meeting place

We begin inside a small Baptist church at dusk, on the outskirts of a Lagos neighborhood in the mid 1980’s. We are here for a rare event, the screening of a film depicting the second coming of Christ. This Baptist church is not my church. In my house, going to church is a special event—the whole family piling into the station wagon wearing special shoes and hats, sitting still for what seem like hours—reserved for a few Sundays a year. We are not Baptist, and there are certainly never any films shown at our church. We come to this new lively church on a regular weeknight at the invitation of my friend, a neighbor. I am allowed to go because it is just a short walk from home. The Baptist church is part of the grounds of the neighborhood secondary school, at which my father taught Mathematics and coached football for a few years. The walk is familiar. We pass my cousin’s apartment building, the general grocery store, cut through the quiet market-place with its stalls shuttered for the evening. I have never been to a public film screening before, never sat in the dark with strangers, silently sharing emotions. The large doors close on a crowded room, blocking out the evening breeze. A short speech by the pastor, and then the lights go out. In this dark place, we are rapt, focused on the portable hanging screen set up in front of the pulpit. What we see is a moving picture of the end of the world: radio broadcasts frantically announcing the mysterious disappearance of millions; irons left on, burning hot; eerily empty streets; abandoned cars; desolate shops; and a few very blond, very afraid stragglers screaming, running, left behind in the big American city. We emerge bewildered. Outside it is already night.

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