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Breviary by David Mohan

We met in a chat room, then fol­lowed up with a date in the city. I wore a black dress to ward off expec­ta­tions. He wore a grey undertaker’s suit. We had a nice seafood din­ner in a water­front restau­rant. He was an accoun­tant, but I didn’t hold that against him. The liquor drowned out all sense and I went home with him. That might have been the end of the sto­ry but instead of sex he asked me to pray with him. I refused. It seemed too inti­mate and too weird. Besides I hadn’t prayed for years, and prayer was a pri­vate thing. I got furi­ous with him, as though he’d tried to take advan­tage or some­thing. I felt deceived. He phoned a taxi. As his door­way sil­hou­ette slid away, I sighed and thought, a mer­cy.

I closed down that chat room pret­ty sharp. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we’d emailed once to arrange our date and so he sent me an email to apol­o­gise. It was one of those epic, too-polite apolo­gies near-strangers spe­cialise in. It was a minia­ture gospel to the uncon­vert­ed. He said at the very end, just as I sus­pect­ed he would, that he’d like a sec­ond chance with me. Some chance, I thought, shut­ting down to take my show­er and head to work. But I didn’t press delete. It had reached the stage in my life where even the inter­est of a com­plete los­er was bet­ter than noth­ing at all. I had my cats, my apart­ment, my friends, but there was a def­i­nite gap in my life. Man-sized. That evening I wrote back say­ing that’s fine, what­ev­er. That kind of don’t-care vibe. We start­ed off again, “tak­ing it easy” this time, meet­ing for cof­fee in very pub­lic Main Street joints, chat­ting a lit­tle and leav­ing it at that. He had a famil­iar story—lonely wid­ow­er, too-busy career guy, no social life. The reli­gion stuff was still freaky to me—I hate that shit in any­one. He was born again, yad­da, yad­da. My mind closed when he talked about it. I’d press a men­tal switch re-start­ing the con­ver­sa­tion. As it was in the begin­ning.

We went out for a time. Kevin. That was his name. I didn’t give the prayer stuff the time of day and I could see he was torn between what we had and what he thought he should be say­ing to me as a mat­ter of duty. These born-again folks have this end­less com­pul­sion to con­vert. He ached with it all the time we spent togeth­er. I could see that desire roil­ing in his eyes like demon vor­tex­es, but I was always extreme­ly firm about where I stood. “No pol­i­tics or reli­gion, Kevin, or it’ll spoil every­thing. This is a mul­ti-denom­i­na­tion­al rela­tion­ship.” We moved in. I let him get on with his thing and I got on with my old life—then some­times we met in the mid­dle. One day I came home and found him pray­ing with anoth­er woman. They were kneel­ing oppo­site each oth­er like angels guard­ing a door­way. I wasn’t exact­ly sur­prised. It had always been in him to do this kind of thing with oth­er peo­ple. They both stood up, look­ing flus­tered. The woman red­dened and did up the but­tons of her cardi­gan. I act­ed out, I must admit. I felt betrayed. I was a fire storm, an Old Tes­ta­ment desert prophet. I declaimed. I threw them out into the apart­ment cor­ri­dor. Kevin kept knock­ing on the door like a Bible sales­man. I could hear the woman cry­ing. For a while I sat against the door won­der­ing if I want­ed to let every­thing that lay on the oth­er side back into my life. Not to men­tion whether a shared prayer was an inti­ma­cy that might be classed as a betray­al. I wasn’t sure, and so I went into my bed­room to lie down. The clouds were pass­ing across my win­dow same as usu­al, mak­ing their own insub­stan­tial coun­tries out of vapour. I lay there for a long time and watched them. Amen.

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