This is the question that was fired at me without warning this afternoon. It came from a child of around six or seven years, who peered at me around the corner of the desk. We were in the library, and I was sorting something out for his uncle. The child’s siblings were running merry havoc around the building – mostly dismantling displays – and I have to admit I was contemplating trying for a field goal with one of the little treasures at that point. I was just fondly imagining drop kicking one of the bundles of joys when the quiet question was posed.
It flummoxed me a little, I suspect it would make most of you at least pause a half second while your brain devoted a quick boost of concentration while it processed the question (I’m not including any of you who may, actually, be priests in this supposition). I blinked, and said “no”.
“You look familiar, are you sure?” he replied. I told him I live nearby and he’s probably seen me in the shops, but I was sure I wasn’t a priest. He didn’t look convinced.
In the back of my mind, the immortal words from Ghostbusters started to reel out: “If someone asks you if you’re a god, you say YES” and wondered if there was about to be an explosion beyond the sound of falling books from the next aisle, where his baby brother was trying to climb the shelves. There was no explosion. His puzzled face remained; and then his uncle apologised and dragged him away in the direction of the Children’s Library.
I wasn’t even wearing black today! Those who know me will recognise this as highly unusual, and I’m sorry if I’ve shattered the illusion that I wear nothing but deepest sable, cloaking myself in shadow. It just felt like a day for blues and greys. Must have been the bright autumn sunshine when I got up this morning or something. I’m sure it’s just a phase.
I’d like to think it was some incipient awareness in the child of the sacred nature of books and learning, and my role in their preservation, promotion and sharing their importance that prompted the question, but the context of the encounter suggests otherwise. Perhaps his household religion is one where only priests have beards – or in my case a sort of half-hearted goatee and associated scruff – and that’s what caused the concern. Maybe he thought I was about to lecture him from holy scripture about how he should respect the library and behave with due care and attention to those about him. That might explain the look of wide-eyed fear and awe.
Either that, or my secret desire to pick him up and tryto kick him straight across six lanes of traffic was a lot less subtle than I believed. I wish I had started channelling Hunter S Thompson and launched in to a long inventive diatribe laced with venom, vision, and violently obscure imagery to scorch the eyeballs… but sadly I was too bemused and disarmed.
Perhaps next time, I shall say yes, and see what happens.