your program is finished, your authority is finished, and your manipulation is finished, in the name of Jesus!
(Both pray some more in tongues.)
Maggie: Kelvin, you are not a stray, you’re a sheep in the fold of Christ. You are not the devil’s plaything, you’re a son of the kingdom. Open your eyes right now and find the way back home. In every sense, begin to make your way back home. You’re no longer a slave to whatever is holding you down. You’re set free! Because whomever the Lord Jesus sets free is free indeed. Come back home, in Jesus name.
(Both continue in tongues.)
(A week later. 10 pm. Maggie balances a bowl of popcorn on her thighs as she watches a movie on the TV in the living room. Three short raps sound against the door.)
Maggie: (mumbles) Who’s there at this time of the night. (Calls out.) Who’s it?
Young male voice: Couz, it’s me.
Maggie: (Blinks rapidly as she places the popcorn bowl on a table and makes a mad dash for the door.) Kelvin!
(Kelvin trudges in and drops an overnight bag on a sofa as he sinks to the floor. Holds his head between both palms. Maggie joins him on the floor and wraps one arm around his broad shoulders but not quite reaching all the way.)
Kelvin: (looks up at her.) You’re mad at me, aren’t you?
Maggie: (smiles) What do you think? Of course, I’m furious at your behaviour but I’m just glad right now to see you home.
Kelvin: Everyone is probably out of their minds with worry. You, my parents, maybe even your parents.
Maggie: (smiles) Hmmnn… Make that only me.
Kelvin: (looks confused.) What?
Maggie: (shrugs) Well, since they couldn’t reach you, they kept calling me but I didn’t have the heart to tell them I hadn’t seen you in a week and a half. I told them school work was probably hectic, that coupled with the fact that you were mad at them. I also told them to chat you up on WhatsApp. Leave their message there that you’ll be sure to read it even if you do not reply.
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Kelvin: (stares at her.) Why would you cover for me?
Maggie: I didn’t have the heart to tell them that like I said. Plus, you were reading my messages, so I didn’t think you were missing or anything. I didn’t want to say something to them that might make them take the next available flight to Lagos. I also knew you were going to be back, sooner than later.
Kelvin: (shakes his head.) I was stupid. I am embarrassed to say it but I was. I can’t even believe myself.
Maggie: (pats his back.) Don’t beat yourself up too much. You’re home now, that’s what matters.
Kelvin: (scoffs) You are only saying that because you don’t know half of it. I almost ended up behind bars some hours ago.
Maggie: (jerks forward.) What?
Kelvin: I can’t believe I lived a straight-laced life for twenty-three years and succumbed to peer pressure at the embarrassing age of 23.
Maggie: (scrunches her brows.) What happened, Kelvin?
Kelvin: There’s this course, PHY306, I barely passed its first-semester correspondent and this 306 is an advanced version. I was out of my mind with worry. I tried praying but I was too worried to trust and let Him help. I needed to sort myself out somehow. I was at it one day in the class for almost three hours straight but I was not making headway. A classmate – (exhales heavily) –he came in and out, in and out, and kept shaking his head at me. I didn’t pay him attention. I had more important things on my mind. Eventually, he walked up to me and asked me to follow him if I needed help with 306. He had probably peered over my shoulders to see what I was working on at some point. I was conflicted. I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow him but I didn’t have so many options. I did need help. (Sighs and shakes his head.)
(Maggie rubs his back gently)
Kelvin: Couz, you know that thing they say about people coming into your life. When God wants to help you, he sends people and when the devil wants to destroy you, he also sends people. The important thing is to know who sent who. I was undiscerning. He took me to this house that housed mostly students. The moment we stepped in, I was engulfed in smoke and a nauseatingly pungent smell. He wasn’t even deterred and I felt stupid turning back at that point, so I just followed. He took me to this guy sitting at one end of the room, looking wasted and wild. (Swallows hard.)
