Lost in Parables

Life I'm standing in Wittards in Manchester Deansgate waiting to be served. A tall man in coat which is obviously making him sweat in this heat is new to the area and asking the clerk for some directions:
Him: Other that Waterstones are there any other bookshops in the area?
Them: Bookshops? Well there's the Waterstones.
Him: Other than that.
Them: Waterstones and WH Smith. That's it. There's a Wesley Owen round the corner.
In a benevolent move I interject.
Me: There is a second hand book shop - up by the library. Do you know where that is?
Him: No.
Me: I'm walking that way anyway, I'll show you.
Him: I'll wait outside.
I buy the gadget I've been attempting to buy for ten minutes and leave the shop. He's standing outside.
Me: I'm sure I know were it is. I haven't been there for a few years. Do you trust me.
Him: I trust you.
Me: OK.
We start to walk in the direction of the library.
Him: So do you live around here.
Me: I used to work here. I'm just here for the day.
Him: Are you. Were are you from?
Me: Liverpool.
Him: So am I.
He holds out his hand. I put my hand up to shake it and he 'fives' me. On the side. I smile jovially because I realise he's being more friendly than one might expect. he starts to talk about were he's from in Liverpool and how he's relocated to Manchester for a job, and I talk about being at the my old job in Manchester and what I'm doing now. Small talk. We pass the Wesley Owen.
Me: There's the Wesley Owen. It's a Christian bookshop.
Him: I know. I'm a Christian, but I don't want to buy any of those now. I'm looking for a cookery book.
By this time I'm looking at him sideways. My attitudes to religion are on record really. I don't talk about my own complicated spirituality if I can help it and suddenly realise that this man I'm helping is going to steer this towards the one subject I don't ever want to talk about.
We turn I corner and head up towards Manchester Town Hall, past another bookshop.
Him: There's another bookshop.
Me: Another Christian bookshop.
Him: What's wrong with that? If there are so many Christian bookshops it must mean there are a lot of Christians in Manchester.
I couldn't fault the logic. I was slightly worried by the stern tone he used. I was only steering him away because he'd already said that he didn't want a Christian book today. He seemed to have taken offence. But he changed the subject.
Him: What kind of books do you like.
Me: Whatever's around. I'm reading George Orwell at the moment [note: Down and Out in Paris and London]
Him: You're reading about Big Brother. You should read the Old Testament and New Testament. There is a lot of truth in there. That's a challenge for you. I tend to just read ....
I don't really listen to what he's saying to be honest. Suddenly this man I was showing to a bookshop because it was on my way is telling me to read The Bible. My head starts to spin as I try to register if anything could possibly have led me to that. Then I start to wonder why I'm so shocked by it -- why it feels so intrusive. Why do some people feel like they have to bring their religion (what ever it is) with total strangers who are doing them a good turn? Somehow returning the favour? Am I a bad person because I'm not thankful. I realise he's stopped speaking. I nod in recognition. We turn down the road that I think the bookshop is on. And realise I've forgotten it's exact whereabouts.
Me: It's around here somewhere.
He's wordless.
Me: It's been a while ...
Still says nothing.
Me: There is a sign on the road.
Him: Right.
I momentarily realise that yet again that my sense of direction has given up the goat when I notice a doorway hewn into a very old looking wall.
Me: There it is.
Him: There?
Me: I think so.
We cross the road and approach it. It's a green door with long glass slits in it, which looks like the entrance to a ward in a hospital. On the door is a small leaflet advertising the bookshop with opening hours.
Me: Well My God!
Him: What?
Realising the company and what I'd said I try the handle of the door by way of redirection. It doesn't work. At the side there is an intercom. I look down, and there in tiny writing on one of the buttons is the name of the shop. I press it. There is a pause, then the speaker crackles into life.
Me: Bookshop?
I ask bewildered. There is a buzz and the door unlocks. I hold it open to let my companion through and go to follow.
Him: You're coming in?
Me: I want to know what kind of bookshop needs this kind of security.
We walk down a long corridor. At the end we turn a corner and a middle-aged woman with grey hair and a green cardigan is waiting for us. Beyond her is a room filled with books. This isn't the bookshop I remembered. She's cheerful and thrusts some leaflets for the bookshop in our hand as we pass by and introduces herself. I wonder if she's had many customers that day. A glance around the bookshelves doesn't really indicate why it's so far off the beaten track as to be by appointment only I do notice one thing. All the books seem to be about theology and history (with a bit of geography). I suddenly feel like God is trying to tell me something. I panic and go for the exit as though the books are leaping off the shelves and chasing after me.
Me: I've got a film to catch.
I hurriedly say.
Her: OK.
He's explaining how we got there. I'm at the other end of the corridor again by the time he realises that I'm going.
Him: Thanks for showing me were this place is. I'll see you in Liverpool some time!
I nod with little certainty and head for the door. Someone is coming in and I hold the door open.
Me: Bookshop?
They nod at me as I squeeze past wondering if incidents like this are how parables are written.

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