- The Beginning ?
This is a tale of Everbreath and Otherside. When I tell it I think of a Stranger who met a Someone one day when he, the Stranger, gasped for air on a polluted planet he helped pollute with his own breath. The planet’s immune system needed to rid the earth of him but was too ill from the millions of Strangers who inhabited the specky orb. So, for the sake of the smaller number, Someone came into the dying world and offered Citizenship in the Greater World.
To do this He had to breathe the Everbreath into the hearts of women and men. Women loved Someone for His Great Soul. They trusted him because He obviously respected them rather than use them. Men loved him, as their sex usually does, because of their great need of him. He filled a need filled by no one else. His stories made a home in their hearts. He breathed the Everbreath into them and they dreamed each night of the Otherside.
This is a tale about one man in particular. He woke one morning in his own private world where he lived his own small, selfish existence. By the end of the day he had left his little life, fought the Adversary and joined something far greater than himself.
One day, that day, Someone caught his eye. He did not get up that morning to get caught. He did not even care to be caught but caught he was, caught for life, and caught but good.
Years later, floating like a dream on a cloud, the dazzled man would finally know how Someone caught him. After years of lying, after all the time he spent pushing down his own feelings until he didn’t know his own mind, Someone woke him to soul hunger.
"He made me feel my heart again," Dazzled told his other awed friends. They just nodded, knowing they felt their hearts again as well.
Someone shiny, with one of those voices that makes its own music passed by Dazzled that fateful morning. The brightness of this Someone’s music started him humming. Dazzled was infected with one of those tunes that, once heard, refuses to leave the mind. Someone dazzled Dazzled but he was wary. He had been dazzled by others before that day of days. First awe always melted down to disappointment when he got close to the Dazzler. He found out each time that the shiny stuff was mirrors and the cloud around the Dazzler was just empty smoke.
Still, for all that, Dazzled could not look away from this Someone.
"Did Someone see me?" he wondered. "Did he notice I was staring? What must he think of me, gawking like a school boy? If I get close to this Someone, will I find the same old disappointment?"
As though his thoughts carried the few feet between them, Dazzled saw Someone turn his head, just a trifle. Their eyes locked. Someone smiled a wide, sweet smile in the middle of his broad, charcoal dark face. His sweet song, a high tenor flash of lightning in a darkening sky, filled the air around them. For that moment, Someone sang to an audience of one in a crowded street of hundreds of passersby. He wanted to dazzle one fellow in the crowd of hundreds. Out of a greater number he was calling to a smaller number and the few were hearing.
A hand reached down into a rushing stream of humanity. The torrent pushed a thousand souls downstream to the rapids where disaster waited for them. The waters would rush them against the rocks just below the surface at a speed they could not then imagine. For the moment the thousands about to lose everything took part in the ride while, moments away, their sealed fate beckoned. Out of the crowd, one head here and another there, looked up at the sound of Someone’s perfect voice. His song captivated, then captured, finally consoled.
Dazzled followed Someone through the crowd. He was caught, though he did not mean to be caught. He was saved from the Deathflow, though he did not know it and did not mean to be saved. Someone came just in time.
The song held him, or the smile, or the eyes, so wide and dark. Around Dazzled, others went about their daily business as though they did not notice the day change from winter to spring. Dazzled wanted to shake them. He wanted to demand that they hear/see/feel/think all that he heard/saw/felt/thought.
For a sagging moment he almost wished he could join them in their distraction. They were grim, determined looking people, as he had been moments before but now they seemed so foreign to him. Men he had traded with (and cheated and been cheated by) brushed past him without a word. He could almost see them plotting the ruin of their next trading partner as they went. He knew the next fellow would be fleeced of the clothes off his back if he proved unable to match wits with the merchants of Normal Street.
"I was them," Dazzled thought. "I took as much as the traffic would bear and the law allow. I walked the fine line between legal and ethical and didn’t much care either way. How strange to look back over there now. It all looks so foreign to me."
Normal Street did look vague to Dazzled. Someone was reality to him now but he could not say why it was so. His old life of common days and more common petty crimes committed in the name of of business as usual offended even him. One look at Someone stopped Dazzled. A look from Someone changed him forever. Dazzled could not stop himself from loving the moment, the movement, the man. He was ashamed of sentiment usually but today was far from usual.
Someone made Dazzled see a new reality. He felt himself transported to a place somewhere beyond the planets, up just behind the stars. His feet felt as though they trod a garden of green rather than a hard street of hot concrete. Flowers dipped to him as he laid his head against a tree of soft bark and giant leaves. A breeze, just right, caught his face and sun peeked at him, smiling and friendly, through an azure sky. He felt alone but surrounded by a cloud of friends he never knew but loved the more for meeting them now.
"I can’t focus," he thought. "I can’t get my mind on my work. I’m not even sure I’m breathing. I can’t remember what I meant to do today. I’m a grown man with skins on the wall. How can this be happening to me? I don’t want it to stop. I want to feel this way forever."
