I remember reading 12:40 on the clock. It was a high afternoon. I felt invigorated after a power nap. It was an hour after the church service ended.
That Sunday morning, the mood had been “okay” despite my expectations of grogginess and listlessness, since I stayed up late the night before. I wondered why my lack of sleep didn’t show on my face and I wondered why I still had energy…
It was because during that particular Sunday, there was a spark of inspiration – for Ben went to church that day. Ben, the only son of the seemingly harmless, homely, elderly couple, who used to sit in the fourth row pew every Sunday, always discreetly nudging each other, for whatever exclusive reason. I didn’t expect to see him that Sunday. I was told he works on Sundays. It was such a surprise.
“I just dropped by,” he told me. I wanted to tease him, “For what reason?” I had a feeling he wasn’t there for the church service… or the sermon… or for fellowship-with-the-brethren’s sake. No. Besides, he arrived terribly late – so late – he didn’t get to listen to the sermon. He didn’t have friends in church. He didn’t attend Sunday school, too. So what was he there for – to fetch his parents?
Ben’s parents’ faces always lit up whenever I drew near to shake their hands and to greet them out of “brotherly and sisterly” regard. It was that obvious – what with their faces brightening up. I could hardly contain my giggling and some indescribable ticklish excitement brewing inside of me.
It was one of those faces-lighting-up instances that the Apele’s managed to mention the mysterious existence of a son that they could hardly wait for me to meet. They fared to tell me, even if I was still technically a perfect stranger, that he is a male nurse at so and so hospital and that he is often sorry and upset for not being at liberty to attend church service regularly. They impressed upon the idea that he is a good son and that he has never introduced a girl to them before. They assured me that he is a perfect gentleman and such things to tickle my fancy…
“We told our son about you, you know,” Mr. Apele informed me.
I didn’t know what to say then. I mustered a smile – as it is the safest go-to response of non-experts in random conversations with older folks. I wanted to ask, of course, what it was that they have been telling their precious son… and why.
There were always smiles and obligatory greetings exchanged for the following Sundays. Until one Sunday, that is… the day I was destined to finally meet the son whom the Apele’s were so proud of.
“We present to you our son, Ben Apele,” Mr. Apele said, rather too formal in manner. What’s with the formality?
I was secretly flattered, really. But it was more of an uncomfortable flattery. How was I supposed to react? If it weren’t for the fact that Ben Apele looked undeniably appealing that day, I would’ve seriously thought of ways to veer away from the Apele radar.
After that certain Sunday, Ben began to attend church more frequently. He was always looking at me. There was always eye-to-eye contact between him and me during certain stolen instances. I feel guilty now as I admit this flirtatious exploit.
There was an attraction there – no doubt – but I didn’t know anything about the guy beyond his name and parentage. I wondered what went on in his parents’ heads, too. Why did they even want to shake my hand every after service? Why did they let me know of their son’s whereabouts and his reasons for not attending church sometimes? And why did they even let Ben and I connect eye to eye for certain stretches of time? Why did they encourage such? Did they like me for their son? Did they… seriously? In the 21st century?
Things remained like that for a long time. It simply remained like that for too long a time… Nothing happened; nothing ensued.
When my family had to move, I heard nothing from the Apele’s… i heard nothing of them, too. I never saw Ben Apele again… Ben and his appealing looks, merging with other faces in my memory bank.