IV. Skyfall

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1

Compassed About. 08-13-2012 11:51pm. Atlanta, GA.

“Have you heard of gravity?”

Gravity, gravity, gravity, the word reverberated in Nana’s mind. “Ugh yes I have. From physics?”

The beaked creature continued, “Gravity affects all men. Mankind has tried to overcome her. They have studied gravity. They have understood her laws. They have written equations and calculated the force it exerts. They do know that the acceleration of objects due to gravity is constant for all matter. They have ascertained that gravity exists solely on planet Earth and no other planet. But to overcome her? Never. Many failed attempts and few short lived successes is all they can boast of. Gravity triumphs. So a mediocre number of men are able to travel to non-gravity regions in spaceships? And a slightly larger number outrun the gravitational force by kinetic aerodynamic forces when they travel in planes? So what? Gravity still flaws every man. Planes crash. Space missions have been aborted. Gravity wins in the end. Always.” The creature gave Nana what he guessed was supposed to be a smile. It was a quick open and close of his beak and a twitch to the right.

The devil was preaching. As the thought occurred to Nana, he wondered where it came from. He looked around for a voice. None. Who was the devil? The penguin? “It’s too cold here,” he stuttered, his teeth were virtually shaking. “I’d like to go home now, thanks.”

“Home?” a wicked laugh erupted from the penguin. “How ya gonna get home?” The black and white bird sounded American one moment and then Italian the next. “Can ya fly? I’m bout to take a swim. I’m feeling some typa way.” The amplitude of his voice grew as he spoke so that his last word- “way”, thundered and echoed.

Nana was beginning to feel tortured. He turned around to look for a way of escape. All around him was ice, the sun was nowhere in sight. Blueish whitish ice was all over structures that looked like trees. The ground was ice and even the majestic tapestry far above their heads looked like it was full of ice. He could not call it a sky for it had no clouds, no sun and it seemed more opaque than anything else. Clearly he was trapped.

The penguin had huge webbed feet and it began to make its way towards an icy lake, the only thing moving in their near view. The lake moved in a jerky manner, the ice slushed around in very little water. Before Nana knew it, the penguin was gone. He lifted up his arms and wailed.

Every Weight. 08-14-2012 5:32pm. Atlanta, GA.

“What is about amusement parks that make you laugh and scream?” Sheldon’s text said. Nana looked at his phone and picked it up. Her question was random but nonetheless, he was enjoying the conversation.

He began to reply, “Well for one, it’s the thrill of the speed and for some the height.”

She responded with a simple “yeah”.

So he went on texting, “Some rides give you the pleasure of what it would be like to fly.”

Sheldon lol’ed and sent him a smirking emoji. And then a sarcastic, “Imagine that!”

Though her response was in jest, Nana couldn’t help but at that moment envision himself as the newest two-winged wonder shooting up into a baby blue sky. Childish he knew it was but the mere thought made him feel a bit of superheroish. He beat his chest and laughed. Now what was this girl getting at?

Her next text message felt awfully suggestive, it read: “Speaking of amusement parks, Nana. When are we gonna get to go to one together?” How old was she, for heaven’s sake? Who did she think he was? Her father? Nana was rolling his eyes in amusement. He had no plans of taking any girl to any park. He couldn’t tell if Shelly was being flirtatious or just childish.

“Shelly, whenever you want.” He did not mean the answer he sent one bit but what did it matter? He wanted to prevent the situation from looking awkward. The conversation went on and Nana made sure to reply her messages as soon as he saw them till he took a bathroom break.

On returning to his room, he picked up his phone to see what Shelly was saying now. “I gotta come over tonight so you can help me with my paper.” Nana did a double-take. No she did not say that! His heartbeat rate sped up immediately. He had been sitting at his desk trying to write a paper himself. It was due the next day at noon and he was almost done. He just needed to edit it and make sure it was in perfect shape to get an A.