A lot of unwary traders had felt his claws. He was not the worst of the lot, just one of them, a man of the world who played by the rules of his world. He knew just what it took to stay alive in the jungle he prowled.
So, how could this happen to him? Indeed, what was happening to him? He tasted flavors sweet and bitter all at the same time but knew he had nothing in his mouth.
He looked up ahead at Someone. The sight saddened him. He would have looked away this time but in a flash he accepted yet another new truth. The sadness he felt this time was not his glimpse of Someone. No, his sadness was for the hard faced hundreds of his kinsmen who pushed their way through one another around Someone and down Normal Street on their way to the next deal. They were trading their lives for a mess of mess. They missed Someone to get a better place at a hot restaurant, a nicer tailored suit, a fancier car or a better apartment.
They were what they were according to what they had and the better they had the better they would be. They weren’t just trading their lives. They were trading for their lives and losing them in the deal.
"I was that just an hour ago," he said to no one, for no one was listening. "I was gaining the whole world and losing my soul."
A New Way to Walk
Dazzled had just met Someone on Normal Street. He wanted to follow him. He needed to find out just why this man fascinated him. Yet so many people stood between them. Strong, confident men and equally powerful women carried their cases from path to path. Dazzled read their thoughts. He knew they were him a moment before he met Someone. He also knew he could never go back to being them again.
In such a crowd of killers, Someone carried himself with easy grace. He smiled and sang his song. A head poked up here and there in response. Most pushed him aside. Dazzled thought he saw some cover their ears to push out the song.
"They don’t want to hear. His song is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard and they don’t want to hear. I just can’t understand this at all," he thought.
His peers hurried on intent on building their empires. They would not hear Someone because they knew he had no money. He would not last long with them because they thought him not worth the effort. To Dazzled, who would have been one of the laughers, the old crowd seemed small and mean. They would bend every effort to build their an empire on a sandbar. The river they never saw would cover them in their castle the first night and move the sandbar downstream for another fool to conquer the next day and drown the next night. Dazzled felt a pang, with a start he realized he was hurting for them because of what had found him that day.
Up ahead he saw Someone, brilliant and strong. His force was other worldly. No one pushed him too hard. The crowd did not quite open for him but they did not hold him back. He seemed almost to float through them, serene as he wafted through the throng.
The OldGlory Building
Dazzled thought he saw where Someone was headed. The thought depressed him.
"If he goes in there, I guess he’s like the other someones," Dazzled thought and felt the wonder start to drain from him. He realized he did not want this Someone to be like all the other someones.
Just up ahead was a big building on the corner of Normal Street, where Normal turned onto Mean. The building was the OldGlory, part house and now part office building. Other someones often went into the OldGlory. Songs were sung there, songs from past times and stories told from great days now gone. The OldGlory was once very important and still had an air of authority about it. Well stuffed men and their august ladies went in the building to hear about past glories. The well stuffed men paid to hear the songs their ladies liked and the stories they favored.
Little, self important someones worked in the OldGlory building. The well stuffed men and their august ladies kept them on retainer as their singers. The little someones certainly knew all the songs and a lot of the stories but they only sang the songs and repeated the stories that helped them earn their keep. Mostly, younger men and women stayed away from the OldGlory building now. They knew enough of the truth to know they couldn’t get the Truth there. They contented themselves with the truth they knew and left it at that. Like most young people, they did not really know all the Truth but they could spot phony a mile away.
"Someone will turn in there," Dazzled thought. "He will be just like the others. I will just go on back to a normal life on Normal Street. No harm, no foul, no change, no big deal."
He gave a sigh, half of disappointment, half of relief. He would get back to his life, he thought, and wondered if he could.
So it was with great surprise that Dazzled watched Someone walk right by the OldGlory Building. Someone scarcely gave it a glance as he passed. He neither seemed to love or hate the Old Glory. He did not even seem to see it.
Now, without hesitation, Dazzled ran after Someone. Someone new had come his way.
"The other someones will not like this at all," Dazzled thought. "Someone walks right by the OldGlory Building, all the way off Normal Street and turns onto Mean. The other someones will not like this at all."
Dazzled hurried after Someone. He wanted to see what Someone would do on a street where hard-eyed men consorted with loose-limbed women, where white powders mixed with hard liquors and life was held cheap.
"He walks with such determination, so much purpose," Dazzled said to the no one who listened to him speak. "He only slows when some of the hard-eyed men or the loose-limbed women approach him."
When some of the human rejects of this street approached Someone, he stopped to sing instead of ducking his head and walking faster. His light glowed more brightly then. Dazzled puzzled over this light. Was it purer on Mean Street or was the street just darker? Was his song sweeter or was this street just lonelier?
Dazzled turned to look behind him. No one else followed from Normal to Mean. Suddenly he felt himself alone again. He had to interpret events and symbols all alone. Normal seemed a world away from him now.
