So I was sat on the train on the way home, reading my magazine and eating a sarnie, when a young chap sat next to me.
The unthinkable happened: he tried to initiate a conversation with me.
The chap started by asking how I was doing. “Fine” I replied, and returned to my reading, signalling an end to the exchange.
Did I have a good night? “Yes. Thanks.” I answered tersely, hoping he would get the message, and took another bite from my sandwich.
He continued to try to engage with me and get past my Londoner’s cynicism. I gave him nothing much to go on, as I felt a slight intuition that there was some kind of agenda behind his stilted attempts at conversation.
Eventually my nice side took over as he seemed harmless enough and I asked him where he’d been: “at a wedding”.
“In jeans?” I queried.
“It was a Nigerian wedding and I don’t have any of the traditional dress.”
And then he said: “So. I was wondering…”
“Here it comes” I thought.
“…do you believe in Jesus?”. A few wry smiles appeared from others around us as they empathised with my plight.
I dismissed him saying “Ahhhhh, I wondered what was coming. Listen I’m really not interested.” poignantly shook out my magazine and started reading again.
“The reason I ask”, he persisted “is that I’m a christian”.
And as he continued, I tried to ignore him, knowing that if I answered his proselytising he really wouldn’t enjoy my reply.
But as he went on, my resolve to spare him continued to weaken. I tried one last time to fend off his advances, but to no avail: “Seriously”, I warned him, “you’re talking to the wrong person”.
And when he said “I want you to be happy. God wants you to be happy.” I couldn’t hold back.
“Listen”, I began, “how can you claim to know what god wants? Who are you to say you speak for the creator of the universe? Did an angel appear to you to tell you what god thinks? Did he rearrange the clouds in the sky to spell out a message? Did a big booming voice speak out from nowhere?”
“God speaks to me” he interjected.
“We have a relationship” he asserted. At this point people had forgotten any pretence of ignoring what was going on and were openly staring, clearly enjoying the entertainment.
“You’re telling me”, I softened my voice “that you hear voices in your head?”
“Yes” he replied, weakly.
“If it wasn’t for the fact that what you’re saying is based on a two thousand year-old tradition, you do know what people would say to you, don’t you?”.
He didn’t manage to find an answer to this and simply nodded mutely.
Alas the train arrived at my stop, so we couldn’t continue. I wished him a good evening and stood up to leave.
As I was heading for the door a girl with a wide smile tugged on my sleeve and showed me a book she was reading entitled something like “Talking With God”, the subtitle describing the book as a psychologist’s view on such claims from the religious. We shared a giggle as I left the train and headed off home.