I walk around Taylor Pond most days and have even begun to, uh, jog. It's more of an awkward shuffling stumble, to tell the truth, but it makes me feel manly. More on that later.
So yesterday afternoon as the sun was thinking of setting, I huffed and puffed over the dam at the north end of the pond. There, sitting upright at the edge of the spillway, preening in that final light of day, was a river otter. As soon as he figured out, perhaps from the manly rasp of my breathing, that I was watching him, he disappeared into the water. I was duly inspired, nevertheless, by this fleeting encounter with Nature. (The other Natural things that hang out at Taylor Pond either fly and poop on my car or have big teeth. I avoid them.)
For the past week or so, a young - well, youngish - woman has been out there jogging with me. Okay, not exactly WITH me, since she jogs counterclockwise, while I am a clockwise sort of guy. But we're both there together, in a sense. She is pretty, albeit a bit beefy, and her determination in maintaining her jogging schedule is therefore really uplifting. She must be wondering, I think, whether someone with such a sleek physique as this handsome youngish stranger might once have been beefy myself. Himself. Whatever.
We don't acknowledge each other on our twice-a-lap meetings. Or at least we didn't. I've been thinking of expressing my admiration for her tenacity somehow, but that would be unpardonably forward of me. So I just keep clockwising.
Yesterday on our second lap and to my delighted surprise, the youngish lady stops and flags me down. I'm thinking it's probably my graceful, manly carriage or perhaps the raffish beard I have been cultivating. Or maybe she wants to say something about my own iron tenacity being out here every day. Well, almost every day.
I stop and rip the earbuds out of my head, interrupting Freddie Mercury in mid-operatic flight. Naturally, I am able to control my ragged panting long enough to appear within my cardiovascular limits.
"Hi," she says. Oh boy, here it comes. I'm wondering whether I would dishonor my sacred vows if what she wants is just a nice cup of coffee somewhere. Perhaps an intimate, hidden-away cafe like you see in Paris or Rome. She looks deep into my eyes and continues, "Are you a Christian?"
I mean, I could use the old Marc Cohn line, "Ma'am, I am tonight," but that might seem churlish. Besides, I didn't think of it until later. A few minutes ago, actually.
Stuck for a response, I strike a pose that I hope conveys manly contemplation, as though the question had never occurred to me. Then, mysteriously I think, I shuffle quietly away. Intrigued - no doubt - she calls after me, "Don't you believe in God?" The question has its own operatic quality, one that Freddie would approve.
I mutter what could have been a prayer, given a different inflection. For the next half-lap I consider snappy responses I might use when next we intersect. "I do," I could retort, "but I don't believe in you." Nah.
Now, a snappy retort usually requires a certain sophisticated wittiness and lightning delivery. Who among us has not come tardy to just the perfect riposte? But come on, this is God we're talking about. He's been waiting 2000 years, almost to the day.
In the end, I decided to take the high road and point out that proselytizing strange men, especially youngish men who are particularly buff and manly, in a large, empty park in near-darkness, might be somehow Christian, but it was also stupid. That's it. I would put her in her place without confronting head-on those ultimate enigmas of Christian dogma.
Alas, when I came to the spot where we should have met again, there was no youngish lady to be seen. Maybe, like the otter, she had slipped away forever. Or maybe it had just gotten dark and she went home
Maybe she'll be back tomorrow. I'll be ready.