After about ten minutes, Joe called my cell phone. It turned out that he had the name of the coffee shop right, but had gone to their west-end location. I told him that I couldn’t promise I might not go ahead and order a coffee.
Truth is, I don’t really drink much coffee, but this place has a non-carbonated peach drink that is a refreshing change, even if it consists of about 200% sugar.
I got us a booth near the window and tried to figure out what Joe might want to talk about. He was both a church veteran and a new Christian, if you know what I mean. The discussion could go many different directions.
The two guys in the next booth were obviously regulars. You could tell it by the way the booth seats seemed to conform to their slouching as they conversed while flipping the pages of a local, small-town newspaper.
“Check that out;” one of them said.
While pretending not to have heard, I looked up to see what had got their attention, but the only change was that a family of four — parents, a boy and a girl — had walked up to the counter. These were not regulars. They had tourist written all over them, and I almost wanted to say, ‘Hey, if you’re going to visit our town, check out one of our good coffee houses.’
The conversation next door continued.
“Yeah. What’s that gotta be? Twelve, thirteen?”
“I’d say eleven. Damn!”
Okay. A few things came to mind. First, this wasn’t going to be the ideal booth to sit at when Joe arrived. The place was pretty full, but I saw a guy on his last sip in a similar booth on the other side, and if I could watch for the moment he left, Joe wouldn’t be distracted by anything overheard.
Second, I glanced briefly at the young girl. Her top didn’t quite meet her jeans. Clearly the guys at the next booth had the age right. I wondered what might happen if her parents knew that right at this exact moment two perverts were staring down their daughter. The conversation got a little louder.
“What if you knew you’d never get caught?”
“Seriously? Nobody would ever know? For life?”
“Life doesn’t give those guarantees.”
“What if God Himself promised you it would be a lifetime secret between you and her?”
The guy at other booth had gotten into a newspaper story, but moved the coffee cup off to the side. I was ready to make my move and make it fast. But first, I had endure more speculative theology at the next table.
“Well sure, what guy wouldn’t?”
“She sure is a cutie.”
Newspaper guy stood up, and as he did, so did I, swooping in like a vulture to claim the new table, sitting on the side he hadn’t. ‘Thank goodness I don’t have to listen to that conversation;’ I said to myself.
Instead, I found myself staring at the young girl and suddenly there was a voice in my head speaking like I had never heard a voice in my head before.
‘So what if I told you, you could have that girl and there would be no repercussions?’
‘Get out of my head, you stupid voice; I’m trying to get focused for my discussion with Joe.’
‘But play along, what if I told you there would never be any consequences for you?’
‘I don’t even know for sure who you are, but assuming that you’re genuinely able to make that offer, you’re forgetting that I’m married.’
‘You would never bear any — any at all — consequences. Never.’
‘Okay. I hear your offer. A fulfillment of every man’s lustful desire is it? The young girl fantasy? Granted. There would be no consequences for me. But there would be consequences for the girl. You forget there is another human being involved here.’
‘Ah! So it is. You have answered well.’
And then the voice stopped as though someone had turned down the channel on a large audio mixing board, while at the same time turning up the channel with the background sounds of the restaurant.
The girl’s father — who had to be at least six foot four — was now seated thankfully blocking my view of her completely. Had I just passed some kind of test?
Apparently Joe had already arrived, as he showed up at the booth coffee in hand while I continued with my large cup of sugar juice. Of all the topics Joe could have brought to the coffee shop that day, it turned out he wanted to talk about some career choices he was facing that might involve him and his wife moving a considerable distance.
“I keep weighing the pros and cons of each possibility;” he said, “but it’s like I hear voices in my head and I think it’s God speaking to me, but then seconds later it seems like it’s more like something the Devil would say, and honestly, sometimes it’s not totally crystal clear who’s who.”
“I know;” I responded. “Sometimes that can be difficult…”