He was not a man who would come to Mean Street. The men who did hid it from their wives and bragged about it only to their lowest friends. Mean Street was a long way from Normal, when he thought about it. Normal people avoided Mean Street unless they wanted to feel "out of bounds" for a time. Dazzled himself had never been this far from Normal. He wondered for himself (for he had no one else to talk to there) what it was that had brought him to this foreign land and if he could ever go back to Normal.
He watched as hard-eyed men and loose-limbed women crept over to Someone for a little talk. A few cursed themselves away from him when they saw his empty pockets. Two or three moved a distance from him but could not take their eyes from him, like Dazzled. Some hard-eyed men started to lose their evil squint as they put their eyes on him. Dazzled saw some of the women start to cover their bodies as best they could with the few clothes they wore.
"They don’t stare at him so brazenly," Dazzled said aloud and a tall woman next to him murmured her agreement. "He does things to people I have never seen anyone else do."
The tall loose-limbed woman nodded her head again. She looked down at him slightly and smiled. She looked at him oddly, as though appraising him and then walked away. She would see him again.
Men were changing in front of his eyes. Women who made their living with their bodies covered themselves modestly for the first time in years. Dazzled was amazed.
"Something in him makes people want to be better," Dazzled thought. "He’s so transparently good the people who meet him want to be like him."
The Scum of This Earth
Dazzled could not help but feel his skin crawl as he gawked at the sorry creatures around him. Normal people did not care for Mean Street people. Now he could see why. They were certainly low people.
So Dazzled was amazed to see how easily Someone accepted the Mean ones. Only Dazzled followed Someone from Normal Street but Someone picked up a new fan or two from every little clutch who stopped to hear his song on Mean Street.
"Can I go with him if he lets this kind of people follow him?" Dazzled wondered aloud. "Can I go with him if he even associates with them?"
"Why do you get to decide who is good enough for him?" a voice just behind demanded and the sound startled him out of his reverie. "Who made you the Good-enough for Someone police?"
Dazzled half turned. It was the woman from a few moments before and she was mad now. Dazzled had opened his mouth when he might just as well have closed it firmly and protected his biased heart. Now it was too late.
"Well," she said, with real fire, "what do you say now? What makes you any better than them? How long have you been with him?"
"About a block longer than they have," he said with shame in his voice.
His honesty totally touched her heart. She started to laugh, a forgiving kind of laugh but this woman knew men too well and knew that her laughing would hurt him more than it would help. Instead, she smiled, nodded her head at him very slowly and showed him she understood.
"I see," she said, more quietly,"Well, that’s longer than I’ve been with him."
Again, she moved away. Again, she kept her eyes on Dazzled. Again, Dazzled had his eyes on Someone and missed her completely.
Ahead, Dazzled saw Someone with his new, larger, motley band. His heart, at least in part, told Dazzled to go back to Normal. Some of him wanted to stay right there on Mean Street with the hard-eyed men.
In truth, they were men of the world in a way he was not. He lived a Normal life of commerce. His deeds were committed with pen and paper or on a computer screen. His victims might not even know their loss if they could not read a balance sheet. When one of the hard-eyed men took from another the deed was acted out on the street, face to face, in a way that showed the world who was the better man. For Dazzled, these were men who could handle a hard world where he was mostly lost. The loose-limbed women so easily available on this street aroused him. He knew he must look impotent to them, since they lived on Mean Street with hard-eyed men.
Someone walked off with his new retinue. Darkness closed behind him. The street seemed more violent for his going. Hard-eyed men in his wake seemed harder still. Loose-limbed women behind him uncovered themselves more lewdly. Their intentions were more obvious than ever. Their laughter now was frightened, pathetic. There were the last revelers at a banquet who hang on after the lights dim because they have no one to take them home. The men cursed louder. The bare women hugged their arms closer around them to warm their frail bodies.
For the first time ever, Dazzled really saw them and pity struck him. At the same time their desperate bravado moved him. They lived without hope or meaning but with a kind of courage. They had given up on dignity. All they kept was the community of hard-eyed men and loose-limbed women on a darkened Mean Street. Still, they behaved in a perfect primal fashion. Their flesh excited Dazzled.Other emotions were aroused as well.
Fights broke out on every corner now. Someone Else did not like that Someone had come this way.
Still, though he knew the danger, Dazzled stood as though rooted to the spot. Death in the air, flesh in the breeze, the hard-eyed men around to seal the deal. There was too much lust for one little fellow to fight. Something would have to trigger his flight.
Stealthily, Someone Else crept up beside him. A smile played across his craggy face. He could have been Someone’s twin except for a streak of cruelty in his eyes. He wanted Dazzled very badly. This was a chance, a moment to seize and he grasped the moment.
"You would fit right here with us," Someone else said. "Here is a place where everybody knows your name. They know your game. They know your little kinks. No one judges you here, friend. You can be whatever you want on our street. It’s all about you here."
Someone Else paused. Dazzled drank his message but the taste seemed odd. Something did not sound just right. Still, a lot of flesh was in the air. Dazzled had his mind open to possibilities.
