Monday, September 15, 2008
It was hard to place when he died.
A minute earlier I had stood unnoticed beside him on the edge of the road.
He was waiting for the traffic lights to turn red so he could safely cross. We were not alone. Other pedestrians hovered around. It was a couple of minutes after 4 and most had the tired look of frustrated workers who would give anything to stay at home and explore the possibilities of regaining sanity. With slightly hunched backs, they clutched their worn out briefcases impatiently, their eyes focused almost permanently on the lights. The god for the moment were those traffic lights.
His rule was law. Right now his rule was red. They awaited his green.
Like them he had a briefcase as well. A worn out leather affair which sported a tiny sticker announcing ,to any who cared to read, that he was employed in those most ambivalent of jobs. Logistics and Accounting Resources.
If the tell tale wires didn’t betray him, his gentle bob from side to side let everyone in on his estrangement from this noisy impatient world. He whistled inaudibly as he listened to some song on his IPod.
He went everywhere with the IPod. I had heard him say a couple of times that it kept him sane at work. Having an IPod, he often said, made his life a lot easier.
It certainly helped killing him.
The truck roared down the road flying towards the junction. Eager to round up for the day, the driver didn’t pay attention to the traffic light as he approached. That was his first mistake. He only noticed the red light a couple of meters before the junction. He panicked and attempted to slow down quickly to correct his oversight. He slammed on his breaks.
That was his second mistake.
The truck went into a slide. Shrieking loudly it fishtailed across the road sending neighboring pedestrians into a survival run. People screamed. The air was suddenly filled with shouts of warning, shock and Outrage. He didn’t hear any of them.
Once the lights turned green he took a casually step into the streets whistling the chorus of his favorite song. He was feeling in a good mood and why not? In another 5 minutes he would have been home.
If the truck hadn’t hit him.
3500 kilos of uncontrolled metal slammed into him. The IPod was an instant victim. It shattered beneath the force breaking it into a thousand pieces which mixed easily with his shattered bone. Pain burst into his beautiful world of music. All of a sudden his image of home was gone replaced by one of flying glass, whirling surroundings and blinding pain. The force of the impact tossed him into the air like a bean bag kicked by an angry kid. There was a stream of red as he flew. His Mind barely had time to comprehend what was happening before he hit the floor with a resounding slap echoed by the screams of horror from the pedestrians. The force of the landing cracked a rib. He slid to a stop with his leg bent at an unnaturally crooked angle, he didn’t notice it yet but he had left three of his toes behind.
Oh god he silently gasped battling the streaming pain.
And then the cars hit him.
The toss has sent him into the opposite green lane. Cars swerved to avoid hitting the sprawled man but they weren’t quick enough. Three cars ran over him. Sending his body flaying across the highway. A sickening streak of blood marking his trample skid.
By the time traffic came to a shocked stop it was over.
It was pretty hard to place when he died. In five seconds he had suffered an unbelievable sequence of physical trauma. He had so many broken bones the doctors would need to have a series of operations before they could repair him. He would be in bed for months just trying to flex his remaining two toes if he had survived. But he didn’t.
He was dead.
I made my way slowly across the street.
There really was no need to hurry. Most people were in stunned shock, others had rushed over and were crowded around his body wondering how quickly they could get him to the hospital. They needn’t have bothered. He was as dead as a stone cast into an ice pond.
I didn’t say this because I could see the gaping hole through his side, or I already knew about the fractured spine which the doctors would later find. I knew he was dead for certain because he was meant to be.
It was the reason I was here.
He was the reason I was here.
I had come expressively for him. Like a driver waiting at the arrival airport I had come to pick him up.
I was his assigned escort angel.
I stood beside his dead body and watched his living soul come to terms with the suddenness of its release. After a couple of blinks his eyes came to rest on me. They widened in alarm.
“Dead?” I finished for him. I nodded my head gravely.”Yes. Yes you are.”
He scowled at me.
“I was going to say naked. Am I naked?”
I stepped back in surprise.
“Well, no….I don’t think you are. You look okay to me. A bit hairy but that’s accepted fashion in heaven.”