Nana Brandful was a talented student. He was naturally good at almost any subject he tried. His friends knew this. So they studied around him, when they had the opportunity. But Shelly? He didn’t have a single class with her. He had only met her two weeks ago at a career event when they sort of bumped into each other. He had dropped his resume and she had politely picked it up for him. She introduced herself and they exchanged numbers. He would have completely forgotten about meeting her but she had called two days later and two weeks later, this was them texting back and forth all day like neither had lives to live.

“You got it. At your service :)” Nana’s conscience screamed at him for sending an affirmative response to this woman he barely knew. But his blood was already warming to the idea of having a woman around in his room, even if it was only to give her academic help. Shelly was a stunner. She was funny and lighthearted and down-to-earth. God knew he needed the company. He was tired and sort of bored. He had a room to himself and it was a Tuesday night. All his friends were busy with their own studies. He had a sermon by Bishop D playing from his computer. He turned it off, pushed away from his desk and sank down to sit on the hard wood floor of his room. “What time can you come?” He lay down, letting his back touch the ground and his thoughts drift to Shelly, her smile, her laugh, her eyes. The back of his head could feel the cold surface. He couldn’t wait to see her. Wait, what? He shook his head. Where was his mind going? Her body? Naw, he needed to think clearly, cleanly, purely. “Fight, Nana, fight.” But his little self pep-talk did not do much to redeem him, a fleet of lustful thoughts had landed in his mind and it was offloading its baggage. It was a lot of baggage and most of it, overweight.

***

The next morning, trickles of sunlight forced round the blinds to make their way into Nana Brandful’s eyes so he could wake up. At least that was the way he saw it, since it was only 7am and the unfortunate positioning of his bed made it impossible for him to stay in bed past sunrise. He moved and tried to push his legs under his sheets. He felt, what could only be another leg. Shaking his head and rubbing long strands of dark hair (which clearly could not have come from his head) from off his eyes, he squinted and tried to make out his surroundings. His vision was blurred. His glasses were not close by. Ugh. There was a body next to him. It was breathing softly, heaving slowly, and as he stared at it, he remembered the events that took place the night before. He sank back in bed and snuggled closer to the woman in his sheets. She breathily mentioned his name, her eyes still closed. “Go back to sleep,” he replied with his mouth half-shut, fearing his morning breath. He needed a shower, the stubble under his chin needed a trim and so much else. But it could happen later. He couldn’t tell when “this chick” (what was her name again? he couldn’t recall right then) would want to leave his room, he wanted to maximize his time with her.

“Nana! Get up!” His door was being banged on. Where from this racket? He shoved his head under his sheets and clamped his hands on his ears. No. He was not going to be woken up. He hated being woken. Shelly woke up right then.

“Nana,” her New York accent offended his ears that morning. “Nana, someone’s at the door.” Telling him the obvious only irked him further.

“Ugh!” he flung the sheets off and stomped to see who it was.

He pulled on a shirt over his boxers while grabbing the door and stepping behind it. Behind the door was his good friend, Andre. His Caucasian friend was dressed in sweats and looked like he had just woken up himself. Andre lived two doors down and usually came over to hang, study and borrow stuff. Rubbing his eye, he began to shove Nana out of the way and into his room. Nana quickly shoved back.

“What took you so long?” Andre was not in the mood for an explanation even though he was asking. Nana gave him a look that Andre knew pretty well.

“You’re kidding me?” His friend began to laugh and cough at the same time so it seemed like he was choking. “Alright I’ll lay off. I need your Psychology homework and later in the day details.”

“Yes sir, later.” Nana replied somewhat forlornly with a form of fake submission. He hung his head as Andre stood looking at him.

“But what’s wrong with you? Why would you? Didn’t you just get back from whatever-you-call-it your conference thing man? Who is this woman?” Nana tried to hush him up in case Shelly had woken up and could hear him.

“Later.” Nana’s tone clearly meant the conversation was over. Andre shrugged his shoulders and lifted his arms in a way that said “oh well”. With that, he walked sleepily to his room.