"Let me take you to one of my girls, any of them," Someone Else started again. "We can take you to one of the boys if you want. Anything goes here with us. Pretty soon you’ll be a real man, a hard-eyed man."
If he stayed on their street, maybe he could be like them. His feet grew roots and his legs went wooden. Dazzled was making a choice. His eyes absorbed something that made his brain speak to his heart. He was about to make a life decision.
Only then, a knife flashed a few feet from Dazzled. One of the hard-eyed men gasped and clutched his gut. A loose-limbed woman, smirking, held him to her. She kissed his failing lips with a smear. She cleaned her blade on the dying man’s shirt. When it was clean of blood, she laughed, her face still close to him, the last thing he would ever see in this world. Only then did she let him drop to the ground.
He had cheated her days ago. Now she had done for him.
Someone Else looked away for an instant. The blade, the blood, the coarseness and the dying proved too much for him. His face beamed the rapture of a person who loves the dying scene. He breathed in excitedly the way a great painter might respond to his first look at a finished master piece. Death was his canvas, grief his laughter. Someone Else ate up the sight of the man’s face fixed in the mask of death that ends only the start of suffering.
Dazzled saw his own death in Someone Else’s eyes. Someone Else would trade him life as a hard-eyed man for a glassy-eyed end. Blood and hate mingled in Someone Else’s empty heart. Dazzled saw into the monster’s soul. He saw the darkness, vast, eternal and his nerve failed. He backed away in fright.
Someone Else caught himself quickly but too late. He looked back to Dazzled. He reached out with a smile that seemed warm a moment ago. Now, Dazzled saw a line of blood trickle from his mouth.
Dazzled uprooted himself. He ran after Someone. Behind him, Someone Else cursed his own eagerness and set his plan for another day on a different street. Dazzled was too important to leave alone. He was worth the effort to capture. He was worth the effort to kill.
Dazzled is on a fast track on Normal Street. He encounters Someone who dazzles him. There is the initial impression made by the light surrounding Someone and the song he sings. The free church Bible tells us about such a person in various places of the ancient text now translated into English. One of those places is the Godspell of John, chapter one and verse three. The Someone of John’s Godspell (the ancient spelling) is the Someone who is with God in the creation of the universe (John’s Godspell, chapter one and verse one).
Dazzled enters the realm of spiritual reality not obtained through the primary physical senses when he meets Someone. We might think of this as a parallel dimension to the physical universe where all things we think, feel and hope have their being apart from the physical barriers that we know. Someone seems able to rearrange energy into matter for the benefit of those who follow him through the normal avenues of life. There is more to the world than meets the eye, the Godspells seem to say, if we are willing to look (John 1:10-13).
Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason wrote that truth is information filtered through one’s own interests and perceptive abilities. Therefore, there can be a lot of little truths out there depending upon one’s ability to grasp and synthesize information. What if there is a Truth, a body of eternal fact or a Person who embodies actual spiritual Truth that is unchanging and unaffected in its worth by human opinion? That would be truth worth grasping.
After he ran away far enough away from Someone Else but before he caught up to Someone, Dazzled slowed his pace. Too much was happening too quickly. He needed some other insight. He would have to find a guide or at least a companion.
The problem for him was that he had too much in common with the crowd following Someone. They were from Mean Street and he from Normal. They united around Someone but as a man with more questions than knowledge, Dazzled did not know for certain he was even included with Someone. People were constantly touching him, laughing aloud and joining in the songs he taught them. They were like children invited into a fancy house after an adult washes them. They acted like giddy kids.
Someone stopped to sing pretty often. Even at a snail’s pace Dazzled could catch up without difficulty so he stopped several times to study the crowds. Men and women, more men than women at first, and lots of boys and girls queued up to hear the singer.
The men listened thoughtfully though the majority turned away after a few minutes. Women took more time, hung back from the crowd and neared him mostly to ask questions full of energy. The children mostly just enjoyed Someone with his songs and stories. He seemed to have all the time in the world (or where?) for them.
Someone was in aria at that moment. His voice rose, then fell, went sotto and them climbed again. He displayed enormous vocal range but his range of emotions, the things he made the crowd feel, astounded. His control of the notes seemed to make them alive rather than the symbols on a sheet of music. For a moment, Dazzled saw Someone as the source of the song and not just the Singer.
People crowded around Someone. Some demanded hard data, raw facts, numbers fit for crunching. When Someone answered, members of the crowds would show shock or anger or just unbelief of what they heard.
A few looked at him as though hearing the words for the first time ever. Dazzled noticed that these people were the most likely to follow at least a few steps. They were dazzled, like Dazzled.
Still others stood in one spot and wept. Dazzled could not tell why they cried at news that filled him with serenity but cry they did and cry but good. Still, when Someone finished his song and moved away, the criers usually dried their tears and went about their business. Dazzled wondered if they would someday run out of tears for Someone’s song.
