It was cold and dark. Twilight starts around half past four now, but it was a couple of hours later. I’d been in the flow of writing and had forgotten time.
I’d also decided to use public transport. It never runs according to your schedule. So like many others, I waited outside a station in the cold and dark. Some people were reading papers, others immersed in books. A few were listening to music, or just staring into nothingness.
Someone cheerfully caroused out of the hall which was decked with fake Christmas trees and artificial lights. He tottered to the nearest person. There followed an exchange. The result was negative, for he turned to the next in line.
After a few tries, he was asking someone close enough, for me to overhear: “Do you have a cigarette?” The man unplugged an earphone, then shook his head. He got a thumbs-up for being a non-smoker and a decent person. I smiled at the cadger. He smiled back. He sauntered off to try his luck with the next person.
Finally, he’d asked everybody except me. He walked up and I noticed the alcohol perfume wafting around him. Being a non-smoker, I braced myself. He said he had noticed my smile. I told him in case he needed help, I knew a place where he could get a free coffee. I was thinking of a local AA group.
No, he did not need coffee, nor a cigarette. He told me I had a nice smile. I thought his spiel could beat many a marketing manager. I told him I’d heard that one before.
Sure, he said, but by people who only notice outward appearances. He told me I was good on the inside. He talked about inner behaviour and outer behaviour. There usually were discrepancies between them. He had read a great many books. He was well-educated, and a friend of Jesus.
When young, he’d gone to church. Then he had led a wild life and ended up living rough on the streets. But in his early twenties, he had found Jesus. That was over twenty years ago. Now he had a house and was a friend of Jesus. We both presumed the other one needed help.
We talked some more. He told me he was a deeply religious person. If ever I got into trouble or needed a roof over my head, he had a bunk. Yeah, you may snigger, but he was sincere. I searched for a collar, but there was none.
I wanted to know how he’d managed to drag himself off the streets. Not many manage this. He started to explain, but got side-tracked. He had seen Jesus. Jesus was the only person who answered prayers. But: you needed to cleanse your soul. You needed to heed his commandments.
So I asked if he visited a church, or some religious group? No, he had done so while young. You went to church. They told you a story. Story finished, they asked for your money. But when you asked for help, there was nobody there. You were left out in the cold and dark. But there was Jesus and he was a friend of Jesus.
We didn’t talk sotto voce. The rest of the world waiting in the dark, looked on in disgust. We patted each other on the back. You do that, when you meet nice and decent folks. The rest of the world disapproved even more.
I handed my card, so he could call and get the address of that AA group I sincerely detest. I warned him not to head their talk, just get the coffee before and after, and enjoy the central heating in between. I’m one of their neighbours regularly forced to overhear what goes on during meetings. From what we neighbours glean, most members are there to enjoy the free coffee and central heating.
He told me, he had a sincere and deep dislike of religious groups. They talk about religion, the Bible, Jesus – but don’t understand Jesus’ true message. I didn’t disagree. People around us certainly lived up to his believes.
We both agreed, there must be some purpose in us meeting there in the cold and dark. He wasn’t sure I’d ever need his help. I wasn’t sure he’d never need the AA. He repeated there was a big difference between outer and inner behaviour. I was good inside and it shone through. I firmly believed that if Jesus had been around, he’d certainly befriended this man.
Under the disapproving stares of people convinced we were total nutters, we waved goodbye. Jesus’ friend pointed upwards to the dark sky one more time, as my bus pulled away.