The living room was silent and it wasn’t for the reasons it usually was by 5 am. For the living room to be empty by that time, it had to be because the Holy Spirit was moving and my father had decided to let him move finish before he would launch into a longer prayer calling on the Angel Michael to come and slay all his enemies.
Today, the room was silent and it wasn’t because we were waiting for the Holy Spirit to descend on us. I wish it was because we were waiting for the Holy Spirit. We had our attention to my sister. She knelt with her bom-bom in the air, her face laying on the chair and her soft breathing reaching us.
I could tell what each person was thinking by the look on their faces. My mother, with the amused look on her face, wondered if Anuli was really from God. I could understand why she’d think that. My sister had a habit of staying awake for things that weren’t religion-related, but the second we opened our mouth to pray or sing worship, her eyes got drowsy. One, two and she was asleep.
My father thought about why they didn’t just decide to go childless. I know this because he had said it out loud one time, telling my sister if he had known she’d end up like that, he’d have just prayed for impotency. When he said that, he had looked at my brother and me. Then he sighed and apologized, saying my sister might be a disappointment, but he had two other children who made him feel able. My father was looking at my brother and me the same way he did that day.
My brother, the youngest of us three, couldn’t hide the smile on his face. He thought my sister was amazing to not let the words of our father stop her from sleeping during morning service. He said my sister had told him one time that if she was going to actively participate in our daily worship, my father had better set a more reasonable time for the prayer. 7 am was preferable. We could pray for thirty minutes and be done with it.
On some occasions, my father would have let her sleep. He wouldn’t have even batted an eyelash at her sleeping figure. On any other day, we wouldn’t have gone silent and watched her, but today we just had to.
I thought my sister was special. It’s the type of special you say someone is when they’ve managed to render you speechless and you’re unable to say what you thought. Special was what I thought of my sister until I would be able to come up with a word to describe what I thought of her.
I had a smile on my face as I watched her. I tried to imagine how she was able to fall asleep in the middle of asking God to bless us. I would have understood if someone else was praying, but she was. On more occasions, she had woken up and collected the prayer from someone else’s mouth, like she had drifted off thinking she was praying.
“Should we wake her or should someone else pray?” My mother asked and looked at all of us.
I wanted her to be woken up, as an elder sister, she had a lot of examples to set. Anuli didn’t care about examples, she said if we didn’t know right from wrong, we were free to dip our hand into boiling oil because we believed she was doing the exact thing. In all, my sister believed that every man should fend for themselves.
“Nne, pray for us.”
I looked at my father and nodded my head. A smile played on my brother’s lips as I said the morning prayers in the same pattern I always did and with the exact words. I thanked God, asked for guidance and blessings, prayed for Nigeria and the world, friends and family, loved ones and well-wishers and I wrapped everything up by asking, one final time, for blessings and grace. The patterns and words were pretty consistent that my brother could say the prayer with me like I was reading the prayer off of a pamphlet. I hated him for that.
My father prayed a general prayer and we said our amen. We said our greetings and went about to prepare for the day ahead. Through all the ruckus and the million times Udo dropped a stainless plate in the kitchen, the loud voice of my mother screaming my name and my father sitting right in the same room, hissing his existence away, my sister didn’t stir.
When she did, my brother and I were peeking through the curtain waiting for the worst to happen. For people who had school, my brother and I must have called our teacher with an excuse without our knowledge. Because at 07:30 am without any attempt to prepare for school, the gates would have been shut before we got there.
My sister stretched like a lioness. Her hands rested on the chair while she pushed her bom-bom upward and turned her head. Through her queen of the jungle stretch, my father said nothing, my mother did nothing, my brother and I waited.
“Mummy, good morning. Daddy, good morning.”
My parents said nothing. I almost died at her bravery. How could anyone sleep off while saying the morning prayer, wake up 45mins later and still have the guts to say a greeting? I expected her to beg for mercy but like days before, I held my sister to a standard she had refused to bother reaching.
“Anuli, are you pregnant?”
It was a standard question that my sister got asked all the time. According to her, she was doing all the things pregnant people did so in the case where she got pregnant outside, no one would know. They’d just write it off as her being who she was and she’d have no problem moving to a faraway place to have her baby and possibly put it up for adoption. I agree it was a brilliant plan. One that I’d possibly look into if ever I got to her age.
“I wouldn’t know, I didn’t study medicine, I studied law.”
“Young lady,” my father barked and glared at her.
When Anuli had begged to study medicine, my father had refused saying lawyers were the ones in vogue and anybody could be a doctor these days. Poor Anuli had tried to ask my mother’s help, but there was nothing my mother could do. Maybe if she had used all that energy she used in begging my mother to stay awake during one prayer session, maybe my father would have had a change of heart. I greatly doubted that because my father already had a plan.
He had a friend who was certain to be a lawyer for a long time, depending on the number of affidavits he managed to squeeze into his time. And the plan was simple, as soon as Anuli finished law school or whatever, she’d serve under him and hopefully take over his company. Maybe Anuli prayed privately because he died a few months before she got her law degree. A possibility no one thought about.
Every effort to make Anuli get a job not related to law was met with a sigh and an “I already told you people that I won’t do anything that is not in line with a degree I spent this long getting. And I’m also not going to look for any work. The person that made me study law sho0uld also look for work for me. I’m not afraid to be tagged useless and lazy.”
“Anuli,” my mother said and sat beside her. “Why did you fall asleep knowing you were leading us in prayer?”
“Wow. I honestly forgot I was praying. The sleep came and I had no idea how to refuse. You know I don’t have a lot to be awake for.”
“Maybe if you marry…”
“I can’t marry until I use my degree. It’ll be like I wasted my life for something I didn’t use in the end, I can’t betray myself like that.”
“It’s not betrayal. It’s self-love. You’re wasting your talent.”
Anuli sighed. “I’m tired. I’ll go and sleep now.”
“But you just woke up.”
“I don’t have a job. Daddy’s friend died with the plans for my future. I’m mourning my dead life.”
“Anuli,” my father said in a low voice and my brother and I exchanged looks. Anuli stopped walking and turned to face my father. “Do you want to go back and study medicine?”
“Jesus,” Udo whispered under his breath and I nodded.
Anuli laughed. When she finished laughing, she shook her head and looked at my father. “I just want a job for the degree I already have.”
My father nodded and Anuli walked into the room, stopping when she saw my brother and I. “Is there public holiday today?”
“Mummy! Daddy! Nnenna and Udolisa are still here o. have you people even baff? See the way your mouths are smelling.”
I couldn’t blame her. If she had bothered to stay awake during morning prayers, I’d have been in school already. The stupid thing.