I wander the beach in thoughtful solitude, allowing the sand and waves to pull my world-weariness through the soles of my feet. I had invited you to come, but you chose to stay in bed. I don’t mind. You have your spiritual practice… I have mine.
Later we might take a walk in the city, sit at a cafe and say a gentle prayer of thanks. Later, I might sit in the park and meditate, while you watch the passersby and smile at the sky. Later we might visit your favorite church, light candles and drop to our knees…
It doesn’t matter, as long as we walk this path side by side.
She reaches out to take the offered dollar and our eyes meet for the first time. In them I see a jaded wisdom, far beyond the age her small frame carries. My years of privilege crack and fall away, piling like dust at my feet. I’m embarrassed to be standing in it, even as I take in her dirt-covered face and clothes. We’ve somehow become equals.
“I-I’m sorry,” I stammer. I know she sees through me and I wish I could cover myself somehow, but my ego stands awkwardly beside me, offering no help whatsoever.
The young girl gives me a small smile and I see her two front teeth are missing. For a moment, I forget myself, lost in the aching of my heart.
“What else can I do for you?” I blurt and with the question, I place all of my sadness and discontent on her lap. I’m asking this child for a solution to her situation and mine. I’m asking her to fix all of the suffering in the world. It feels ridiculous and I beat myself up inwardly for speaking but the words and intentions are out there already, beyond my control… And so I wait for her humbling response.
You know that little spot in your heart that just won’t heal? That’s a remnant of the pain you caused me when you broke my spirit. It lives because you pretend it doesn’t exist. It won’t die because you refuse to show remorse.
Do you want to know about my heart? My heart is whole and beating on time. Do you know why? Because I can love and be loved. Love healed my heart and made my spirit whole. Love sets us apart… Until you make a better choice.
She spent all of her days trying to measure up. She had to be the best student, the fastest runner and the prettiest girl in school.
When she grew up and graduated, she fought to be the best in her field. She hit the gym daily to stay young and trim and made sure to put on the exact right amount of makeup. She was a vision of perfection.
It was easy… At first… but every year, the game became more difficult to win. The first plastic surgery was the hardest but it got easier and easier. Sometimes she didn’t recognize herself anymore but it didn’t matter, as long as she looked good.
She had to look good. It kept the judgements at bay. It made her worth taking to. It made her worth listening to. It made her good enough to belong.
Cara steeled herself for the pain she knew would come when he opened his mouth. He was about to reject her. She had been expecting it from the beginning.
Their whirlwind romance was marred by her insecurities and fears. She couldn’t forgive him for loving her. There must be something wrong with him. His flaws became tied up in hers and she couldn’t stop pointing them out.
She had systematically destroyed their love and now, he was ready to opt out. He opened his mouth and her heart fell to her toes. “Cara, I love you but…”
She couldn’t listen. She watched his mouth move but she could no longer hear the words. At some point she realized he had stopped speaking and she was still staring at his mouth.
“Cara, did you hear me?” She shook her head backed up a few steps and sat on the bed. Leroy shook his head and turned toward the door, then stopped, turned and faced her once again. “Cara, I need you to get some help.”
Her anger broke loose. “What do you care, Leroy? You just broke up with me!”
“Broke up with you? What?”
“You did. You said…” But she didn’t know what he said.
“Cara, I said I love you but I can’t keep being the punching bag for your pain. You need to get help or this relationship is in danger. I’ll go with you, even.”
“I thought you were breaking up with me.”
“I’m really trying not to. I want to see this through…”
Cara hesitated. She knew she was out of control. She was always causing him pain but therapy…
“I’m not sure, Leroy. I need to think about it.”
“I need an answer. Are you committed to me or not?”
She thought about the pain she had felt when she thought he had broken up with her. “Ok. I’ll go if you go with me.”
His shoulders visibly relaxed and she felt, just for a moment like she would be ok.
Rain drips from the budding trees in a steady rythym, creating circular ripples on the surface of the puddles below. Squirrels dash across the lawn, seeking shelter in each tree. The wind ebbs and flows, and an old woman rocks and waits. Cars pass in a never-ending parade of errands and earning but the woman’s ears are listening for one car in particular.
It arrives with a low purr and shifting of gears. It stops close to the porch, and the old woman ceases rocking in anticipation. She sees the hair first, fiery red, like her mother. It streams in the wind, like a fire in the mist, as the girl dodges the raindrops on a full-out run.
Her mother emerges more slowly, unfurling an umbrella and walking to the porch with an unhurried pace. The little girl has already leapt into her grandmother’s arms and begun a steady stream of news before the mother arrives at the porch. She sits with her daughter and mother and pulls out her phone. She has to answer her emails. Her job depends on it.
The old woman smiles at her daughter and granddaughter. She alone knows the score. Someday they’ll be the grandmother and the mother and she, herself will have moved on to another realm. For now, though, she would submerse herself fully in these precious moments. Only this moment was life.
Blood pounded in her ears as she reached the elevator and punched the call button repeatedly. It was all a fucking lie. The last three years of her life were nothing but a fucking lie.
“C’mon, c’mon,” she told the elevator, attempting to ignore his pursuit.
“Fuck you, Brad!” She punched the button again, even though the elevator was clearly not coming.
“Lisa, I’m sorry.” He caught up to her, grabbing her arm and pulling her around to face him.
“Don’t fucking touch me!”
“And stop saying my name, you piece of shit! All this time… All this time you’ve been fucking married? What the fuck?”
“It’s not what you think.”
“Not possible. Fuck you. I wasted three fucking years on you but I guess that’s better than the fifteen years your wife wasted. Thank God, she found out and told me the truth. How long would you have let this go on, huh? How long?”
He stammered, as the doors finally opened and she stepped into the crowded elevator. “Don’t bother,” she said as the doors slid closed around his ugly face, “You weren’t really that good anyway.”
As glad as she was to get away from him, the elevator felt like it was closing in on her. It was too small and too crowded to hold the pain and anger she contained. Hot tears, formed from her suppressed rage and soaked her collar. It was a relief when the doors opened into the lobby and she made her way to the city street beyond.
The cool air on her face was like a balm to her spirit. The pain would fade, she told herself. She didn’t need him anyway. She was ready to leave the lies behind.
They stood locked together in the rain, their warmth unpenetrated by the biting cold. Looking into each other’s eyes, they spoke their vows, as the wind carried their promises to the raging sea below. Their souls intertwined with one another, connecting them to both earth and heaven, forming roots and branches from words both spoken and implied.
When the moment passed, they stopped and broke apart. Physical closeness did not define their bond. Their destiny fulfilled, they returned to the rythym of the world, walking side by side forevermore.