He looked quickly at me.
I read the question in his eyes.
“Yes.” I confirmed. “You’re going to heaven. You lived a righteous life.”
He closed his eyes with what I thought was joy. I was wrong. He opened them a second later and the fury in them stunned me. He glared at me and said in an extremely clear voice.
“What?” I gasped.
“Get lost. I’m not going to heaven. Not now at least. Come back in another 50 years. I should be ready by then.” He got up and dusted himself down.
Ordinary I would have been amused. Our celestial gowns are pretty neat stuff. It was almost impossible to get them dirty. Even Lucifer (heretofore to be referred to as “whatshisface”) was impressed with it. Thousands of years of wearing it in hell and he still looked clean whenever he stopped by for a debate. But I wasn’t in a mood to talk about the benefits of wearing the celestial robe. Not when I had a soul who was claiming he didn’t want it.
He was walking away from the accident site. I ran after him quickly. For a soul who had just suffered an accident he was in pretty good shape.
“Sir …” I began as I reached him..
“Quit that. You know my name. It’s Nnamdi.” He looked across at me “Stop being so formal. You’re an angel aren’t you? When the angels came to meet Mary they didn’t say “Ma’m you’ll be handed a young Sir by Immaculate Conception. We’d prefer if you called the young Master, Jesus. Please sign here if you approve.”
I gasped and looked around quickly.
He closed his eyes in irritation and kept on walking. I wondered where he was heading too.
“Sir...er…Nnamdi. We really have to go.” I said again.
“No we don’t. I’m not going anywhere. I already told you that.” He snapped at me.
What’s your name?” He asked.
“Mourinho.” I replied.
“Okay.” He said. “Mourinho...Fuck off!”
The thing about swearing was that it wasn’t always a sin. It was so hard to decide where exactly one placed these loud exclamations by humans. Humans considered swearing as wrong and too some extent they were right. Using the lord’s name in vain was a sin. But where did you place scenarios where people asked you to go sleep with someone. It was clearly an offered suggestion. Was it a sin? That was unclear. To decide that you had to be aware of the facts surrounding the question. What was his relationship with the person who yelled “FUCK YOU!”? If it was his wife did it make it okay? If she meant it as a joke did it make it okay? Even more importantly, if it was none of the above why wasn’t it okay. When a person yelled out the words SHIT and FUCK he was deemed to be in the wrong by humans. But in the ethereal the jury was still out on how exactly it qualified as a sin.
SHIT and FUCK were body functions experienced by every human. Why was saying it a bad thing? Most humans were offended by mouthed utterances with such words and yet they smiled and laughed when they talked about words like SEXY and MONEY. Two words that had us angels cringing in our boots over the infinity of possibilities.
What was wrong with yelling out occasional words that meant nothing really? Why couldn’t a person yell out “SHIT” when he fell down a flight of stairs? When Jesus was being crucified I doubted he whistled “Whistle whilst you work.”
It was a running debate amongst us Angels. When did cussing go from being an expression of emotion to a damnation of your soul?
“Damn you” was clearly a sin, but” Fuck off?”
How did one handle that?
“You don’t want to go to heaven.” I asked slowly. It was the first time I had come across a soul who wasn’t excited about going to heaven. Most of the time they were eager to rush home. Nnamdi was something different.
He sighed and slowed down in front of a door.
“No... Well yes. Yes I do.”
He looked at me and walked right through the door.
We were standing in a room that appeared to be the parlor. In the corner a TV was set on some local Cartoon cable channel. The room was resultantly filled with the high pitched chatter and happy notes of kiddy fun. In a corner sat a young girl. She looked to be in her late teens. Her eyes were pale behind the glasses she was wearing. Propped up against her knee, she was reading from a book. Her look was one of intense concentration.
“I do want to go. But I can’t. Because of her .I can’t leave her behind.” Nnamdi’s eyes clouded over. “She is my daughter.”
”Your wife….” I began.
“Is dead?” He finished for me. “Yes she is, she died two years ago.”
I pretended to scowl.
“I was going to say Not naked. Your wife is not naked.”