Dazzled was not aware that he was drawing closer to the group with each stop. He just got up as close as his courage allowed. He was growing into them now. Once he even touched Someone, like the people from Mean Street. He felt a surge of electricity go through him. His head started to clear. He saw shapes and colors, images he could not name but he knew were real despite his unfamiliarity with them.
Once, when Someone stopped, he sang a story song about a huge pearl. Pearls, the song said, were made of sand and life juices put under oceans of pressure in a living body that keeps them safe. Some pearls grew so pure that they had immense value. One Pearl became an object of greater worth than any other.
Beauty, the song said, begets worth, beggars value, bankrupts ones who willingly liquidate their portfolio to own it and then makes them rich again. Their greatest richness occurs when they find out that they are captured by beauty and owned by the Pearl of Price.
Someone sang of a Pearl (Or was it a person? Or was it a place?) that gleamed so bright a person would know she must own it. Nothing else compared. The pursuer obsessed. She moved out other objects of cost to have this Pearl (Or was it a person? Or was it a place?) One could not have this Pearl and own other jewelry. Nothing looked good next to this one Pearl, not diamond or jade or opal. This life-infected jewel outshone them all.
"I would want to look at this Pearl before I buy," Dazzled told one of the formerly hard-eyed men who was losing his squint. "If I’m going to give up all my holdings to have this one Pearl, it had better be worth the payment price."
"Surely the man agrees," Dazzled thought. "He’s a man of the real world."
The fellow answered only a sort of snort. He glided away from Dazzled without more reply and got closer to Someone. He seemed content there, with or without a big Pearl.
Someone moved on just then. His song had been well received while he sang of value but did not test as well with the crowd as he moved on to cost. Still, he made no attempt to hide the purchase price in the fine print of the song. He put it out where all could see it. He even seemed to wave it in their faces. His chorus on the cost crossed him up with most of the crowd.
Someone moved on with the crowd he had brought from Mean Street and a few treasure hunters from Pearl. The hard-eyed men looked different now and the loose-limbed women seemed more like girls a man might marry for a life. The treasure hunters still had that first-caught gleam in their eyes but that would start to translate into transformation of their looks and actions before long.
Dazzled waited behind to visit with some gawkers who had gone on with Someone. He wanted to know what they had heard that differed from his take. Perhaps they could be his guides. They could help him turn around and run from Pearl through Mean and back to Normal Street. They might be the ones to break his spell.
Dazzled asked them, "Did you hear the singer, Someone? What did you think of him? Why didn’t you buy his tickets?"
"He has a great tune," a girl said. "I could dance to his tune. He’s going to have to change those lyrics to get me, though."
"Nothing new," a man interrupted. "His kind comes around here all the time. He’s not ready to play the big houses. He needs to tighten up his sound. He could use a band behind him, too."
"I was prepared to help Someone with his career," said a little man with a briefcase. "He messed it up for me and my colleagues when he criticized our commercial interests. You have to make a living. You can’t have the big recording companies with all they do for you for free. There’s a cost. He has to understand the facts of life. He has to see how we could help him if he’ll just give people what they want. He can’t keep kicking over our tables. He needs to be a bit more commercial, a little more mainstream. There’s a lot in this for him if he can just tone it down some.
Several nodded their heads, solemnly, knowingly. Sagely wise, they breathed a collective sigh. This Someone, the sigh seemed to say, just barely missed the mark. What a shame!
Their opinions shook poor Dazzled. All his life the opinions of others had deflated him when he thought he had found the way. He fought the impulse to follow but the herd steered him along most of the time. A billion people represented in a statistical sampling could not be wrong. Sadly, he felt these latest views changing his way of thinking of Someone.
He had been taught from the earliest to care about what people thought. Before his father left him for the first time he had whetted his right index finger on his tongue and held it up to the air.
"Son," he said, "make sure you know which way the wind is blowing before you take a step. You’ll never have to walk with the cold wind in your face if you know which way the wind is blowing. Never take a chance."
"I don’t get it," Dazzled answered. "What does the wind have to do with anything? I’m not a sailboat keeper. I’m a person."
"Of course you’re a person. You’re a person in a world full of people. Find out what people want. Give them what they want. Give them as much of what they want as you can give them without giving away anything you want to keep. Sell at the lowest price you can make a profit. The shortest distance between tow points is the corner you cut that lets you get ahead of the next guy. Move while he is still trying to get his bearings," Father had answered.
Then he left for the last time. From that moment to this day, Dazzled had never seen him again.
So the way others saw things furnished the lenses Dazzled wore. Even now the words of this bunch of strangers weighed on him. The burden of their opinions almost crushed the breath from him. They were right, as far as they saw, and wrong because they could not see farther. Dazzled, sadly, could not see much better than the crowd around him.
He did not know what to do. Once again, for the second time that day, his feet grew roots and his legs grew wooden. Deep in thought he felt the sun warm his back until sweat beads ran down to form a puddle at the base of his spine. He never knew how long he stood there while Someone moved ahead, while the gawkers moved away, while the hard-eyed men and loosed-limbed women and the treasure hunters drank in Someone’s soft voice. He was there halting between two worlds with his soul out of balance. Too many voices made too much noise in one little head.
