1.12.2014 Journal Prompt

Image from Dutchman
Image from Dutchman

January 12, 2014: He didn’t see her.

One Reply to “1.12.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. I don’t believe in God. No bearded old man in the sky, impossibly wise and all seeing, and he looks down on me and on you, and he frowns when we are bad and smiles when we are good. Not one with many arms all waving in the air or a belly as bold as bulbous brass or the head of an elephant or a sun. Not any god or his water-walking son with the miracles of Lazarus or loaves and fishes. But I do believe in angels.

    Not, of course, the kind that are seen in paintings or films. Not all wings and trumpets and holy voices. But angels nevertheless. And they are put here on this earth to do good deeds – well, not exactly ‘put’ for that suggests a god, but here walking among us and performing scarcely observed miracles. They reach out and are tender and it is the offer of such tenderness that saves those they touch. It is not a mission exactly, like that scruffy John Travolta in the archangel film; and they are not appointed to save this or that troubled soul. It is altogether a more random happening than that.

    A man steps onto a subway train. He is careless of how he looks. His hair is windblown and his shirt untucked and his eyes are staring. He clutches the torn scrap of a woman’s scarf. It smells of soap and flowers. His breath comes quick and snatched, as though he has run a hard race, and he is talking to himself in breathless whispers, and he could be praying or making confession except that no one is listening – no god or blesséd priest. What manner of wrong he has done exactly we do not know, great or small, but we can see the turmoil in his eyes. He looks over his shoulder, a backwards stare, waiting for time to catch up with where he is.

    On the train with him, but separate from him, is a girl. She is an angel, though she does not know that she is – they never know. The man does not see her and she does not see him, or if she does then she does not see the pain he is in. On the subway angels are just like the rest of us, and they fix their eyes on the names of stations already visited and stations still to come, and they count the stops till it is their stop and they look far off so no one sits beside them. It would take something for them to meet, this angel and this tortured soul – a sudden stopping of the train perhaps and he stumbles and falls at her feet and she reaches one hand towards him to help him up again. Or the watch at her wrist has stopped at a little after one and she thinks she might be late so she asks if he has the time. Small ‘acts of god’ or chance, and that’s all it would require.

    But though an angel and a sinner came so close, touching-near, it is not necessarily enough to save him. In the newspaper the next morning a picture of a man face down in a dark street and blood like ink leaking from a hole in his head, and here is a man unsaved and it is this same man who holds the scrap of a woman’s scarf.

    And what is not in any paper, nor ever will be, is the small act of tenderness performed by the girl on the train, the act by which we know she is an angel. Nor is there any notice taken of the difference that she makes and a man stands a little taller and a little straighter because he has been touched. And I know this for certain because that godless man is me.

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