He smiled for the first time and then broke into a chuckle.
“She’s in heaven. Dressed are you are.” I said.
“That’s good. I’m glad.” Nnamdi said staring at his daughter. “But I really can’t leave her here. I’m all she has in the world now. If you take me now who will take care of her?” He looked at me quickly “Don’t you dare say Angels!”
I remained quiet and pondered the situation.
“I’m serious Mourinho. I’m not going to heaven. I’d rather go to hell than spend one minute in heaven with my daughter left behind. She is too young to go to through life alone. I’m all she has right now. You can’t take me. I’d go to hell first” He said.
There was a loud whoosh and all of a sudden fire flashed all around us. Suddenly the room was filled with the glare of bright burning fire. I could feel the soft heat emanating from his body. I peered through the fire at the new person who had just joined us.
“My name is Michael.” Angel Michael said.
Nnamdi nodded his head. His face had a stunned look. I didn’t blame him. The chariot of fire was an incredible vehicle to behold. The burning horses pawed the ground softly. Resplendent in their flaming beauty. Talk about smoking hot.
“How come you don’t have one of these things?” he asked me admiring the burning Chariot.
Angel Michael caught it and frowned. I felt like kicking myself in the wings. Blushing in front of archangel. It wasn’t going to look good on my file. He turned from me to Nnamdi.
“We’re sending you back.” Angel Michael said softly.
The change on Nnamdi face was incredible. Suddenly his eyes moistened with joy, the frown on his face quickly replaced by a radiant smile.
“Don’t be too happy. Your body is in pretty bad shape. We’ll fix your spine and hasten your healing but it’s still going to take months before you’re okay. You’ll have to walk with a limp for the rest of your life.” He peered at Nnamdi.” that shouldn’t bother you.”
Angel Michael nodded.
“That’s good then. Here is what should bother you. It’s not easy getting into heaven. Ask Moses. All that good and he almost didn’t make it. You’re going to have to work very hard to make sure you get in a second time. The demons are unto you now. They’ll work over time to frustrate you into falling. They’ll taunt you with your condition. Anything to make you falter.” Michael rubbed a hand on one of the horses Mane. “Don’t.” He warned.
Angel Michael beamed and then pulled out a parchment with an accompanying quill.
“Very well then. One last thing to do and you’re good to go. You need to sign your release form. Nothing special. Protocol you understand. Just a simple disclaimer. You are aware of your actions; you are sound of mind and in good health... of course you are. ..You’re dead. Ha Ha.”
I watched Nnamdi ass he signed whilst Michael chatted merrily.
I was moved about how much he cared for his daughter. The last three months I had witnessed acts of human sacrifices that had stirred me. I had seen men starve for their family. I had seen mothers suffer unspeakable acts of torture so they could protect their children. I had see brothers shiver so their sisters could be warm. But this… a father giving up his position in heaven just so his daughter could go through life a little happier. This I hadn’t seen. This was love.
Unquestioned. Uncontrolled. Unconditional. Uncanny.
And then it was time for him to go.
“It was nice meeting you Mourinho.” He said with a smile.
I nodded my head. I was at loss what to say to him. Goodbyes were not something I was used too.
And then I had an idea.
“Sod off!!” I said.
He broke into a chuckle, a soft rumble which grew into loud laughter. His face was contorted with mirth as he laughed really hard. He was still laughing when he vanished. I hoped his body didn’t break out into laughter in the ambulance.
“Nice guy.” Michael said. “If he survives the first five years he’ll definitely be back here.”
He tapped my shoulder and got into the burning chariot.” I’m sorry about that. Every now and then we get people who just don’t want to go to heaven yet. Most of the times we persuade them but when chaps like yours start asking to be sent to hell instead…. Well...You want to just listen to their demands and send them back in.”
I nodded my head sagely. Then a thought occurred to me.
“What did you mean by him surviving the first five years?”
“Oh nothing really. His accident was pretty bad. He’s going to need a lot of surgery before he is okay. But eventually he’ll be fine. One thing’s for sure though. He is going to be impotent for at least the next 5 years.”