By Jjuko Nathan

It was getting close to 11 pm when I knelt next to him. He smelt of incense and an overwhelming warm stuffiness. You could tell he was worried and in pain as he pressed down the beads of his faded black rosary with a sounding roughness and by the look of despair and the shiver of his lower jaw when he murmured Notre Dame. I could hardly tell the rest of what he was saying, only deep but soundless tones like a wailing widow. Probably, he was genuinely concerned about ‘God’, his flock now that it had been about a month or more since the government quarantine policies had frustrated Mass, maybe the offertory basket and the tithings since no one was due a tenth of what they never earned anymore still, because of the lockdown. Perhaps it was a question of faith, conflicting realities in his mind, the devil in science, questioning the authenticity of religion and its miracles now that Italy was bleeding, pastors attempting to heal the sick were dying, even the Kaaba, it had never in history been empty, what if people now actually learned to live without the church what would be next? Where was ‘God’ in all this, he probably thought in agonizing worry?

To my right, furthest from the altar and close to the eastern door of the church a lass, right about twelve or less stood in innocent admiration more so of the martyrs in the painting, being welcomed by angels, she cared less for the place she was in, to her, it was probably the home of an invisible ‘God’, to the rest, a hospital for the spiritually broken and in despair, to me, a sanctuary for the financially frustrated or an office for better grades. But now, now that the times were unprecedentedly hard, I had to seek comfort in faith as numbers where now hopeless and logic limited as nothing made sense, I need hope so I would not crumble like the priest because deep down, only god saw I was sweating blood. She sung in silence, and loudly hopped on to the next painting.

A woman about ten feet away from the girl signalled her to silence, with a finger on her lips; her eyes red however. She must have been crying. Judging from her casual outfit, she could have been a lawyer who had spent about a month not working and yet breadwinner or trader, whose market had dropped or exporting ended and the merchandise probably expiring, or a farmer whose produce be it milk or eggs was rotting due to no consumption since everyone now spent less on luxury. She could have been a mother with a loan in the bank that she could now not work to pay off due to the lockdown and curfew policies, all I know was that she was worried.

When news about the virus first hit our waves, I thought it a political game or perhaps a normal epidemic like it had been before with Ebola or Cholera. I had actually found it wise trying to reason it out as the third world war in form of some bio chemical weapon and I had found relief in how distant Africa, Uganda to be specific, was far from China or America. It then hit me dead when a total lockdown was declared in the country. As a student, the source of my tuition was not just a worry anymore but the fear as to whether my current year would be considered a useless one as it had now been four months since schools were last closed and the news depicted no hope of opening the same any soon.

so on my knees a lot of ideologies, conspiracy and confusion swarm through my head, reciting in mind a conspiracy poem I had read earlier on;

(She was desperate for the goodnight kiss she never got,

broken by the distance, she could never huge or whisper in her mother’s ear.

To her, it was a war against love and all that made us human,

like simple gestures of appreciation, a slight handshake,

a comforting embrace, a goodnight peak.

He was appreciating for the consequences of disaster,

to the optimist, we had been cursed with a blessing,

probably aimed at exposing how broken and corrupt or systems were.

They were proud of the exposure,

in the eyes of the scientists, it was reveling,

how powerless and lying religious dominions were.

They were broken and close to despair,

in the eyes of the innocent, the economy was a frustration,

survival was a luxury as death cuts them off without a price tag.)

Still about the same, it had opened my eyes to yet a broader and different perspective but perhaps was covering up the realities of my fears, hopelessness financially now that all that I knew that could support me financially was on lockdown. I opened my mouth in prayer, dear God,