Daniel Moloongo had an epiphany.
At 27, it came a little late, perhaps.
But, at 27, marching to his
graduation ceremony at the
divinity school in Lusaka,
the only seminary the Anglicans administered
in his native Zambia,
and the most respected in Africa,
Daniel realized, for the first time,
that he had never fulfilled
even one expectation of his own.
It is not surprising that he had
never fulfilled even one
expectation of his own,
for, truth be told,
he never had an expectation for himself.
He had, rather, faithfully fulfilled
the expectations others had for him.
Granted, these others were
important people in his life
who exerted a gravitational weight of influence
over him and the decisions which
directed his life:
His father, Chanda Muloongo,
dressed in his black suit,
black ruff and stiff white clerical collar
and his shinned shoes, nightly polished,
but perpetually dusty from the roads and paths
leading to his parishioners homes,
prayed unceasingly and praised his God,
aloud at the dinner table
and silently as he trudged along on his pastoral rounds
for how blessed he was that his son, Daniel,
would soon take up the reins of his ministry,
following in his fathers foot steps.
And Daniel, head bowed in prayer,
would brace himself beneath the impending load.
His father worked so faithfully, so fervently
while Daniel, in his own black suit and
Windsor knotted tie followed his father on his rounds
whenever he came home from the college and then,
later, from seminary.
The people of the parish awaited the arrival
of the father and the son with pride and anticipation,
none ever realizing,
not the people,
not the father,
not even the son
that the Spirit was not in him on those visits.
And, as Daniel continued his studies,
the black knot tightened around his soul like a noose.
Even then, he did not know, yet, that he suffocated.
Still, he soldiered on, because,
The Reverend Doctor Wallace Alexander,
the only white man on the faculty and, so,
of course, the Dean of the Divinity School,
complemented Daniels studies and
lavished praise on his service with his father.
The Dean was pleased beyond measure
that this devout, scholarly son would,
as a matter of course, take on
the leadership of the parish when
Reverend Moloongo, finally,
retired from his exhausting labors.
Even these two powerful forces in Daniels life
might not have sufficed to squeeze him
into the heavy harness of God,
if it had just been them.
But there was his mother, Kiteora.
She, with such joy, sometimes tearful joy,
would laud Daniels name to her wide circle of friends,
some, not even part of the parish,
some, not even (yet) believers in Gods truth.
She would whisper to them that Daniel was the
great granting God gave to her and her
heavily burdened husband.
And that Daniel would mature into even
greater strength in the Lords work,
perhaps surpassing his fathers renowned,
being called to a higher position among
the Zambian Anglican Church,
even to preach in the great Lusaka cathedral,
to travel to England, to preach, to teach,
Her dreams folded in on themselves with
the heaviness of her hope for her sons success,
so much so that sometimes, the other women
must shepherd her home, she awash in joyous tears,
short of breath, unable to take another step unless
aided by her Christian sisters,
who would sit her down, cook the supper,
place it before the Reverend and his son
and the nearly prostrate mother,
while the six younger children stared in awe at the
focus of this intense adulation,
their suffocating eldest brother, Daniel.
And even this extra weight of hope might
have been borne by Daniels will,
(had he been conscious of his reluctance).
But then, there was Thandi Onani, his Love,
who had no unfulfilled expectations left,
for all had been met in Daniel.
Her life path had led her to him and was, thus,
cleared of any obstacles to her future happiness.
She would love him, and he, her.
She would aid him in his work and
rise with him up through the ranks of the ministry.
Their many children would enjoy the fruits
of their parents love:
a stable home; never hungry as she had once been;
schools open to them for an education that had never been
granted to her for her gender and her genteel,
never-the-less, real poverty.
Thandi had aimed herself at Daniel,
going so far as to come to his home
and declare herself to Kiteora,
sweetly but firmly,
to be Daniels future wife,
then taking all his black suits,
blue and black ruffs and white collars
home with her to wash and press,
starched to the stiffness of iron armor
for his battles against Satan’s forces.
Thandi was beautiful, pious, well brought up
for the life of a humble Christian wife and helpmate.
And, like a steel spike, she drove herself
into the heart of the rising, one day to be,
first African Archbishop of Canterbury.
Her reign in England thus guaranteed.
Her ecstasy unhindered.
All her joyous expectations fulfilled.
And here stood Daniel in his graduation line,
queued up as a criminal doomed,
on his final journey to the gallows.
But all he wanted was a
He saw them every day.
Loose hanging, colorful fabrics,
round, wide open neck,
sometimes at formal occasions:
weddings; tribal feasts; funerals.
He saw them again in the newspaper photos from England.
Black men, standing, talking amiably
with white men in suits and
starched collared shirts with classic club ties
or stiff clerical collars.
Black men, in mobs, angry, fists raised in protest,
chanting some unheard slogan,
frozen on the front page of a week old London Times.
What in Heavens Name was he doing here?
Why was he waiting with all these black robed, black men,
waiting for some beginning to end,
for some middle to begin?
The chorus inside began to sing.
The line began to shuffle towards the stairs.
The organ crescendoed.
He heard the six hundred member audience
rise to its feet .
The procession, led by the Dean and professors
in their academic regalia, climbed the stairs toward the doors,
a dark hole.
Daniel knew where his Father,
his Mother with her brood
would be sitting.
On the aisle,
close enough to touch his robe
as he passed by.
Close enough for him to hear
the joyful sobs, see the tears.
He knew where the Reverend Doctor Wallace Alexander
would be sitting on the platform, watching him
with the sense of pride of accomplishment
radiating from his face.
For, at last, the great Dean
had raised the African Anglican Church
to its rightful height of power,
by his training of this person,
The grass at the edge of the concrete was cool and inviting.
Daniel veered off the walk.
The grass felt soft and damp as he stood in it,
his shinning shoes kicked off, his black socks pulled off
in a fit of freedom.
His clerical collar, like a dead white snake,
lay flat on the green grass.
His perplexed classmates called to him, urgently questioning,
as they proceeded up the stairs through the open doors.
But Daniel Moloongo,
for no explicable reason,
squat on the lawn
and inhaled a long, deep breath.