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I know a man who was on a bus with his wife and infant boy; they making their way to the meeting-house to worship and it was Sunday. They were a long way from home and the locals were polite, even kind, but the couple knew nobody and they were a bit socially bewildered. It must have been around ten in the morning, there was no one else on the bus until "a working girl" got on. She was close to beautiful, dressed to allure and for some reason known to her she was in a defiant mood and planted herself immediately across from the pair who must have had: "We're going to church!" written all over them.
The youngish woman sat provocatively and the man paid attention—the truth is he could hardly take his eyes off her, and he noticed his wife also was feeling awkward. He kept glancing and the defiant woman glared and looked as if she was ready to pick a verbal fight. It's easy to understand that she might have said to the man, "You want a picture?" but she was satisfied in the meantime for a steady no-looking-away glare.
Finally the man leaned toward her and said: "I do need to apologise for staring but you're strikingly attractive!"
That took her by surprise [it took the man by surprise as well and almost certainly his wife—the only one unaffected was the infant]. But she recovered in a flash and with a quick glance at the wife and a surprisingly gentle and teasing smile she brazenly asked, "You want to see more?"
He was in it now and didn't know how to get back out. He said something like, "No, if I saw more I'd only want to see more and before I knew it I'd be completely out of my depth; and who knows I might want to meet up with you later."
All her defiance was now gone and as if the man's wife wasn't there she said, "That might not be too bad. What would your wife think of that?"
The man glanced at his wife and clearly she wasn't ready to dose off but with the change of tone and, the man supposed, with her sense of security she was handling it with composure.
"Oh, she'd hate it," the man said.
"And would that matter?" she probed.
"Indeed. I'd want her to hate it. At one level I'd enjoy being with you and at another I'd be very ashamed."
"Why on earth would you be ashamed?" she said mockingly.
"Because we made a promise to each other and she'll always keep hers and I'd like to keep mine. We think having sex is fantastic but we think there's something special about it. It's a sort of a gift you give each other and nobody else. Know what I mean?"
Maybe she did, maybe she didn't. She looked over his head and out of the window for a moment. If she had a come-back she thought better of giving it. There was silence for a moment or two and it was time for the couple to get off.
By now the tension was altogether gone and the man later wondered if it arose in the first place because she fully expected a different response from the couple already on the bus.
Perhaps, the man thought, they should have got up and moved to other seats but there was something about that that simply didn't ring true. He later said he was glad he didn't.
Perhaps he should have kept his eyes to himself; but then again maybe he was doing the best he could, given his limitations and the situation. [I don't recall that he ever tried to justify his looking or put the blame on the woman.]
Perhaps he should have just talked with her about the weather or some such thing and pretend he didn't notice how she looked and dressed and sat. Others could probably easily have done that—not this man.
In any case, as they were leaving, he turned to her, looked long at her and quietly spoke God's blessing on her.
[Isn't life a grand challenge?]