If he’d crossed at his usual place, he’d have avoided her, but he didn’t, so he has to ignore her and keep walking. Talking will be fatal. Once she gets going, she’ll never stop. As it is, she starts by asking him if he’s interested in building a peaceful world, then doesn’t wait for his answer before she takes a pamphlet out of her shopping-bag and offers it to him, as if what it says is so obviously important he’s bound to want to read it. This isn’t his problem, though. What bothers him as he does his best to look away, pretend he’s checking his email, texting more chit-chat into the Great Elsewhere, is that her eyes tell him she’s seen God.
The knowledge makes him feel feeble, thin, like someone going down with a virus. He can’t remember how many years ago it was he finally voted against faith, but having done it, he knows he won’t change his mind. Not ever. So going belly-up because he’s run into some holy josephine touting for converts will shame him if he lets it happen. Given half a chance, she’ll chisel away at him right there on the street till he surrenders the life he’s built for himself hook line and sinker just to get out of her clutches and he isn’t about to let her get away with that. He knows where he stands. He’s learned it the hard way, doesn’t need a heaven to navigate towards.
God, we say, knowledge, almost meaning, but not quite. No words for what’s lost.
Ken Head lives in Cambridge, England where, until retirement, he taught Philosophy and English Literature. His work has appeared widely both online and in print, most recently in Prospero’s Bowl, a collection of his poetry published in 2013 by Oversteps Books (www.overstepsbooks.com).