Till today I don’t know what made me have time for Janet that day.
For a long time she had been using style to tell me about one Brother Jeremiah like that. At first it was a just random mention here and there then it became ‘you know Brother Jeremiah, nau’ until finally, maybe when she saw that I wasn’t biting the bait, she came out with ‘Brother Jeremiah is my spiritual father,’ to which I said, ‘The same Brother Jeremiah ?’ and she triumphantly said, ‘Yes!’
Now, I know that girls have all sorts of people and places they go to - we watch it in Nollywood films after all, but it never for once crossed my mind that any of the girls I lived with had a spiritual anything that they took thier problems to. Kike goes to Church, I manage a few services once every few months, and Mama remembers she’s Muslim and covers her head with a black scarf when it’s Sallah. But Janet was the least likely person, if anyone had asked me, to take any form of spirituality serious beyond exclaiming ‘God forbid’ and snapping her fingers over her head in the middle of a heated discussion. So it came as a shock when she confided in me about Brother Jeremiah and the strong spiritual things he had given her. Well, sold her, more like.
We were alone in the room but she still spoke in near whispers, looking over her shoulder as if she expected an eavesdropper to suddenly materialize behind her.
“He is very powerful” she assured me, in between digging in her box for something she had hidden at the very bottom.
She brought out a round mirror enclosed in a cheap plastic frame. It was a just a mirror like any other mirror that you can buy for N200 in traffic, but according to Janet it was a special-special mirror that Brother Jeremiah had prepared for her.
“He has prayed and fasted on this mirror,” she said. “He made it specially for me. Anytime I’m going somewhere, I just look in this mirror and the way my face is is the way the place will be.”
My amusement grew as she narrated how she had once gotten all dressed up to go out to a party where a friend had arranged a big boy for her; a guaranteed paymaster, she said. But when she looked in her mirror she saw that her face was ‘one kind,’ and she knew she shouldn’t go out that night. The spiritual warning was later confirmed when the man she should have seen that night had an accident on his way home from the party. He didn’t die, but according to her she would have died in that car with him that night if she hadn’t looked into her mirror. In my mind, the man would probably not have had the accident had she been there, had they met and talked and his timing being thrown out by a few seconds.
“This mirror that you see, it has helped me many times,” she said, “It cost me an arm and a leg.”
I counted to check that she still had her two hands and two legs and I waited for the catch. She didn’t disappoint me: She was soon telling me how Brother Jeremiah had seen a vision that she was destined for supernatural blessings, but enemies were hard at work trying to cover her star.
At this point, before she proceeded, she impressed upon me the serious need for me to keep what she was about to reveal a secret. She would not continue until I swore that I wouldn’t tell anyone what she was about to tell me. I swore because I was totally being entertained and I wanted to hear more from her that I would later tell Kike.
“Amaka, all I need now is hundred thousand to unlock my glory.”
This was what she wanted me to swear not to repeat?
“Amaka, he has done it for one girl that I know. He did special prayers for her and gave her special perfume and now big boys are fighting over her! Amaka, I have only twenty thousand remaining to give him, but this month must not pass or he can’t do the prayers again this year. That is why I said I should talk to you, because I know that like me, you, you have a clean spirit. Amaka, if you can add the twenty thousand remaining, we will both be using the perfume until it finish.”
And there it was; the catch. We spent a few seconds looking into each other’s eyes; I, with bemused shock, and she, with desperate expectation.
“Are you joking?” I finally said.
She looked hurt, and confused, and let-down, and depressed, all at the same time. She got up from the mattress where we had been sitting, knees touching, and she started pacing up and down the room, tearing at invisible things at her waist.
“Janet, are you serious?”
“Ooooh! Amaka! I know I shouldn’t have told you. This is how my life can change for better and you are blocking me. You are blocking me!”
“Blocking you? How?”
“I regret that I tell you anything. Just forget it. Just forget, you hear? Just forget!”
She then went into a long incoherent, rambling tirade over how she knew she was living amongst enemies, how they (whoever the 'they' were) had warned her, and how she wouldn't allow anyone to hold her back anymore.
At this point I genuinely became concerned for my roommate’s mental state.
She was avoiding my eyes, walking up and down the room and mumbling to herself. She seemed to be searching for something. I picked her mirror from the mattress and held it towards her.
“Take,” I said, but I couldn’t help taking a look.
I screamed and jumped off the mattress and the mirror fell to the ground and broke.
I don’t know how I got there, but I was by the door keeping my eyes on the broken pieces as if it was a snake coiled for attack. My hands were shaking terribly over my breasts.
Janet saw what I had done and let out her own heart piercing scream. She ran to the broken pieces and knelt to start gathering them, as if if she was quick enough the mirror would become whole again.
“Don’t touch it!” I screamed.
My heart was pounding so fast I knew it would soon burst and I would die there in that room, alone with Janet, and no one would know what happened to me.