Story of a Childhood Crush
Thirty-five years later as I was about to address the audience for my debut novel, I still remembered the night around dinner when my father told me I must do a solo in church the following Sunday. I was six years old.
My heart throbbed so loud inside my chest I feared it might explode. I really thought I was going to die. I felt the rotation of the earth rising beneath my feet and my stomach began to churn.
Up until then, everything seemed possible, every dream attainable. The world was safe, and harm wasn’t yet spoken of in my young vocabulary. But at that moment, doubt and fear suddenly gripped me and I wondered, “How exactly am I supposed to do that? Can anyone explain to me how I’m supposed to stand up before a congregation of forty to seventy people and sing a song for the Lord? Did the Lord Himself ask that of me, or is it my father’s own pride and ambition to train and lead his offspring into pulpit ministry?” It wasn’t so much of a big deal after all, really. Singing before the audience wasn’t what I feared. There was something else: there was a girl.
The way her big eyes held me, the way her big mouth spoke words, the sound of her voice were all I yearned for. She was my dream girl at the age of 6, and the thought of me singing in her presence was unbearable. How does one stand before a girl, let alone sing songs? Would my little legs bear me? And on top of that, there was the dread of forgetting the lyrics. Oh, and not to mention being in tune with the musicians. I’ve heard countless horrible stories, and the thousand upon thousand possibilities of how things might go wrong were haunting me. “I can’t!”
The following Monday morning I began to petition to dear Risen Christ for a miracle, anything that would prevent me from singing next Sunday. How ironic in the mind of a child. I prayed and hoped for a mayhem, that would force church service to be cancelled at once and, by means of luck, my father might forget altogether about the whole episode. I prayed for 4 days straight; nothing happened. By Friday I invoked all sort of dark forces to help out, even if it meant death, killing a few folks, so long as they were not closely related to me. That would do it. But the beautiful Haiti was still the Pearl of the Islands. No flood, no hurricane, and no fire. Above all, no one died. “People are so hard to die,” I thought.
Besides Ms. Sandra, my dream girl, there were also Toto and Zane to worry about. These two boys, although the entire church had been fasting for them, they were just becoming worse and worse when it came to good manners: including talking back to parents, farting out loud in public, eating too fast, minding adult business, cursing in the presence of the ladies and much worse. I knew they would laugh out loud if I fidgeted in the least. Or plainly, being little devils, they would laugh at me when they noticed how frightened I was. Many times they had stolen from the basket money. According to grandma, as for these two, the Savior would have to come down again in person to save them.
Saturday by 11:30am, in the hot morning of the Caribbean sun, I found a solution. I went into the small living room where my little bunk bed had been installed; I lay down and pulled the covers over me, head to toe. Within minutes, I was practically swimming in my own sweat. Moments later, I heard movements in the main gate. “That must be my dad,” I was thinking. He entered the house and went straight to the back. “Where’s Zeeks?” he asked the maid.
“Oh Zeeks?” replied the maid, “He’s not feeling well. He’s sick.” There was a long silence that lasted almost an eternity. Then my father spoke again. “Mm!” he paused, “He’s sick?” Oh crap, it wasn’t working!
My father walked back into the house. The bed was so small that in order to switch to my side I had to literally stand up, otherwise I would fall. So I faced the entrance door, cracked open my eyes a tiny bit, just enough so I could examine my dad, to see if he was buying into my sudden malady.
He came and stood at the threshold, peering inside the dimmed room. He stared at my motionless little bundle for about a minute or so as my tiny eyes paid close attention. But, little did I know, my dad wasn’t interested in examining me. Instead, he was examining me examining him. Then he concluded: “Zeeks, tomorrow you’re going to church even if you’re in a coma.” Then he walked away.
Without further ado, I pulled back the covers and retreated into the kitchen to begin learning a song. The maid had assured me that Sandra was going to like the song and she might even kiss me after the solo.
We got to church early as always. The drumming of my heart had not ceased. Sunday school wasn’t fun anymore. All I was thinking about was that moment; the moment the presenter would call out my name. There would be applause and smiles, maybe a sudden shout of “Praise Him” by an elderly as I was passing by. The world would be silenced, time would stop, and all eyes would be on the altar because the son of a pastor was rising.
I was still holding onto my days of penance for a miracle; at this time any miracle. I put everything on the table. “What if the building collapses?” I was thinking, maybe a coup d’état as Haiti is prone to these events.
There was one last option I was contemplating, however, the repercussions were far greater than singing a simple song. The thought had crossed my mind in the early Sunday sunrise as options lessened. “What if I just take off?” The logistics were fuzzy. Take off to where? The consequences of a national whooping were so humiliating that I quickly abandoned the idea because the souvenir of my last one was nowhere near enjoyable. And even if I were to take off it was already too late. Brother Jester had already assumed his security guard position at the only exit door.
Till this day, I have no idea what happened when my name was called up to the pulpit. Only I felt a current; something swept under my feet and carried me forward. And I remember that I rattled the words faster than a bullet can travel, so fast that no musician could keep up. From that day forth, I sing every Sunday night.
Oh! uh, by the way, if you care to know sister Sandra was 32 years old.
Ezechias Domexa recently completed his creative writing program at the Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. He is currently working on his debut novel, Seat of Truth. May 7th release date.