Part I — return to the newly re-opened coffee shop.
3:0.0. pm Sunday afternoon, the only available tables — if you can call them that — are thin wedges sticking out from the wall above tortuously skinny benches, two to a side in the far back of the shop. I take the one on the corner. Across from me a man, professor-age, runner-thin, wearing chinos and a pressed polo shirt and wire-rimmed glasses edits a paper. (I can tell he’s a scholar because the paper has no paragraphs.) We ignore each other. I pick up my book in one hand and my latte in the other and settle in.
The wedge table farthest back is situated where the side bench and the back bench come together to form a space tailor-made for a very small person. A very large person appears: a man in a rumpled summer suit and white shirt, wearing city shoes and carrying a briefcase. He has a huge head of wiry hair like a dark Brillo pad and sports an at-least-three-day-old beard. He squinches himself onto the side bench, fishes in his briefcase for a pair of thick plastic glasses and a cell phone, and with his head bent nearly to his knees, begins to scroll through.
Part II — the alien.
A cicada appears and begins a leisurely stroll across the back bench. The Big Man lifts his head and freezes in place.
Aren’t they beautiful? I say.
He looks askance at me.
I think they are beautiful, I say.
The Big Man leans closer to the back bench and peers at the cicada.
The Scholar, looks around, stands up and says,
He’s on his way to die.
The Big Man looks askance at him.
Yes, says the Scholar, they only live a day or two, they have a very short life. They come out for a brief span of time and then they die.
Like us, I say.
The Scholar rears his head like a startled pony.
Well… uh…yes… he says. I suppose so. I mean we’re mortal.
He collects his computer and empty cup and walks away.
By this time the Big Man has gone down on one knee on the floor and is studying the alien being even more intently.
They don’t bite, I say. You can pick him up.
The Big Man hoists himself back up on the bench and says softly,
To tell you the truth, I’m afraid of him.
Part III — contact.
I open my purse and take out a flattened paper mask. I walk over and place the mask in front of the pilgrim cicada, who has almost reached the far side of the bench. Compliantly he steps aboard. I turn to the Big Man and hold the mask with its passenger closer to him. He leans in to look at the red eyes of the visitor.
I place my hand next to the mask edge and the cicada walks onto my fingers.
The Big Man doesn’t meet my eyes, but slowly, shyly holds his hand next to mine and the cicada walks onto his hand.
From somewhere deep within the Big Man,
who knows from how long asleep,
A boy emerges.
RoMa Johnson, MA, MDiv, has been writing and teaching on various topics of Celtic and World Spirituality for more than 20 years. She recently collaborated with Philip Carr-Gomm on The Seven Valleys. RoMa is the founder of A Coracle Foundation, whose mission was to provide travel funding for individuals for Spiritual Pilgrimage. During its time of operation, A Coracle enabled 45 persons to make their pilgrimages to over 15 countries on five continents. RoMa lives in Princeton, where she enjoys working with aspiring writers and spiritual seekers.