8:59 AT ACCRA CENTRAL

by Kobena Ampofo

I TOOK A DEEP BREATH AND RELEASED IT, REMINDING MYSELF IT WASN’T TOO EARLY. I was nervous as it was my first time, but I knew this, had practised before the mirror a several times, experimented with various cadences and rhythms: a turn here, a pause there. I knew these Bible stories like the back of my hand. They had lived in me and I in them, through them, rejecting, rebuilding, and finally arriving at an understanding of their power. I had first believed there was one God in three, as I was told, only to find many ancestral lineages masquerading under a single holy trench coat.

I closed my eyes and mentally ran through my checklist one more time as the trotro pulled out of the station and joined traffic headed west:

Arrive at the station on time, check…

Befriend the station master and pay for every seat in every car, check…

Ensure every bus has a preacher, check…

Get on mine, check…

I took another breath, blinking my eyes open and reminding myself this was real. Today was happening. The plan was brilliant, and our execution earlier, flawless. Failure was unlikely. Before I could overthink it, I tucked a dangling braid back over my ear, careful not to snag it on my Dɛnkyɛm stud and took a deep, fortifying breath. Slowly letting it out, I paused to admire my short, matte pink nails once more (Halifa had really outdone herself this time), and smoothly rose…

Or tried to.

The trotro hit a pothole and I was firmly back in my seat. I followed the motion through once again, my right fingers gripping the seat before me for balance, my left clutching a conspicuous Bible with a sunrise on the cover. I locked a knee against the seat, cushioned by my bag’s cloth strap flopped along the edge, and let it out:

Nnuanom ne adofo nom, annopa yi, me pɛ sɛ me ne mo bɔ mpaeɛ

My voice cracked a little at the end. A rocky start. The two people across were actively ignoring me, but the other seven were either looking curiously in my direction or facing down, near ready to pray with me. After all, Evangelism was popular for a reason.

Awurade, Onyame a ɔbɔɔ ewiase ne asaase nyinaa, deɛ ɔsɔɔ ye mu de y’aduru deɛ y’aduru ɛnɛ yi, y’ɛdaase sɛ w’ama y’ahyia sei.

My eyes were closed now, selling the performance with the expected piety of the role. Now to really stick the landing…

Ye Trotro Asore yi da w’ase biem sɛ wo maa yɛ hyia yɛ!

I added with gusto, blessing this meeting.

Ameeeeen!

The bus chorused; I knew I had them. And the coup de grace…

Nnuanom, family in Christ, good morning.

I made eye contact with the lady two seats directly ahead of me and smiled a little as she gazed fondly at me, probably remembering a younger relative she admired.

Our church, y’asore a y’ɛfrɛ no Trotro Asore, anaa the Trotro Church, has paid for everyone as a way of thanking you all for sharing this spirit with us today.

I could tell I really had them in my pocket now. The young man in the back corner was now openly recording after trying to look disinterested earlier (while secretly recording me, of course). That was the eventual goal, naturally, the sharing of the spectacle, of this performance of religiosity.

We wish you a lovely Monday, and I will be passing along our card if you want to find us or join our ministry.

I added this to a firm round of applause, amens, me daases, and thank yous.

I quickly let driver know I would alight at the next stop and ordered my Uber there, taking calming breaths to relax my body. I couldn’t hide my smug little smile if the world ended right there and then. The bus arrived at the Opehbea. I stood for the second time, gingerly edging my way along the bus, taking my time to maintain the balance between looking both delicate and sure of my footing. I momentarily considered turning back one last time and giving them all a stately wave before exiting the bus, but ultimately opted against this obvious display.

My fellow passengers would not soon forget this day, I thought, seeing the smiles in my direction from the departing Trotro. I heard a ding on my phone and took it out of my bag to see my car arriving on the Uber app. A grey KIA Picanto with a registration plate marked AC 9630 pulled up.

“Is this the car for Yaa Manu?” I asked, redundantly.

Sat in the car, I finally relaxed, looking out the window as it pulled into the bustling traffic. Sanitising my hands for a second time, I tried not to give into anxiety. Starting a new church, after all, was a process that required patience and time, and this would be a Church unlike any other. Breathe, I thought to myself. The first step was complete.

Things were in motion.

KOBENA AMPOFO is between many identities and currently obsessed with writing stories and poetry, sending voice notes, exploring somatic healing, and researching elemental magics. He is on break from an MBA program at Schulich School of Business where he hopes to unlock the secrets to financial sorcery (and the technologies that created our current imperial age of globalisation).

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