Maggie: Hey… (Lets the word trails off…)
Kelvin: He told the guy unceremoniously that I needed help with 306. The guy, though wasted, still managed to make an appointment with me for the next day and dismissed us. Couz, it was easy to see that he was an exceptionally brilliant mind even before we got down to business and I was right. The next day as I headed to the house, the Holy Spirit warned me not to sell my soul for 306 but I argued that I didn’t see Him giving me any better offer. Besides, I wasn’t going to get addicted to crack just because I was around someone who was. I even argued that it could be a mutually profitable relationship. He’d teach me 306 and I’ll lead him to Christ. I wish I heard how stupid I sounded that day, but of course, I didn’t. (Scoffs) You know what they say, right? The dog that will get lost will not hear the hunter’s whistle. One lesson turned to five and soon I was passing several nights at that house because there were certain days when I got there and the guy was too wasted to teach me anything or had passed out. I usually thought it wise to just pass the night there and waylay him anytime he wakes up to fulfil my purpose of being there. At least, that was what I told myself. Couz?
Kelvin: I got comfortable. Will you believe it? I got comfortable in the devil’s lair and with sin. I wasn’t coughing and wheezing at the puffs of smoke the guys exhaled anymore. That hideous place began to feel like home, but I didn’t pay heed till I finally gave in to their taunts and jests, one evening last week when I dragged my first whiff of weed.
Kelvin: I’m sorry, Couz. I was foolish and I fell for the devil’s lie. I knew it was high time I left. I knew I had overstayed my welcome in that house, but I felt with that first whiff, I had taken a turn into a one-lane street and there was no turning back. I should have taken to my heels and come back home but I was ashamed and guilt-ridden. I was supposed to try to prove that I didn’t need a babysitter but I had gone ahead and done exactly what a baby would do. But even though I was always going back to spend the night in that crackhouse, I couldn’t take another whiff of weed or anything at all, no matter how tempted or taunted I was. It made me nauseous beyond imagination. I think that was my salvation from addiction, but I still couldn’t come home. (Sighs) Often than not, I wished I could just come back, but something held me back. Guilt, pride, shame.
Maggie: I’m so glad you finally decided to come back.
Kelvin: Oh, I was literally forced.
Maggie: You say?
Kelvin: I mean, since I couldn’t break off, I think the Holy Spirit yanked me off. (Chuckles)
Maggie: (smiles) How do you mean?
Kelvin: Some hours ago, after my last class for the day, a friend, fellowship member, who had been trying to get a hold of me, cajoled me till we went to evening fellowship together. I broke down. All my guilt, my excuses, my pride, all of it was ripped off me and I reconciled with my Saviour. Of course, I planned to get my overnight bag though I had my school bag with me and get away from that house forever. As I neared the house, Couz, I mean I was just just about two compounds away, a police van pulled up in front of the house and I halted. Less than five minutes later, all the guys in the house I’d been lodging were rounded into the van and it pulled away. (Scoffs) No one taught me before I turned back, all thoughts of retrieving my overnight bag gone and I made my way back here.
Maggie: (pulls him into a hug and rubs his back.) Thank you, Jesus.
Kelvin: I’m sorry, Couz. I truly am.
Maggie: Sheesh. You already said that a billion times already. I’m just glad that God heard our prayers.
Kelvin: (pulls away) Our?
Maggie: Last week, my colleague and I started spending one hour every night praying together for you. It was the major reason I didn’t bother your parents. It was why I was so sure you would come around.
Kelvin: (nods his head.) It was probably the same reason weed became nauseous to me. God! You’re just so merciful. How can I show my appreciation?
Maggie: I believe coming back to Him was all He wanted.
Kelvin: (smiles at her sheepishly) I suppose you’re right. So… this colleague.
Maggie: (chuckles) What?
Kelvin: Is it a guy? You know, the one you’re close enough to, you know, have that kind of prayers with?
Maggie: (opens her mouth and closes it in surprise) Kelvin, what are you insinuating? (Clenches her teeth) It’s a lady, get your mind outta the gutter.
Kelvin: (rolls his eyes.) Please, it’s hardly a gutter at this age.
Maggie: (scoffs) What do you mean?
Kelvin: Oh, please, stop acting like some prude. You’re long overdue for that kind of friend.
Maggie: (throws her head back and laughs.) Sweet dear! Kelvin, you’re crazy.
Kelvin: (belts out laughter.) You missed me, didn’t you?
Maggie: Like crazy. I’m so glad to have you back. Literally and figuratively.
Kelvin: I bet. So, anything edible in this house.
Maggie: (eyes him.) See your mouth like edible.
(Both burst out laughing as they make their way out of the living room.)