God is in red dirt clods. God is in water wells, cleft palate babies, a nephew’s naming ceremony, intestines
of cousins who die young from cholera, your father’s raspy cough when he recites verses at the Koranic
school, unsympathetic schoolmasters, okra harvests, fufu dinners and mile-long walks to secondary
school. God is in your spiteful half-sisters, silent full brothers, sneaky twin cousins, and listless Sundays
when nothing seems to sit right.
God is in lorry rides, the big city’s groan, child hawkers fueling the road with starch, and street-smart men
with sly smiles. God is there the first time one asks if you want to get dinner, the second time he tells you
he loves you, the third time he clutches your hand after you take his last name, the fourth time his eyes
sparkle and he whispers, Let’s plant new seeds together. God is in your mother’s worry-creased brow
when you tell her your departure date and your forced backbone when the man you love says goodbye at
the airport. God is in the months you spend teaching English and listening to your love’s crackling voice
over the phone, insistent. This country is strange and tough. We can make something out of it.
You pray God is in America’s details. The customs officer with red eyes, your husband’s beam when he
sees you for the first time on this new soil, your awe at flashing yellow cabs and skyscrapers while you
touch your growing belly, unsure of who’s inside. There are some things you know: this baby will never
know the sight of 9-foot-yams in the fields, will never know how water tastes out of a well, will never
learn the casual tragedies of Third world living, and how to swallow suffering in one gulp. This baby will
bleed red, white and blue and pledge allegiance to a country that will always see you as foreign. For now,
you come home to an apartment with spider web ceiling cracks and a creaky wood floor. Your husband
says you’ll need what’s called a space heater in winter. You wrap your sweater tighter around you,
baffled. How does God stay here, somewhere so cold?
God isn’t in the frigid but you find him in lonely spaces, like the bathroom absent of teeming sisters. The
kitchen without an aunt behind you mortar-and-pestling, or uncle sucking his teeth and wanting more rice.
You call your mother from someone else’s landline. You tell her you think it’s a boy; something in his
kick is hardy. Future footballer, maybe. The cooking next door has you curled-up, nauseous, and anxious
for a cool hand and a chorus of familiar tongues, not the American English that cuts your mouth raw. Your
mother says everyone at home prays for you. Everyone sees God for you, guiding your spine to
something straight. Of course God is in the details. Where else would He be?
Ola Faleti breathes, writes and sleeps in Chicago. Her writing has appeared in Incandescent Mind, Moonsick Magazine and The James Franco Review, among other places. When Ola isn't writing she's eating candy or working with young minds as an 826CHI volunteer. She's very into Instagram @sweetest.teeth.