Saturday, February 20, 2016

Loneliness




The sun rose on the horizon, half way over the land, half way under the land, reddening the island the color of revolution. Tomás laid on his side and looked out the single window of the gardener's hut. He felt Gabby's body against his, her chest on his back, her leg over his hip, her arm around his shoulder, holding him, holding him. "Gabby's body isn't against mine," he realized in the silence, "Her body is with my body, her hands are with my hands, her feet with my feet, her heart with my heart, her life with my life. She is my friend. I am not alone, not alone."

Tomás feared loneliness with a fear both ever present and absolute, a fear he sometimes stood against nose to nose and fought against with bare knuckles and raging heart, yet a fear he sometimes fled unequivocally with weeping eyes and pounding heart, a fear that grew out of the dry, broken ground of his parents deaths, deaths he could neither fathom nor give voice to because one moment they were there with him, with him, holding his hand, running their fingers through his hair as he drifted off to sleep, holding him in their arms, and the next moment they were gone, crushed by the landlord and the land until they disappeared into dust and memory, a bitter root of loneliness that grew on a plant of fear.

Once, the priest had told him, "Do not fear loneliness, Tomás. You are never alone. God promises that. God is with you. You are never alone."

Tomás loved the old priest and respected his life and work. He didn't have much use for his metaphysics, though. There was much more comfort in the priest's friendship and Gabby's presence than in words and ideas about God.

"Words and ideas, ideas and words," thought Tomás. "They are worth so little...yet are so much of my own life." They were. He remembered his childhood, when he was a boy in his first years of primary school. His mother held his tiny hand and led him over the threshold of the door of their small house toward his first day of school. He stopped suddenly, grabbed the door frame and exclaimed, "I'm only going to go to school so I can learn now to write!"

After he learned to write, he wrote and thought and thought and wrote. His Mother, on the way to the garden to pick fruits and vegetables from the plants and vines and trees of the land, would find him beneath the apple tree beside the fence of the garden, writing, writing, his bony shoulders hunched over his notebook as if he were a human question mark, his long fingers gripped around his pencil as if he were a human exclamation mark, writing, writing the things that he saw and heard and smelled and tasted and thought and felt. His Father, on the way back from the sugar cane fields, would find him on top of the giant rock in their yard, thinking, thinking, his eyes to the sky as if he were seeing something others barely missed seeing, his ears to the ground as if he were hearing something others barely missed hearing.

Both his Mother and his Father saw that in these moments of writing and thinking, a soft light encircled his body, the mark of a saint, a faint halo that lost his parents in wonder, for, even though they did not believe in the god of the church, they did  look for evidence of god around them, hoping against hope that god was real, was with them, would help them. "Perhaps god will be in the words of our son," they thought as they drifted off to sleep each night, worn down from the hard work of planting, gathering, tending, and hoping, holding each other with calloused hands in stick thin arms with full hearts hoping, hoping.

Sometimes as he wrote, and the light glowed around him at his bare work desk, he used words to fight the loneliness - the loneliness of the farmers, giving their hearts, souls, minds, and bodies to the land day after day, year after year, until they became the dust from which they were made; the loneliness of the workers, giving their hearts, souls, minds, and bodies to the factories, day after day, year after year, until they became gears and grease themselves; and the loneliness of the servants, giving their hearts, souls, minds, and bodies to their patróns day after day, year after year, until they became the rags and the basins from which they served - all working, the farmers, the workers, and the servants, for subsistence, enough food to stay alive, barely; for shelter, enough wood and tin to stay alive, barely; and for song, enough music to stay alive, barely, for nothing and yet for everything.


Sometimes he used words to flee the loneliness - his own loneliness, his fear of losing Gabby, his fear of losing the priest, his fear of losing the doctor, so he used words as colors and his pen as a brush and painted their human faces, in hope that these faces would live beyond his years, in faith that these faces would be with him, be with him, always, always, and as he painted these pictures he wept, a weeping from a place deep within him, a place of which the old priest had spoken, "See with the eyes of your heart," he had pleaded, "For it is then, only then, that you will see to build a new humanity, to build a new world," and he painted Gabby, her brown eyes filled with life and kindness, her black hair hanging down to her shoulders, her dark skin in nakedness beautiful, beautiful, her hands and feet calloused and compassionate, her smile for him, for him; and he painted the priest, his tattered clothes from so much giving, his tarnished crucifix, the first gift he was given after his ordination, his reminder that Christ is in each and every person he sees each and every day, his hunched shoulders from so much praying, his face, his face so full of love, love; and he painted the doctor, the sparkle in his clear, blue eyes, the deep wrinkles of concern on his forehead, the broken hands that heal, heal...and he turned to Gabby in the morning light and held her closely to him, held her, held her and whispered, "I love you," and the loneliness went away, for a while.

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