We were walking wounded that night. She has white hair, and uses a cane. She also has the neatly layered mind of someone who could either be described as “mentally disabled” or “serene.”
For my part, I was walking gingerly through a stitch of pain. A roaring charley horse had woken me up the night before. I hate, hate those. When my grandmother, bearer of nine children, said that she had leg cramps while in labor, I became more worried about that pain than all the other gore of childbirth. Maybe I’ll adopt, I thought.
At the end of this evening church service, old cane-using lady asked me if I would walk her home. What could I say? Although I try to avoid good deeds, it would look terrible to turn my back on my neighbor less than five minutes after the closing hymn, in front of all those Christians.
I followed her a ways, then we left our cars in the parking lot near her apartment building. I thought, this walk is a good thing. My sore leg needs stretching.
So I was limping, and my friend was limping. A little bit about her: she sometimes hands me a boutennaire that she found abandoned by a groomsman at an afternoon wedding, and says, “This is for you!” And she sometimes hands me a piece of candy when we shake hands for the peace. I don’t think this means my breath is bad, but to be honest, I don’t know. When I told her that one of my students had been shot to death last year, she said, “Oh, let me pray with you right now, let’s pray for his family.” She did, and I felt warmer immediately. Everyone else I told got all stiff and worried and horrified and didn’t know what to do.
She wasn’t paranoid to want an escort. The neighborhood has some crime. I told her about my charley horse. She said she would pray for my leg to heal. Now, it it sounds pretty wacky to say you will pray about things at my church. You might “keep” someone “in your prayers,” but that is about as far as we can take it. It’s the evangelicals who pray “on,” “over,” and “about” things. Episcopalian prayers are top secret. Private, encoded, and shy. Some of us are so shy about praying, we can’t do it with the lights on. That’s just how God made us. I don’t know why.
It was completely dark. The sun falls quickly in November. I wondered what I would do if someone tried to attack us. I weigh about 115 pounds, soaking wet. My friend, as I said, required an implement to remain upright. How far were we going?
She pointed out her building, half a block up, and then we rounded the corner to get to its entrance. “Thanks a lot,” she said. “Will you be okay?” she asked.
“Oh, sure,” I said. The stretching wasn’t helping my leg very much. I was still limping, limping, back to my car. There was a lady parked next to me who was rummaging through her car, perhaps cleaning it out, or perhaps looking for her gun. I pulled out of the lot.
Following the same path we’d walked, I drove past a police car. And then a police car ahead of me turned its lights on, they circled up and whisked somebody into custody. I wondered what he had done. Or if he might have done anything to us. At least God would look terrible in that scenario! Tonight at five: kindly lady, reluctant good samaritan attacked. Maybe he was innocent. Or maybe he was grateful to finally get picked up. Or maybe it was a cop’s sister’s dickless ex-boyfriend, and they were just messing with him. I drove home wondering.