Nana’s room swam before him when he stepped back. Sleep was still luring him. The woman in his bed barely stirred. His single dorm room was such that his bed faced the door and was the first thing one saw when one entered. His desk was on the left side of the room, perpendicular to his bed and on the other end was his closet. Nana headed for his bed and slipped in. He needed to fall asleep before his conscience kick-started and began to bug him. And besides his eyelids, they were heavy.

Easily Beset. 08-18-2012 7:24am. Atlanta, GA

Nana Kwesi paced up and down the five feet that his room allowed him; he was doing just one thing. He had Hillsong’s Aftermath playing on his computer speakers but he was not merely listening to the music and worshiping, he was speaking in heavenly tongues. He barely stopped to take a breath. He flung his hands up, left them lifted for a few minutes and then dropped them down. His voice was loud although his tone was gravelly. It was seven in the morning and he had no idea how he had woken up this early. His first class was at eleven and he had slept for a bit over five hours but his body felt strong and refreshed. This was unusual for him. He was still in his nightclothes and quite sleepy. Nevertheless as he prayed he felt powerful. His steps felt heavy as they landed on the slightly cold hardwood floor. He clapped his hands and increased his momentum. For those few moments, he was a giant, only spiritually. Physically, he was five feet eleven, far from giant status. His pride in his physical ability rested in playing football for his high school but nothing more. He touched the knob of his door and gently pulling it, continued speaking in tongues. The empty hallway made his voice bounce off the walls a bit. He stepped out and kept praying. Nana was not loud enough to wake up anyone but he was loud enough to be heard by a passer-by.

The words leaving his mouth were not discernible by him. The sounds did not resemble any language he had heard in his lifetime. Yet they flowed right out of his lips and he made no attempt to stop them. He was not ashamed of how he might appear to someone who met him in the hallway, babbling meaningless words. He was speaking to himself and to God. He always reasoned in his mind that people walked around seemingly speaking to themselves these days while they engaged in conversations using their phone’s headphones anyway. And if they thought he was beside himself, he would be fine with that too. He was only walking down the hallway to use the water fountain. Once he got his water, he returned to his room. And upon entering his room, he stopped to stare at his reflection in the mirror behind his door.

Ugly. The word seemed plastered right on his forehead in his reflection. He gave his reflection, a plastic smile as though to appease it. “You’re the farthest thing from photogenic,” it seemed to reply. Nana stood there, his lips still going as his spirit prayed. It was not that he wrestled with the man in the mirror. The man in the mirror paid him respect, and pleased his eyes. It was just every time he took a picture that his faith in his looks was shattered. He turned from the image of himself which he had now come to believe had to be deceptive. It was a wonder to him how any girl could like a guy with his looks. His nose was too flat. He wore contacts to see and glasses sometimes. His complexion begged for dermatological care. And his hairline seemed to be receding with each haircut he got. He was not tall with broad shoulders (which was what most girls liked). His attempt to wear caps or dark shades just never quite did it. He was simply not good-looking. No, you look handsome. But he knew he wasn’t. The thoughts filled his mind and forced to choke the good feelings he had had from praying just a few minutes ago. His lecture was in two hours but he was no longer in the mood to go to class. He flopped on his bed and lay still. For a minute he remembered Shelly and groaned. He would need to tell her he could no longer see her. Or talk to her for that matter. She was bad news. Messing up his walk with God and all. The night after he had seen her had been pure misery. How had he even agreed to see her in the first place? Nana sat up in his bed. He had refused to turn away from God just because he felt sinful. If they thought sin would separate him from his God, they were wrong. He would fast, he would pray, he would fight till his flight, he would do whatever. Shelly was no idol. If giving her up was what God wanted, so be it. He folded his hands and sank down into his bed again. He liked her though. But what did she even like about him?

“Probably my GPA.” He spoke to himself out loud this time. It was the truth and it hurt. Shelly would only come over when she needed academic assistance. And she had him fooled thinking she was interested in him. He had stopped praying. He needed to sleep. He needed to forget everything. What better way than to bury himself beneath his sheets and count sheep till the Lord gave his beloved sleep? In the next few minutes, Nana Kwesi Brandful was in deep slumber not to be awoken by any noise or alarm till the next four hours.

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