"Are you going after Someone?" another asked him.
The new voice shocked him back from the nether world. A girl, tall, handsome but not pretty or soft stood next to him just out of his line of sight.
"Huh?" was his only reply.
"I said," she persisted, "are you going after Someone? I wanted to go but I ran out of courage. I don’t know what you do if you go with him. If you’re going, I’ll go with you."
"Yes," he lied. "I’m going. I was always going."
Dazzled cursed himself for a liar then. He had not decided anything until this girl pushed him with her girl voice. Who was she? He could not remember though he felt he should know her from somewhere.
"I’ll go with you then, if I can," said Another One. She seemed to know something he needed to know.
"I’ll need the help," he answered more honestly this time. "You can help me think through some of this stuff."
"I don’t know enough to be much help or even have a good opinion. I can be some more eyes and ears, Another One answered. "Maybe a woman’s head can help too."
"Well, it can’t hurt," Dazzled replied. "I hear a little bit more every time he sings but I still don’t know what to think about him."
Shyly, with mercy after his overwrought speech, she took his hand lightly. He stopped talking. Oddly, he was glad for he company though she was not a beauty. He was happy for her touch though she did not excite his body. They started together down the walk after Someone, two people who knew how little they knew.
Dazzled accepts the opinions of others over his own feelings. Popular opinion may not always be the better guide. Time tests truth to see if it is real. What popular opinion accepts for the time being may prove untrustworthy in the next breath.
When Dazzled is paralyzed with a systemic overload from all the information he receives he at least sees his need for a guide of a companion. His companion is Another One who is be dazzled by Someone. She admits her own inability to put it all together but she wants to know more. Sometimes it is enough just to walk with Another One who knows her need.
This kind of spiritual reality to which Someone calls Dazzled and the woman called Another One comes to them from outside themselves. There is no way they can create this kind of reality. In fact they are barely able to "grab hold of his coat tail as he goes by them." The reality they find is not the usual thing but comes from outside themselves (John 1:14-18).
The questions we ask about Someone and his song might include (but not be limited to):
What does Someone say about what makes a truly good person good?
What does Someone say about what makes a good life good?
If Someone attracts people with light, song and story, what does this say to a world as doubtful as our ownn where all life’s meaning must be distilled to a fifteen second soundbite?
Dazzled and Another One caught up with Someone. He was gathering a crowd again. The man never wanted for companionship, Dazzled thought. When did he rest? Did the constant crush of sweaty bodies not somehow wear on him? He did not look tired yet. Dazzled had followed for only a few hours but he was already exhausted.
Later Dazzled would understand that the mind wears out the spirit with constant evaluation of sensory data. Fatigue would be a real problem for him as he worked his way through the maze Someone erected for him. The twists and turns, the backdrops and murals on the walls of his mind, all melted into one for him. He had never done less physical work or felt himself more overtaxed. Someone toughening Dazzled in spirit as he broadened his mind’s working capacity. There was no way to get down a routine with Someone. He was off in a new direction every minute. The old rules Dazzled lived by had some basis in fact but, for the most part, he has used them to arrive at a lot of the wrong conclusions. Now, with Someone, he started to see that what he could see was only a part of reality. He had to learn to look with new eyes. The work required discipline. He found it exhausting.
This time Dazzled and Another One agreed they would make themselves keep up and listen closely. They were missing some of the nuances or voice that could have told them a lot. Someone had already stirred up a crowd to hear him sing. Dazzled could tell that this crowd had heard Someone sing before. They did not hesitate to touch him.
A hand reached out from the crowd to stroke Someone’s kinky, black hair. A woman poured some sweet smelling something over his head. He let it run over his longish hair into his gray flecked beard. A drop of moisture dripped all the way to his chest. His robe, open a bit bared his pectoral muscles. They were firm and hard, well developed. Hands reached out to rub in the sweet smelling something. His body accepted the nourishment. He luxuriated in the touch.
One of the women in the crowd her infant son from her breast directly to Someone. He took the baby with natural ease into the crook of his dusky, muscled arm. The child gurgled himself to sleep in just a moment, content with the warmth of his reception.
Someone sat down with the baby still in his arm. He was preparing to sing. Dazzled and Another One instinctively move closed to hear, see, feel his song. This time they would not miss a word or a gesture.
"Don’t just sing this time," a tattooed teenager called to Someone. "Talk to us like last time. Dude, your rap is good but when you talk about Everbreath, that’s the baddest. Tell us something about Everbreath."
Dazzled was offended by the nerve of this body painted brat. He had ordered Someone as though he was the agenda setter. Dazzled was sure he would hear anger from Someone for the first time as he put this little rat in his place.
