It was a little before dawn.
His voice blasted all over the compound.
“I’ve told you that I can’t make it this morning, don’t you understand?! I can’t let a wordly appointment prevent me from taking the ashes today. Don’t be the devil to tempt me! Nonsense!” He slammed the door as he hung up the call and hurried off to the church, mumbling a quick reply to my greeting.
It was Ash Wednesday.
I washed up and boarded a tricycle to the church a while later.
Along the way, the driver stopped to pick a man who flagged him down.
With his wife and three kids.
“Hurry up this woman!” He yelled at her as she took her time to hop in. “This ash must not pass us by again this year.”
The driver sped off.
We halted few minutes later along the way.
A little crowd had gathered to separate a fight. Two drivers had been involved in a minor accident. Their cars had bruises, with no injuries or harm to the occupants. The two drivers were at each other’s throats.
“I will deal with you today!” One yelled. “You agent of the devil. So this is how you plan to obstruct my heavenly salvation right? You have conspired with the devil to hit my car and stop me from receiving my ashes today! I will show you who I am today!”
“You stupid man!” The other retorted. “I will reset your brain with ashes today! You must pay for my car headlights!”
The crowd was divided amongst supporters on both sides fueling the duel. I got down and trekked to the church to meet another mammoth crowd.
And another scuffle.
A group of motor park touts were haranguing the church ushers and the catechist, who tried explaining to them that the ashes had been exhausted.
“Oga you wan use us joke shebi? You think you can cheat us right? Better bring those ashes that you are hiding for your family members and neighbours. We are not here to joke. Heaven is for us all and not only your people!”
“Good Lord.” I thought to myself. “What a day!”