I must have seen him with my face looking down as I dialed a number on my cell phone. The reason is because I interrupted this activity and raised my face for no apparent reason. That is when I beheld his hideous face as he floated past where I was standing. His long strides matched his tall thin body, with shoulders hunched under a gigantic jacket. I looked at his eyes and held his gaze for as long as he could hold mine before his fluid movements forced him to change the direction he was looking. In no time, his mammoth jacket embroidered with a colorful red, blue and white flag at the back blended with the clothes of other passers-by and he was gone from my sight.
When I got into a bus a few hours later, he was already there. That is when I believed that my nightmare had begun in earnest. He was seated and saw me at the exact moment that I saw him and once again, our eyes locked for a brief moment. Though there were many empty seats, I walked over to the empty space next to him and sat without a word. He looked straight on and I began my inspection by observing his thin long fingers with clean neatly clipped nails extended from where the sleeves of the jacket ended. The fingers were entwined over a book whose title they obscured.
When the bus started moving, he relaxed his hands and I saw part of the book’s title. It read; “What on earth are you doing here?” He must have bought it that day since he turned it over, read the summary on the back cover and then proceeded to open its new pages to look at the table of contents. The book promised to answer the question of the significance of his existence on this earth from the Christian writer’s point of view.
I sneaked a sideways peek at his face several times during the ride. Each time, I would end up looking for longer than one of my friends would consider polite. The face was unusually narrow between the sides, as if it was once flattened and failed to spring back to its original shape. He had a very sharp nose, pronounced eyebrows, small mouth, pointed chin and long thin neck with an Adam’s apple that was guaranteed to keep the doctor away for a lifetime. The skin on his face was covered with tiny uneven craters all over, giving the impression of a close up photograph of the surface of a chocolate colored moon. Strangely I did not feel at all remorseful for staring and analyzing his disfigured face in such details.
When my turn to alight from the bus came, I gave him one last sideways look and walked towards the door. Obviously he was looking at me as I walked along the aisle and I knew exactly what he was thinking. He was battling the strong urge to follow me and fulfill his appointment with destiny. Up till this moment, I was so calm and detached, as if watching an ordinary scene from a movie I had seen before.
As I reached the other side of the road, I could hear the noise of the bus engine peak as it began moving again. I breathed a sigh of relief and told myself that somehow, the man had managed to cheat his fate. But wait! My heart sank as the bus slowed down to a halt almost immediately. I knew that the man had stopped the bus in urgency and was alighting at that moment. I immediately began to sweat and my heart pounded in my chest as I hurried away in a panic.
In my mind’s eye, I could see the man with the unusual face step over the curb and into the road with determined steps as he tried to catch up before I disappeared round the corner. I urgently implored quietly, “God! Please do not allow this to happen!” all the while knowing that my prayer was futile. I braced myself and willed my ears not to hear the sound that was inevitably to follow; screeching car tires, alarmed sounds and screams and two thuds, followed by wails of anguish as another life was lost on the road. The unfortunate man with the disfigured face was dead.
I had to prevent myself from falling and I groped unseeingly until I felt my hand come into contact with a rough stonewall. I was just in time since at that moment, the familiar heat washed all over my body and suddenly the day became exceedingly bright. This overwhelming feeling stripped me of all awareness except for a wooly lightness in my head with my ears registering muffled sounds and a strange continuous ringing. I imagine that this is how it would feel like if I were on the verge of losing consciousness under water on a sunny day in a pool crowded with swimmers noisily enjoying themselves.
I do not know how long the hiatus lasted for I found myself slouched against the wall with my wet face pressed against my arm. To an observer minding their own business, it would look like I was throwing up against the wall and mistake the sobs that shook my body for retches. But then, they might not know how horrifying it is to realize that once again my nightmare had come true in my waking hours.