“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers— Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.”
I feel like a contortionist. I have been squeezing my body at different angles just to be comfortable in this miserable airport chair. A snort snaps me out of my fitful dozing. I resist the urge to glare at the child laughing at me. I guess I looked funny with my head hanging at an awkward angle while nodding in my fitful sleep. I ask the woman sitting opposite me to help me watch my hand luggage as I was going to visit the rest room. The cleaner looks at me with disdain. I roll my eyes at her. I know why. I look like a “runs girl*”. First, my braids are blonde at the tip, and they are just below my buttocks – that long. I have multiple piercing on my ears and I am wearing my ankle chain and my toe rings. Toe rings are not obvious as I am wearing shoes. My skin is bleached – well, I don’t think I am ready to stop soon. And I have a tattoo on my ring finger (as per Emilia Clarke for “Me before You”) – tattoos on bleached skin are very obvious. I fixed my eyelashes and my nails. What else? Oh, my fingers are covered in knuckle rings, and my wrists are buried under my bracelets.
I have roughly one hour before my flight. I look at the mirror and take a deep breath. I notice the cleaner still eyeing me. I tell her, ‘Jesus loves you’ and see disbelief slip into her eyes. I throw my head back in laughter as I exit the rest room. When I get back, the child who was laughing at me was in my seat. She catches a glimpse of my tattoo, but not before her mother drags her away from me. I settle in my seat and continue with my “Atonement Child” by Francine Rivers. I never mentioned that I was addicted to romance novels. I used to do erotica heavily. I have read fifty shades for the umpteenth time. But they were an impediment to maintaining my self-imposed chastity so I had to let them go. Then, the problem with romance novels is that they affect the way you see real life romance. And I had a problem because I began to compare my real life male friends to the standard in those books, and they fell short each time, but I couldn’t stop. So I am replacing my secular romance with Christian fiction and romance books. I am so hooked on Francine Rivers and “Atonemment Child” is deep. But it is not keeping me awake in this airport. I throw the book into my bag in frustration, relax on my seat and try to fall sleep. That child snickers and I pretend to glare at her. Her mother shoots me daggers.
The announcement from the speaker interrupts my sleep. I change my position, without opening my eyes, and continue sleeping. The announcer repeats the announcement. For God’s sake, can I sleep? I reach out for my bag to take out my ear muffs. I feel nothing. That’s when I open my eyes, and see Philip looking intently at me. I tell myself loudly, ‘this is not real, Mario. This is just an image of Philip. This is not really Philip’. The image of Philip laughs and when he takes my callused and ugly hands into his soft palms, I know that it is real. Unaided, the tears begin to fall out of my eyes.
‘I am so sorry Philip, about getting drunk, and misbehaving, and embarrassing you.’My voice is barely audible. He lets go of my hand. He keeps staring at me. I can’t bring myself to look at him. I place my hands on my lap and keep examining them. It is a long and awkward silence.
‘Please say something, Philip.’ He is just there with this intent stare on his face. ‘What time is your flight?’
He shakes his head. ‘I am not travelling.’ I wait for him to say more. ‘I had to see you before you left.’ He takes my hands again. I hold his hands. They are so soft and beautiful. I lift his right hand to my right cheek and close my eyes as I heave a contented sigh. I open my eyes to his admiring gaze. I tell him, ‘you are so beautiful.’ He averts his gaze.
‘You don’t know how sorry I am.’ He removes his hand from mine. ‘I do. You tried. You stopped calling when you noticed I stopped picking your calls. I looked forward to your messages. It made me happy to know that you still thought about me. But I was scared about my feelings. They were so intense. Even that day when you were drunk, I was upset, but I found that I wanted to be the one to take care of you. I wanted to be the first person you would see after you became sober. I wanted your problems to become mine so we could find the solution to it together. I wanted to gather you up in my arms and protect you from the storms in your mind. I wanted to do so many things to you and for you that day. And I was angry because I was supposed to be upset and not be feeling any of those other things.’
I blink in disbelief. Is this a formal declaration of love? He raises my chin with his index finger. ‘Believe me, Mario. I went home and thought I would forget you. Each step I took away from you bled my heart. So I began to pray. I prayed to God for you. No offense – at that point, I thought you came with a lot of baggage. So I prayed to God to save you, and help me forget you.’
I hurriedly clean my tears. ‘It is fine, Philip. I understand.’
He puts up his hand to interrupt me. ‘You don’t get it? The problem is, I still want those things. I want to serenade you until you fall asleep in my arms. I want to watch you blossom in God by my side. I want to laugh with you and cry with you. I want to love you like Christ loves us, his church.’ He holds my right hand to his chest. ‘Mario…’
I shake my head.’Philip. Please.’ He smiles sadly. ‘I will wait for you. I love you Mario, and I am tired of fighting it. I am tired of fighting you.’
The announcer calls my flight. My heartbeat is erratic. I can’t breathe. It is like my birthday over again. I gasp for air. Jesus, are you there? I need you. Philip takes me in his arms. ‘Abebi? Abebi?’ When he gets no response, he rocks me gently back and forth, telling me to breath, telling me he loves, telling me that God’s plans for me are plans of a future and hope. He tells me that God gives perfect peace to those who place their trust in him. My breathing returns to normal, and I begin to cry. ‘Philip, I don’t know what to do.’
He smiles at me. ‘You don’t have to do anything.’ He looks towards the sky. ‘Let Him lead you.’ He releases me but not before he presses a long kiss on my forehead. ‘I will wait for you.’
*A ‘runs girl’ refers usually to a female undergraduate student (or a young woman) who is sleeps with politicians and business men and other members of the high society for money.
Thank you for reading till the very end. Mario’s story has a special place in my heart. (I will share the reason with you later.) Most of the bible verses I quoted are an integral part of my experience for the first half of the year. Most importantly, Mario’s big question is a question many of us ask ourselves daily, ‘What am I on earth for?’ And now, has Mario’s question been answered? What do you think? What could she have done differently?