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Thursday, May 27, 2004

More Strawberries

Another snip of the story started below under the title, "Of Strawberries and Salvation". I think once the story actually takes shape, I'll be changing the name, though I do like it...Both remain in pure draft form, but this section came to me as I tried to fall asleep Tuesday night. There are a lot of kinks to be worked out, and I think there is at least one more section of the story that will go before the part below, but I haven't figured it out yet...

In the first part, I tipped my hat to Flannery O'Connor, and nodded toward Tolkein (did you spot that reference???) In this installment I quote a long-time fav band, at www.overtherhine.com...I know I'm not a martyr.

Here it is, warts and all.

Of Strawberries and Salvation, pt. 2

At night, the house seemed even more lonely and empty. Noises at night are so much louder than they are during the day, and every creak and groan of the old house, every dripping faucet, echoed more after the sun went down.

I couldn’t sleep in our bed anymore, mostly because it still felt like HE was there. I tried it the first night after I returned from spending a week with my sister; the first night I was alone in the house. I wrestled with sleep for hours, getting close to the point of actual sleep, but waking in anticipation of him joining me in bed as he always had. Once I finally fell completely asleep, I jolted awake soon after, expecting to feel him next to me.

I took to sleeping in the spare bedroom downstairs, in one of the matching twin beds that we had moved in there after his parents sold their house and moved to Florida. They were the beds he and his twin brother slept on until they left home for college. The beds still reminded me of him, but not like our bedroom did.

The spare bedroom had been added to the house a few years before we bought it, and it didn’t have air conditioning ducts which meant that the only way to pull coolness into the room was to leave the door open to the rest of the house. By the first of August it was unbearably hot at night, even with the door open to allow the cool air in from the kitchen area.

By the second week of the month, I had fallen into the habit of spending a few restless hours sweating in the bed before getting up and going outside to stare at the stars until sunrise. After the sun came up, I would go back inside to sleep for a few hours on the couch, something I had convinced myself I couldn’t do at night, but didn’t mind during the day.

I knew this sleep pattern was both unhealthy, and impractical. I had finally called Principal Miller and accepted the part-time library job at the High School, even though I didn’t think I would survive there past the first week of school. The idea of my first job since I was in High School myself being among those young, yet perplexing beings called teenagers would be a challenge in itself, but my survival was even less likely if I weren’t able to get myself back on some reasonable schedule.

“One more night,” I told myself as I slipped my feet into the sandals by the back door and slipped myself quietly down the stairs into the back yard. When I reached the clearing at the far end of the property, I was startled by the sight of so many stars. The night was less humid and clearer than any in several weeks, and the black velvet of the cosmos was pricked full of star-points. The moon had set early, leaving only starlight for illumination.

I shoved my hands deep in my pockets and shivered, even though I wasn’t cold, and I could feel the note that had been waiting on the kitchen counter when I brought the strawberries in. It was as if it had appeared there on its own, though obviously that wasn’t the case. For a minute I wondered who had been in my house while I was gone, until it dawned on me. I had read the note once, folded it, tucked it away, and went about cleaning the strawberries.

As I thought about the note’s contents, I noticed a streak of light across the sky: a falling star.

Since starting my late-night star gazing expeditions, I had begun spending time in the astronomy section of the library, reading up on various celestial phenomena. It was something new, something that had never interested me before, and something difficult for me to contemplate, which meant it took up a great deal of my time and occupied my mind with things other than the “real” world which had become so unreal.

And what was my “real” world now? Sleeping alone, answering questions, avoiding common friends, foregoing church; all of it was an unreal world. The note I was fingering in my pocket was a glimmer of hope that the old world, the world where I was comfortable and safe was still possible. A note that the affair was over, that mistakes had been made, a note asking for forgiveness, a note of sorrow.

It wasn’t until I noticed several more stars falling in harmony that I remembered having read about the early-August meteorite showers referred to as the “tears of St. Lawrence.” St. Lawrence was an early martyr. He was burned alive on a gridiron because he believed in something more than I had ever believed. His famous line - while being burned - was, “turn me over, this side is done.” The legend says that he was killed in early August, and the meteorite shower that follows that date every year was given his name. The golden streaks across the night sky are the tears Lawrence sheds for the cruelty of men.

That I was even contemplating responding to the note left me feeling a little like Lawrence. Could I possibly consider forgiving my husband? Could I possibly be vulnerable again? I’ve been burned on this side, turn me over and do it again. But, my cause wasn’t so noble. I wasn’t a martyr. I’ve never died for anyone but me. If I gave in and pursued reconciliation, it would be because I was lonely, scared, and hopeless on my own more than for any grand idea of forgiveness and redemption.

“We’re all capable of selfishness,” I had told the annoying lady at the strawberry patch. And, as much as I might have wanted to stamp out selfishness in my own life, I wasn’t sure which act would be more selfish: giving in to my urge to call my husband because I was scared of being lonely, or ignoring his sorrow because it would be painful to reconcile.

Meteorites continued to fall as I lay on the ground in the clearing, staring up into the infiniteness of space. The golden streaks of St. Lawrence’s tears were being shed for me, but I couldn’t be sure if he was crying because I was even thinking about calling my husband, or because I hadn’t already made the call.


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