Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Heart Most Deceitful

The plop of the Skype notification briefly distracted Gina from the paper she was writing, causing her to glance quickly at her computer screen. The moment she saw who it was who had just come online, the distraction was complete. A small smile tugged at her lips and she felt her whole being suffused with a familiar bone deep pleasure and anticipation, tinged with anxiety and guilt. Only he could elicit such contrary feelings in her. Before she could stop herself she reached out and typed:



  • Salut :)


His reply came almost immediately.


  • Salut! Quoi de neuf? (What's new?)
  • Nothing much. Studying.What are you doing awake? Isn't it late  for you?
  • It is. I was watching a movie and I still don't feel sleepy. Besides, tomorrow is Saturday so I can sleep in.
  • I see. Big weekend plans?
  • Not really. I'm driving my mother and sister to our village tomorrow afternoon  so we can visit with my grand parents.
  • Oh!. That's nice of you. Are your grand parents doing well? What is your village called again?
  • Makak, it's a couple hundred  kilometers from Yaounde. They're fine. My grand father has a cough so my mum wants my sister  to check him out and make sure it's not pneumonia.
  • Right, your sister is a doctor.
  • Ouais. And I'm the driver.
  • LOL! Yes. As well as the tech genius and social media maven that all multinational companies in West Africa want to hire.
  • That too :) Speaking of social media, I read the last blog post you published. Interesting stuff :)
  • Hahaha! I wondered if you'd read it and what you'd think.
  • You made some valid points. Et comme d'habitude, tu écris très bien (As usual, you write very well)
  • "Some" valid points? Which points were not valid? O_o
  • Hmmm... I'm going to video call you. I'm not sure I can type it all down
  • Ok. Wow! That many?
  • Plus, I want to see the expressions on your face when you react to what I'm going to say ;)
  • Uh oh...Should I be concerned? :)
  • Yes. Be very concerned.
  • Hahaha! You know I always play to win, so you better be in top debating form.  Let me get decent  before you call.
  • What?! No! Don't get decent! Stay in exactly the same outfit you have on!
  • And have you blame my victory on the fact that you were distracted? Nope!

The singsong Skype ring tone and black screen interrupted. She chuckled and grabbed a sweatshirt to throw on before answering. The air conditioning unit in her apartment was broken and the landlord was slow in fixing it, so she  had stripped down to her bra and panties while she studied to fight the oppressive Arizona summer heat. There was no way she would let him see her half naked. Their friendship wasn't that close...yet. If ever it would be. Gina felt the familiar anxiety and guilt rise again and for a brief moment she wished she had resisted the temptation to talk with him. It's not like she didn't have work to do.  

Normally, she worked during the summers to raise the money she would need to live off of during fall semester. But by some stroke of magic, Dr. Rodriguez her mentor had secured a small grant which enabled her take 2  classes that summer. This meant she would finish her Masters program a whole semester early. She had jumped at the chance even though it meant she would have to take 32 weeks worth of classes in 16 weeks, effectively destroying any chance for summer fun.

She clicked the answer button and watched eagerly as the circle spun. Within seconds, his face filled her screen. He was smiling that goofy, genuinely happy smile which was uniquely his. She smiled back. For a couple of moments neither of them spoke, each savoring the sight of the other, committing features to memory, silently thanking Janus Friis for whatever brilliant part of his mind conceived the idea of Skype. 




He looked good, but then he'd always been good looking with smooth caramel skin and warm brown eyes framed with thick lashes, set under slightly bushy eyebrows. Her gaze trailed down the broad column of his nose, noticing the small moustache he'd grown, to his lips. His lips were by far her favorite of his facial features. Full and slightly pink tinged, they added a layer of sensuality to what would have been an otherwise innocently handsome face. His smile revealed a slightly indented right canine tooth, an imperfection which only contributed to his charm. He also looked tired, the strain showing around his eyes.

"Hey..." he said finally. "Ca va?" (How are you?) 

His voice was deeper than she remembered. It melted her insides.

"J'vais bien."  (I'm doing well.)

"You look well. More decent and covered up than I had hoped. But there is always next time." 

He winked at her. That made her laugh.

"Shame on you for trying to objectify my body" she teased. "Frere chrétien,  en plus!" (Christian brother, no less!)

"I can't help it. It's very objectifiable. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."

She scoffed and then chuckled. "Look at you! You've gotten a lot bolder than I remember."

