He nestled his head into the rims of his coat and walked into the dark streets lit by nothing but lamps. His cigarette laid comfortably on his lower lip, unlit, and soggy from the rain that was pouring heavily. His dark black hair dripped water into the insides of his shirt, and his walk swayed sideways. Had it not been for the distinct smell of the first winter’s rain, he would’ve been assaulted by his own odor, a mixture of whiskey and sweat.
The cigarette refused to light, no matter how many times the fire from the lighter touched it, or how hard he dragged on it. He looked around, seeking a shelter from the rain, or risk another wet cigarette, only to find a large church on the other side of the road, with closed doors, and a large arch that extended forward enough to shelter him. He ran across the road, up the stairs, and took out a cigarette. He lit it, and laid back on the door that suddenly swung open, leaving him suspended in air for a moment’s notice. Realizing his imminent trajectory to the ground, he tried grasping the air in front of him.
His body’s thud echoed throughout the candle lit church. He lifted his neck upwards, his cigarette still in his mouth, and saw a statue of Jesus on top a platform at the far end of the church. He let out a little groan that left his lips with a gust of cigarette smoke, stood up, and closed the large doors. He shook himself like a wet dog, and jumped up and down, forcing the water onto the ground, and started walking up to the large statue.
“Why the long face, pal?” he asked.
The statue stared back with a solemn pain.
“You and me both.” he nodded back, and sat on a bench facing the suspended God, and took another drag of his cigarette.
“You can’t smoke in here.”
He looked around, and saw a priest with hair that longed to return to a pillow.
“What are you doing here?” he asked the young man. “I could swear I locked the doors.”
“I was just telling J-man I’m a big fan of his blood.”
“I’m sorry, son. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” said the priest, “We’re closed, you can return in the morning if you need council”
“I won’t be here for long,” he replied, squishing his cigarette onto the wooden bench. “The bus starts back up in twenty minutes, and it’s pouring out there. You don’t mind if I stick around for a while, do you?”
The priest walked back to the door, and pushed it closed, and turned the keys and the lock left a loud echo behind it.
“What am I saying? Of course you can, my child. Everyone is welcome in the house of God.”
He looked at the statue again, and let a bow while he sat.
“Appreciate that. Mighty kind.”
The priest walked over to the man, and took a seat near him.
“Rough night?” he asked.
They both sat in silence, and admired the statue.
“Why do you figure he did it?” asked the man.
“Sacrifice himself for us.”
“I take that you’re a believer?” asked the priest.
“Not really. Not in the whole trinity of things.” replied the man, “Just that there’s a dude that got hung on a cross because he believed in us.”
“Love.” said the priest.
“You really think it’s that simple?”
“Nothing is more complicated than love, child.”
“I can count a few things.”
The priest let out a little chuckle.
“Off the top of my head? Quantum mechanics, Chemical engineering, Theoretical physics.”
“Do you know where those originated?”
The man shook his head.
“Love of knowledge.”
They both sat in silence again, and admired the hanging man.
“What brings you here at this time?” asked the priest.
“Frankly, I’m lost.” replied the man, “I was on the right path, and in a moment of passion, I burned everything down in a burning rage.”
“I beat the ever-living shit out of my professor.” replied the man, “I got kicked out of school.”
“What drove you to such anger?”
The priest let out another chuckle.
“Was it a woman?” he asked.
“I wish it were that simple.” replied the man, “It was love for a dream I was about to live. And that monster, that heartless wretch of a man snatched me away from it.”
“What was that dream, then?”
The man let out a little sigh, and put his face in his palms.
“Wisdom.” he mumbled.
“Wisdom,” repeated the priest, “I’m bound by religion to tell you that the only way you can find wisdom is through God.”
“I only came here for the cigarette.”
“Yet here we are.” continued the priest, “I won’t tell you to seek wisdom in God. That’s a fruitless endeavor. Wisdom is rarely found, only had.”
“It should be.” replied the priest with a serious look on his face, “No school will ever give you wisdom. Only knowledge. What you do with that knowledge is where your wisdom lies.”
The man looked at the priest, and then back in front of him, into the pallid face of a hanging God.
“If you can keep it between us,” said the priest, “I’d very much like it if we could smoke a cigarette together.”
“My lips are sealed, but I’m not sure he won’t snitch.” said the man, pointing at the statue with one hand, and pulling out his pack of cigarettes with another.
He pulled out two cigarettes, and handed one to the priest, who hung it on his lower lip masterfully, and lit both. They both smoked their cigarettes in silence, and by the end, the priest went somewhere behind a door, and returned with an ash tray.
“It seems our time is over.” said the man.
“Is it? What a shame. I was quite enjoying our conversation.”
“That makes two of us.”
“What happens to you now?” asked the priest.
“I wouldn’t know.”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to tell you what I did when I was younger, when the world felt like it was a blank page ready to fill itself with all the perils that await.”
“I used to live in a small town, and often went to the fruit market, and find myself an apple. Sometimes it would take me an hour to find just the right apple, big and ripe, and sweet. But finding it was the part I enjoyed most. Then, I would take my apple, and sit up a hill, and eat it as slow as I could, and focus on nothing but the pleasures my body got from it. The taste, the crunch, the way it would find its way down into my stomach, and rest peacefully.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Nor will you, I suppose. Your apple is somewhere else. But it’s there. It would do you well to spend hours finding it, even if you’ve had the misfortune of eating a rotten fruit before.”
The man smiled, and took out another cigarette.
“He’s lucky to have you speak in his name.” said the man, nodding his head at the statue.
“And I’m lucky to speak to you for him.” smiled the priest, leading the man towards the doors he unlocked.
“Keep up the good work.”
“Bless you.” said the priest, waving to the man as we walked into the sunlit streets.