Sometimes, when you read a novel, you come across a described incident you know just has to be true, because even the most inventive author could not make it up.
I will now describe an encounter I had on a five hour bus trip one weekend. It was a fairly full bus to begin with, and I assumed my tenure of being able to sit by myself would not last the whole time. In this I proved correct.
At a ten minutes stop, which allowed me to get off and stretch my legs, I returned to find a fellow in the seat beside me. Early twenties, I would guess, a tall, thin, white male with a head of blond dreadlocks. He was also dressed totally in white, and expressed surprise my seat was taken (though I had left my knapsack upon it).
Three minutes after the bus leaves, even before we are out of town and on the highway, he asks:
“Are you a Christian?”
This – generally – is not a positive ice-breaker.
I replied ‘more-or-less’, which set him aback. Asking me what I meant, I said that many people classing themselves as Christians do not follow the teachings of Christ as I understand them, so one man’s Christian can be another man’s Antichrist. He – surprisingly – agreed.
I confess to being rather monosyllabic in my responses to his religious-oriented questions, which he spread out over the next hour. He might have had an evangelical intent, but he was not insistent. He did, during his disjointed discourse, relate that he was an ‘art student’. He had some of his drawings in his backpack – might I want to see them? I demurred and he expressed no displeasure.
He did ask some other routine questions among his religious comments. Finding I was a writer he (of course) relayed a dream which would “…make a great story or book.” He planned to write it some day. He asked after my books. I expected some unwanted enthusiasm when I mentioned The Elephant Talks To God. However, after ascertaining they were ‘short stories’ and that the title was ‘To God’ and not ‘With God’ (which I now ponder might have been more accurate) he did not pursue the point, other than to find out if he could purchase the book. I assured him that he could, over the internet and on Kindle. He did not know what Kindle was.
While sitting beside me he had discussions (I interpreted) with God of his own. He did engage in heated (though muted) conversations with no one visibly present. Indeed, upon occasion, he seemed surprised at some of the comments he ‘heard’.
It was in the midst of this type of behaviour, and related to nothing I said, that he turned to me to relate this brief tale. A tale no author can make up.
He described how once he was staying with his girlfriend in Montreal. An apartment he bet he could still find if given the time. One afternoon, God instructed him to draw a picture of Christ upon a wall. The only pigment he had was his girlfriend’s nail polish. And, upon the wall (guided, you must accept, by God’s hand) he drew The Christ with the head of Alvin-the-Chipmunk. And wearing an Alvin-the-Chipmunk’s red tunic , which was often (he said) the colour of the clothes that medieval painters gave Christ.
About ten minutes before we came into the stop where we would part company, he started to engage two ladies across the aisle in conversation. He used much the same patter (though no Christian talk) that he had used with me. It turned out they were interested in seeing his drawings. He began to unroll a tight wad of papers (about the length of a roll of paper towels), ready to reach them across the aisle. I glanced. They were of nude women. Not poorly done, either.