Instead, Someone smiled up at the youngster who towered over him as he sat, babe in arms, He opened his eyes even wider. The huge, dark pupils, chocolate brown, were black islands in the titanic white sea around them where Dazzled felt himself drawn and drowning. Dazzled sank to his knees next to One Another who only then released his hand for the first time since she had taken it. Dazzled did not know he knelt. He was lost in those eyes. He wanted to know what his man taught. Somehow he knew that this man was the lesson he taught. He embodied his information, shaping it with an inner edge instead of being pushed and pulled by information he acquired. This man had an inerrant inner gyroscope that balanced him and a moral compass that pointed to the truth.
Later, Dazzled came to know that Someone expected just this request when people heard his song and story. When temporary beings find out they can become permanent they want to know how to make the jump. He came to them for just this purpose. They needed to know to know what he taught but first he sang so that they could know that they needed to know.
"Everbreath," he began, "is for all who choke on their own breath and know it. Everbreath comes from outside out lungs, like Readybreath. Everbreath animates the senses, transforms the Readybreath, conjures up images and makes the mind connect with the heart and soul."
"Then," they wanted to know, "how is Everbreath different from Readybreath?"
"Everbreath satisfies as it sustains. When you have Readybreath, you always need more. One breath won’t do. You want more and will take it from others if you must. Everbreath settles things. It relieves the breather of his fear of losing Readybreath. Everbreath gives you time to work on your soul rather than just fill your lungs with Readybreath until your lungs don’t work anymore."
"Who give Everbreath?" a listener cried. "Where do we get it? How can we tell if we have Everbreath?"
"Don’t make this hard," Someone answered. "You get Readybreath from the air. Your lungs drink it. You don’t have to tell your lungs to breathe Readybreath."
He paused to let them breathe for a moment. No one stopped breathing to test him.
"Everbreath comes from above, from beyond, from outside you. You can’t make Everbreath," he continued. "You can’t buy it. Yet when Everbreath comes to your soul you don’t have to tell your soul to drink it. Everbreath is from everywhere and is everywhere though there are things in this world that are not Everbreath. Your soul seeks it for life. Everbreath cures your breathing problems. You can know if for it smells like the light forest after morning rain: fresh, pure and purifying. You do know when you smell something that you have never smelled, don’t you?"
"But what do you have to do to have Everbreath? a new voice called out to him. "I think one of my sons has Everbreath but he isn’t sure how he got it. He wants us to have it but can’t quite tell me of his mother how to get it."
"Most people get Everbreath after they meet someone who breathes it with every motion," Someone said. "They catch it from someone who passes it to them. Everbreath catches people who may not even know it’s around them."
"Are you saying that Everbreath comes after us?" a newcomer asked.
"Yes, exactly, directly on target, friend," Someone lauded the insight. "The One who breathes out Everbreath sends it like a prairie wind in August. There is not much chance you will miss you." Everbreath is looking for new souls to breathe it."
"I still can’t get it," wailed another. "I try to have Everbreath and I try and I try. I just can’t seem to get it."
"Relax and breathe the Everbreath," Someone almost purred to the man. "You let the Readybreath keep you from the Everbreath you want. You carry too much to let your lungs expand into your soul. Put down some things. Learn what I know. Everbreath costs you all your Readybreath. Your lungs, even your mind, fight to keep the Readybreath only. Everbreath costs you everything but it’s easy to get if you can teach your soul to breathe."
"Learn this lesson," Someone was addressing the whole crowd now. "Those who would hold the Readybreath to sate their lungs will lose even the Readybreath. Those who take the Everbreath for my sake and the sake of the One who sent me will gain the Everbreath and the Readybreath."
"What comes with Everbreath?" a woman called from the crowd touching Someone. She beamed as though she knew the answer to a familiar question.
The question and the answer were familiar to large parts of this big crowd. they roared the answer with Someone as he spoke.
"With Everbreath," Someone called and the crowd answered him, "You get life, life, life."
The crowd disintegrated into joyous laughter. The words "life, life, life" proved too much for them. Teaching ended for the moment and the demonstration began. They danced, clapped, sang and hugged as they shouted the one word three times over and over again. Someone had come, was come and would come again to teach them songs and stories about life, life, life. For them, just for the moment, life was a sweet, happy party.
Alone in the midst of the mob, Someone’s smile grew reflective for a moment. He seemed to be somewhere else just then in a time and place where other beings echoed his words in a great banquet hall full of light and sound. One who knew him would have felt his homesickness for the greater hall and beings who knew how to breathe life without instruction. Some who were closer to him in that crowd sensed his pain for an instant but could not touch him to relieve it.
Then, just as quickly as the mood came, the moment changed. He willed it to change. He would not miss the people in this crowd because he missed a different crowd in a higher place. Someone was back in the crowd, excited as they were to hear about Everbreath. The crowd was still chanting. Dazzled, lost in his muse, almost missed the exchange between Someone and Another One. She stood next to Dazzled. He had led her there. He could not hear what they said even though she was nearer to him than to Someone. He was never sure that Someone spoke at all. Dazzled watched as Another One changed before his eyes. Her face went from scared to sad to serene, all in a few sentences. The last thing Dazzled saw before the crowd interrupted was the smile that Someone gave her.