It was true. Back in their school days, before she left Cameroon for America, they'd been friends but he'd always been a little shy. He'd always acted very proper and  respectful towards her. She knew she'd intimidated him quite a little, but then she intimidated most guys she knew, with her sharp tongue and outspokenness. However, she'd noticed a change in him over the years. He'd become more assertive, more of a tease. It was a change she welcomed but the flash of uncertainty she saw in his eyes at the moment, told her he wasn't aware of the fact that she preferred this less uptight version of him. He shrugged, now obviously uncomfortable.

"I have?" He asked, giving voice to the uncertainty.

"Yup. And I have to say I like it."

The small smile he gave was well worth the confession. 

"So what is this you say about some valid points in my blog post? What did you find invalid?"

"Well, the whole argument you make that Christians take recommendations and suggestions biblical writers make and turn them into hard and fast rules is valid. But I still think that when Paul calls on wives to submit to their husbands and for husbands to love their wives in return he meant that directly. Especially if we look at it such that the wive's submission is conditioned on the fact that her husband loves her and wants what is best for her, just as Christ loves the Church and wants what is best for it. The submission comes from a place of trust, that the husband's love will lead him to do what is right."

"Hmmm... OK. I hear you. I really do. But just what do you think Paul meant when he said "submission" ? 

He looked pensive for a while.

"I think he means that she should trust his decisions... not trust them without question. They will obviously talk things over as a couple. But she can trust that he has her best interests at heart when he makes decisions that affect the home and the direction that their marriage takes, so she should ultimately yield to his leadership."

"I see... and he would know her best interests better than she does because he is as all-knowing and all-seeing as God?"

"Hmmm..." He didn't have a ready answer.

"That is exactly the point I was making. God/Christ can ask for the Church's trust and submission because he is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-seeing, infallible and he has perfect love which casts out fear, a love which led him to literally die for the Church. When He says I know the plans I have for you and they are plans to prosper you, we can trust that He really does know. We can yield to His leadership because we can trust that He knows and cannot be wrong. So, even when those plans take us down the most painful path, we can have that trust. Agreed, so far?"

"Yes." 

"Ok. Now, a husband is a human being who is not all-knowing, all-powerful, all-seeing or infallible. His love is most likely not a perfect love, as Christ's love is. Odds are his love is heavily influenced by his own selfish interests. Until he has those things, he cannot reasonably ask for anyone's submission. He can aspire to that love but he has to remind himself of his own shortcomings. Also, we cannot take the writings of the Bible out of their cultural context. At that time, odds are the husband did know better. Men were the power brokers of that society. Women were aware of the on goings in the family and the community. Men were the ones who had more exposure and education, traveled more, fought wars, engaged in political debate and shaped the future of the people. Odds are the husband then did know better to some extent. The same cannot be said today when women can be just as educated, just as knowledgeable. A woman's opinions on certain issues nowadays could easily be better informed than her husband's, so when push comes to shove should she be expected to submit, to trust and obey, to yield if the man thinks he knows better?"

"That is an interesting way to look at it, Gina. I'd not really looked at it from that perspective before.  Someone has to lead though, someone has to be the visionary. "

"Not necessarily, and even so it doesn't always have to be the man. Again, he's not God. I mean what about if the woman's temperament is such that she is the visionary, more of the risk taker and has a bigger faith? What if the man is more cautious, more timid?  What if the woman is more of the go-getter? The one who will see opportunities that can move them forward as a couple. Should she then temper down her dynamism so she remains submissive to her husband? Remember the Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie TED talk on feminism where she says the woman is usually the one giving up on aspirations for the sake of peace in her marriage. That is exactly what it usually comes down to and that is what I find unacceptable. If they are both Christians, the Spirit of God is alive in her just as surely as He is alive in him. How about they operate as team mates, with each allowing the other to excel at what they do best without one trying to lead the other or act like they know better? Jesus said the two shall become one flesh...not one flesh with one part more important than the other. The brain is important but it needs the heart to survive just as much as the heart depends on the brain to stimulate the nerves that keep it pumping. How is it a bad thing if...wait... What are you smiling about?"

And smiling he was. His smile became laughter. 



"This is why I wanted to video call. You get this intense look on your face when you're arguing a point. C'est trop mignon."

She rolled her eyes, but she felt the familiar pleasure at his words...followed by the guilt. Always the guilt.

"But you do get where I am coming  from right? Paul's words were a recommendation. A model to aspire to but not a stone clad, immutable rule to be applied rigidly no matter what the context." 

"I hear you, Gina. That makes sense, actually. I'll give it more thought."

"You do that. More Christian men need to think these things through and save their wives the stress of constantly struggling within themselves trying to figure out how to be a good christian wife"

"I guess my future wife will have you to thank, when she gets a husband who makes a good team mate."

 "Indeed she will, the lucky girl."

