An old woman I had never seen before came up to my table yesterday and said: "I just wanted to share some good news with you."
I looked up at her and smiled, though my heart sank. How long was she going to keep me from my book? Was she going to tell me about how Jesus had died for me? But no. "I became a great grandmother this morning," she said.
"Oh, congratulations!" I said, giving her hand, which she'd laid on the table, a quick squeeze.
"My granddaughter had -- not one... not two... not three... four babies this morning! Two boys and two girls!"
I was almost, but not quite, sure that she was unhinged, and probably had no children at all, but I couldn't see how it mattered. "Oh, that's wonderful!" I said.
She beamed at me and went on her way, completely untroublesome.
Today it seems to me -- I've spent my whole life doing this, participating in stories I was pretty sure were false, in order to spare the feelings of fragile people, in order to share moments of joy that were nevertheless as real as could be hoped for. I could never in a million years have said, "nonsense, woman, you have no more great grandchildren than I do: you were just desperate for the touch of a hand. Take the touch and welcome, but go away now and let me read!"
People want, more than anything else, that you should believe their stories. I will confess here, as I will never be able to confess to anyone in the flesh: I don't believe any of your stories. Not one. I do love you, though. I wish that was enough.