“I’ll give you the brief version. My parents had 4 children and we were all devoted, fervent Christians; but our lives were not better than those who were not as faithful as we were. Two of my siblings died before they were 18, the other – a girl is a drug addict and a streetwalker. Like in Job, I alone am left.”
I looked intent at him – partly wary of him telling me long tales, partly shocked beyond words.
“Why would I lie?”
“Good God, that is so tragic. I’m so sorry -”
“Ha, that is life, my sister, C’est la vie. It is life, not God, not Satan –brutal, vengeful life.”
“Where are your parents now?”
“ha, see me, telling you my life’s story…huh” He smiled.
“Well, you’ve begun, you might as well finish it.”
“Mum’s dead; diabetes and grief got her. Dad and I are estranged, he still believes. That bit about ‘though He slays me, yet will I serve him’ appeals to him, apparently.”
“And you think he’s wrong, I guess?”
“Well, there are people in this world who still believe the earth is flat, so yeah, he’s got company.” He grimaced, as if something sour just passed through his lips.
“I get where your disbelief comes from; I do. But I’m not sure all that validates it.” I knew that came out harsher than I wanted it to when I saw something drop in his eyes – something coloured like hope, and I immediately wanted to take my words back. “I meant…”
“Don’t worry, I know what you mean. You are not the first religious person to trivialize my life.” He turned away.
I wanted to repair this, but he brought out his earphones, plugged them to his ears and reclined back on his seat with his eyes closed.
I tried to go back to what I was reading, but it was useless. Guilt racked me.
We pretended to ignore each other for a long while, but as much as I tried reading the bible, I could not concentrate anymore.
His beautiful face played about my mind. His words, desperate in their appeal, tugged at my heart. When I could not take it anymore, I tapped his arm.
He turned to me, let our gaze lock for a few breathless seconds, and then he removed his earphones.
“The Prodigal preacher.” He said.
“I’m sorry for offending you. It was not my intention to do so.”
“I know, but you religionists offend anyway. Perhaps, religion is by its innate nature, offensive.”
I said nothing, looking away to calm the bitter retort that was about to fly out through my lips.
He must have noticed by attempt to calm myself, because he giggled, held my shoulder and whispered a playful sorry into my ear.
I budged his arm off my shoulder. “Where are you going, as in your destination?”
“Nowhere…just travelling around the country, and getting paid for it”
“Nice, I envy you – “
“You could join me, if you like. Leave all duties and responsibilities and fly with me.” He said snickering and half-serious.
“Awww, I’m so tempted by the kind offer, nut I must refuse sha, got miles to go and promises to keep.”
“Frost, right? Robert Frost?”
“Yes, keen literary sensibilities you’ve got there.”
“Let me guess, you studied English at school?”
“Ha, who says I must study English to know a simple poem, ehn…anyway, you came close sha. Just finished school with a degree in Literature & Performing Arts, going for my service now sef.”
“I sensed it – the NYSC part.”
“You sensed nothing jor.” I joked.
“Seriously, I did. You have this idyllic situation going on about you…and a lot of nervous energy. So I calculated you were going this far for the first time, and not willingly. It had to be a job posting or youth service.”
I laughed. “Good deduction.”
We gathered our thoughts for a minute, silently.