"And your future husband had better watch his back."

Gina burst out laughing.

"Seriously," he continued  "He won't know what hit him..le pauvre." (Poor thing)

"I should hope before he ties himself to me, he'd have a pretty good idea what my stance is on certain issues."

"He'd need to do that, yes. He should ask me. I'd make an excellent How To Deal With Gina coach. Rule number one: don't argue with her. Just let her talk and nod your head at the appropriate times. "

Gina laughed harder.

"Rule number two: don't assume you know what is best for her. Fastest way to get your butt handed to you on a platter. "

"Yup." Gina nodded vigorously. " Definitely that."

"Rule number three and the most important..." his voice softened and he looked directly into his camera so that his eyes on the screen were trained directly on her. "Love her and accept her for the person she is. Do not try to change or define how or what she has to be."

Gina's laughter faltered to a halt and she looked at his face, open, earnest and hopeful. She saw the yearning in his beautiful brown eyes, the same yearning she'd seen from the moment they had met at the Christian youth group back in their University of Buea days. Back when he'd been a geeky and shy computer science major and she the sociable journalism major. A yearning that hadn't changed in the nearly ten years they'd known each other. The yearning which remained the unanswered question between them. A question she didn't know how to answer. Not back then and certainly not now. Absolutely not now when things had changed so drastically. When she was no longer the innocent, faith filled teenager she'd been back then. When she'd seen so much, done so much, changed so much.

She swallowed. Her throat suddenly dry. Her mind racing. What should she say? What could she say? Definitely not a flippant answer. He deserved better than that. She should tell him truth. Free him from the grip of possibilities which held both of them captive. She should tell him that she is not ready for what he was offering and didn't know if  or even think she would ever be. She should tell him that the vagaries and unfairness of life had made her hard and selfish. Had turned her into a taker and not much of a giver.  Into a perfectionist with a sharp tongue. An argumentative bully who would likely exhaust him with her never ending crusades. 

She should tell him that he, whose Christian faith was such a central part of who he is, deserved better than a girl in whose heart, the fire of the Christian spirit had gone out, leaving behind in its ashes more unanswered questions and a mountain of doubt bigger than Jesus's proverbial mountain of faith. She should tell him that she couldn't conscionably agree to be his team mate, seeing as they weren't exactly on the same team anymore. She should tell him that he deserved a girl with faith like his, simple, pure and uncomplicated. A girl with whom he would have a beautiful life in Christian unity as they strove to emulate the marriage model Paul set out in his letter to the Ephesians. A marriage based on faithfilled love and trust. 

She should tell him that when she looked into their potential future, she could only see the point when he'd finally realize that his love and devotion could not and would not "save" her, a point after which he'd be sure to resent her...hate her even. 

The plop of the Skype notification sound interrupted her thoughts. She noticed then that his face no longer filled her screen. A quick glance at the icon next to his name showed that he was no longer online. Gina's heart sank and the guilt which normally simmered just beneath the surface rose up to choke her. Maybe he'd seen the answer in her hesitation? Had he hung up on her? Was he angry? Frustrated? He'd certainly have the right to be.

She sat at her desk, mind and heart in turmoil. How could she fix this without causing any more pain than she already had? 

For the third time that day the Skype notification plop interrupted her thoughts. He was back online and typing.


  • Sorry, Power failure.
  • Oh! OK. Hahaha! Nice to see not a lot has changed in Cameroon.
  • Indeed. AES Sonel holds us all captive.

A long awkward silence ensued. Tell him now! Stop leading him on! Her mind screamed. She reached for her keyboard.


  • Well, I guess I should go back to studying.

What?! Coward! Coward! Coward! Coward! Coward! Coward! Coward! Mean selfish coward! Her mind hurled the words mercilessly at her. 

For about a minute, he didn't reply.  Then he started typing. She watched the Skype pencil scribble and scribble. He typed for what must have been five minutes and then stopped. Then the pencil moved again, this time crossing out whatever he had typed.




Then the pencil wrote again.


  • OK. Take care of yourself, Gina. Bonne nuit,

And he was gone. 


Gina put her head down on her desk. She didn't try to hold back her tears. 



(This is dedicated to who it's dedicated to. I said it the best way I know how)

6 comments:

  1. LOL! I'll take that as a compliment.

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  2. Oooh! All kinds of compliments!
    Write a damn book already... When are you finishing school again?
    Let's see how much I MIGHT have to wait...LOL

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  3. School's done. And life is drama filled, so you're in a good place !

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  4. nice one, <i have always loved reading from you :)....Tiki Louisa

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Louisa :D I remember the Saker days and old exercise books Hahaha!

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