(First of three parts)
There was once a woman who had halitosis.
Her breath smelled for miles around. Well, maybe a few meters. Whether miles or meters, the distance didn’t matter because it was a pungent chemical smell, like it came from the bowels of the earth, fracked to mine natural gasses that could not be emitted, for fear of exposure, through their common channel, the ass.
At first, the woman did not mind her halitosis. She was not the only one who had it. Quite a few brethren did; in her church, but not only in her church; in other churches in the Metro; in churches in the provinces; in fact, as she discovered when she got to attend national conferences, in the whole Body of Christ.
So the woman began to think that halitosis was a normal thing.
Until this other woman came along. She had the sweetest breath in all the earth. She would be with her in seminars that lasted one whole day, when she knew that the other woman had no chance to brush her teeth or floss them. But her breath still smelled as sweet as the morning she met her.
And this even if her breakfast consisted of a chopped raw tomato and 1/2 of an onion together with her viand and red rice, with a piece or three of minced garlic thrown in whenever she felt a cold or cough coming.
Even her body smelled sweet. Darrell would be embarrassed to sit near her after thirty minutes in the sun, for she would already start emitting her secret chemicals, less pungent than her breath but more hoary.
Grace did not discard worn clothes often, for she was scrimping on the money that she came upon without regularity by God’s mercy. She would let them hang in the air for another time, another wear. Darrell noticed that because she would wear the same clothes just a few days apart, in a different combination of blouse and skirt or pants, at the times she knew Grace had no washer woman in her employ. And yet the clothes were not soiled, and they smelled faintly, ever so faintly, like ilang-ilang newly bloomed.
The difference made her admire Grace. Not to the extent of idolizing her, for she knew the perils of idolatry and thought she was keeping her mind on Christ, but to the extent of loving her.
The love that Darrell felt for Grace, she thought she bestowed on all her brethren, as well as on the masa she ardently sought to bring to the Lord. She always brought with her a big bag, for in it she thrust various candies, fruits and condiments that she would dole out to her friends when she met them, not to mention evangelical tracts for the masa she met casually on the road.
For Darrell was a missionary at heart. She had become a missionary right after graduation from Fine Arts, nevermore to practice her craft, so afire was she after being discipled by her first mentor in Christ. That one was tall and svelte and sultry, half a head taller than Grace, a direct contrast to Darrell’s stubbiness and commonness; but the discipler married a pastor shortly after, and so they grew apart.
She did not have halitosis then. Her breath smelled sweet too, in her mind, looking back.
None of her young fellow Christians had bad breath. They had all been recently justified by faith, as the jargon went, and like all young men and women unburdened by the future cares of the world, smelled fresh and holy.
Her bad breath developed as she proceeded in her decades of dedicated ministry. It was a paradox, but the more dedicated to ministry she became, the more pronounced the halitosis grew—hers as well as that of a few around her.
It was the thought of Grace that made her want to get rid of her halitosis.
So she went to a dentist. The dentist, a Christian, looked through her teeth, smelling her chemical odors even through her thick mask, which she wished were thrice thicker, cleaned them, flossed them, picked the plaque out of them, pulled out one rotten one, and then advised her to use Tea Tree Oil instead of Colgate, for she, like many others, had researched on the ill effects of parabens, sodium laurel sulfate, and triclosans.
But her bad breath continued to spew out their poison for miles around through her newly minted teeth.
Then she went to a doctor, one doctor after another. They placed her on their elevated medical exam beds, threw a linen blanket over her, drew apart her blouse from her skirt, and pressed her bloated stomach, which had seen little exercise. They all concluded that the problem was internal.
Certain that her internal problem was physical, she went to an internist, who subjected her to all manner of scans and MRIs, even poking a capsule camera into her stomach and intestine to see what was going on there. But there was nothing wrong with her cells, and he could not find in her guts the slightest cancer.
She then decided to become a piscetarian, because Grace was a piscetarian who ate neither red nor white meat, only fruits, vegetables and fish, and this, she thought, was the reason why her breath was so sweet.
In the same way she had evangelized her whole family—her widowed mother, her two married elder sisters, and her other unmarried sister two years her junior, she convinced them all to change their diet, though only she and her younger sister had bad breath.
But after months of the regimen, she would still see Grace’s nose twitch and blow air, as if coughing out her bad breath—ever so slightly, imperceptibly, whenever they talked to each other, but clearly enough for her to know that her malady was still with her.
That made her sad, but did not deter her from doing her daily tasks for the Lord. She had great faith that He would provide her the answer, and soon. For Grace made a great companion in ministry, and in her heart of hearts, she wanted her to become her ministry
companion for life.
(To be continued)