From time to time I chat with a woman who I first met about a year ago. She clearly has the same fixed routine as I do because we always run into each other at the same place, at the same time; 10.45 on Thursday mornings at the little lane that cuts up the side of the railway line. I have no idea of her name but she looks like a younger Miriam Margolyes. Her English is good if slightly old-fashioned.
The first time we met she told me that she has a ‘madness in her head’ and that it frightens her. Years ago I walked around a supermarket with a very small madness in my head and remember being terrified by that; I believe that most of us are only a couple of steps away from madness in our heads. Each time we meet it’s as if she’s never seen me before and I wonder if she’s had ECT. She’s decided for some reason that I’m Italian and I think this came about because she asked me what my religion was. I prevaricated over this and so she decided that I was Catholic, thus Italian.
From time to time I spot her sitting alone on the patio at Barsos smoking cigarettes, with her Greek coffee sitting in front of her. She never notices me then and I don’t interrupt her. It seems wrong to chat away from our place next to the railway line. Yesterday we met and she told me that she had to tell me that her ‘category was Lesbian.’ I can’t remember what I said, I think I nodded and said something anodyne like ‘okay’. The cross-cultural training didn’t give me an aide memoire for this situation. She looked worried and said that it wasn’t fine, ‘it was a sin’.
‘No, it’s not’, I told her.
‘It is to the Church.’
‘But it isn’t to God.’ I said. No thunderbolts came so I confirmed it. ‘It’s really not a sin.’
‘You’re the Catholic, aren’t you?’