There are days when the darkness arrives early on duty to watch over the earth. However, on the other days, she takes her time like a woman preparing for a dinner date. She jumps into the shower, scrubs herself clean for an hour and a half, then walks to her room where the big task awaits her. She tries out a new outfit; a pair of silk beige pants and a white blouse on top, decides that it is too casual, then removes it. She chooses another, eyes it for a while then throws it on her bed, her attention already stolen by another white fiery dress she received as a gift from the sun. The game continues for a while then finally, in a state of reluctance, she picks up her black dress, puts it on and stares in the mirror for another thirty minutes. She then heads out of the room, stopping by the shoe rack to pick matching shoes. The shoe rack is full, and she is spoilt. Spoilt for choice. She continues her game, picking up a pair of heels, putting them on then strutting around the hallway while throwing her head over her shoulder to see how her back arches in them. She takes them off and repeats the process with another pair. A couple of minutes later, she takes one long look at that shoe rack, sighs undecidedly before throwing her hands in the air in resignation all the while muttering to herself, “I always have nothing to wear”.
Times like these when the darkness is late, the days end up being longer than the nights. But when she comes out eventually, (she always does), she impresses, (and mostly scares) even the most hardened among us with how stunningly strange she looks in her usual black flowing dress, matching high heels, (and sometimes when it is too cold), the thick grey clouds that cover her body.
All around her, humanity trudges on, the weight of existence weighing heavily on their shoulders.
It is on a night like this that Mark (not his real name), has waited until the pitch black darkness has arrived. He always does. He intends to keep this meetings a secret. And so when he is sure that even his shadow has left him, he stealthily makes his way across town, careful not to be hit by the speeding cars. At one point, he has to stop at a pedestrian crossing to give way to some of these cars, and he curses under his breath at the idea of having to wait even when it is his time to be waited upon. He looks down at his shoes. They reek of neglect. He notices that they have started wearing out at the edges, and they have wrinkles cutting across the midsection. A frown settles upon his face as he recalls the joke his son recently made, that those wrinkles on his shoes have an uncanny resemblance to the ones imprinted on his forehead. He did not find that joke funny at all but he smiled for his son.
Eventually, he looks up. A kind motorist has decided to stop and give way to him. He raises his hand and waves in gratitude before allowing his feet to carry his middle aged body across the last street to his destination, a chapel, dimly lit and empty, just like how he feels inside of him. He is the first one here tonight.
They have always agreed that the first person to arrive should arrange the pews in order. He has no choice, so he reluctantly grabs the nearest and drags it across the floor and puts it in position, then another and another, and in no time, the wooden pews are set to form a circle as if the meeting belongs to them. Tired and panting heavily, he collapses on one of them resisting the voice in his head telling him that he needs a drink. Before he can engage in his inner struggles, the other members start streaming in, as if on cue. The first to enter is Sophia (again, not her real name). They exchange pleasantries and take their positions. He scans Sophia. In his eyes, she has always looked dazzling. Something about her always reminds him of his late wife. It could probably be how at ease she always seemed to be even on those gloomy days when she comes to these meetings with bags under her eyes and the familiar pungent smell of alcohol in her breath. Sophia has three kids whom she is raising on her own, all the while working as a sales representative in a firm that hardly pays enough to feed her small family, let alone pay rent. He noticed how often she would come to the meetings looking tired and disheveled, restless and anxious, and how her hands would shake whenever she holds her phone in her delicate hands. All in all, he felt that she was one of the few people who genuinely looked forward to seeing him.
NB: Get the final Part (2) of this story next week. In the comments section, feel free to share your thoughts on how you think it will end .