"You are my sister now," Dazzled thought he heard Someone say. He wanted clarity but the crowd wanted their teacher. Dazzled would have to wait for an explanation.
"You haven’t told us the whole story yet," a man called out to him. "Tell us about Otherside, about the One, the SomeOne, and the SpiritOne. Tell us how we breathe Everbreath from here to the Otherside."
A voice with authority to it interrupted. Dazzled could not see the speaker but the crowd hushed at his tone. Here was a man accustomed to obedience.
"Sir, if you will," the voice boomed, "the day is about done. Come to my house tonight. After all, it’s my turn to feed you, wash your feet and listen all night to your stories."
"Are you sure?" Someone answered. "You know that means I invite everyone who wants to hear. Can you handle a crowd?"
Someone always has a crowd and a cost. If you wanted him, you had to take all of his and everyone who might like to join the party. The cost to one’s pocketbook could be exceeded by the damage to your social position. Someone attracted a pretty tough crowd sometimes.
"He can afford it," a woman, obviously his wife called out, not proudly. "Bring all you can."
"Your clan is welcome," the Home Owner said. He was mentally calculating the cost of feeding this whole crowd as any good businessman would do.
"If any want to hear, let him come and hear," he added. He remembered his own life before Someone came to him with Everbreath. Someone lavished love on him. He would pay what he must to pour it out on others.
Home Owner’s wife squeezed his arm beneath his robe where the crowd moved, swayed and then lurched forward to the Home Owner’s porch. Someone was only a few feet away with the rich man but Dazzled could not see him. His legs lost force while he knelt without knowing in front of Someone. The talk of Everbreath and Otherside took all his blood through his heart to his brain. No on had ever told him of Everbreath. The magic of the word he heard whispered in a temple once but here was one who said he, Dazzled himself, could have Everbreath. It seemed they were saying he could even live in Otherside after the Readybreath was gone. If that were true he wanted it but, for the moment, he could not move from his spot. He felt himself in one of those waking dreams where escape was called for and speed vital but the dreamer cannot move.
The crowd would have had him down if Another One had not steadied him. She had not knelt with him but, instead, stood by his side watching him as he drank in Someone. She had never seen a man look at another man the way Dazzled surrendered himself to Someone. She would have been jealous if dazzled had been her man. As it was she was simply in awe of Someone’s power over this man who knelt next to her.
She did not mind saving him from the crowd, then, as they pushed on toward Home Owner’s porch. Another One shoved one man into his neighbor, pointed forcefully at another and jerked Dazzled into a half standing position. She could not help him stand but then his mind awoke to the danger. His legs caught and Dazzled moved with Another One in the crowd to Home Owner’s dinner.
"You saved me there, friend," Dazzled said. "I could have been trampled just then if you hadn’t been paying attention."
Another One colored at his praise. When men complimented her, it was usually for the second purpose. She would have to change her thinking to walk with this man she though. He seemed to have a different kind of heart.
Together they made their way to the outer porch of Home Owner’s great mansion. Someone was already inside the house, probably headed to the bath chamber for some food and rest before a happy night of story telling. A few hours would go by in feeding this crowd, Dazzled knew. full dark would come before they heard Someone again. By then, Dazzled determined, he would put some of this information together. He would consciously start to work out what it was that Someone was doing to him with his songs and stories.
That night Dazzled would not go home. He would hear again about Everbreath and Otherside. Dazzled found himself wondering if he could ever go back to this old street again. Another One moved him a quick step more and he realized he had lost himself in the moment again. Together they pushed on to the Home Owner’s porch and into the inner courtyard. They would probably have a very uncomfortable night, Dazzled knew, but he could not make himself go look for better lodgings. Someone would teach here and here they would stay until they heard all he had to say.
Someone makes himself available to potential apprentices. His songs and teachings attract hearers but his wisdom is matched by his attractiveness as a person. People feel secure with him. He is the kind of teacher one could trust to be alone with the youngest, the oldest, the most helpless, the most malleable. In short, Someone is not teaching theory. He is practicing a kind of living wisdom that offers security as well as challenge. He gives great information as much by example as by spoken word.
Someone enjoys the touch of the crowd. He loves the company of people. It is as though he knows each person before him by heart.
The way Someone accepts people affects them. Dazzled and Another One leave the familiarity of the Normal and Mean. Treasure hunters leave Pearl Street to off after him. They seem convinced that he can fulfill their dreams. His presence makes rich men open their homes to crowds of strangers as they open their home first to him. Someone puts his apprentices in touch with their feelings. He makes them understand their unspoken dreams. He helps each of them feel the urge to follow a better path.
Dazzled had too much thinking to do while he waited for supper. The day’s events nonplussed him. He was left to consider everything about his life up to the moment Someone sang to him.
Dazzled lived a good life before he met Someone. He treated people with kindness (mostly, he thought), pulled his share of the load wherever he worked and accepted people as they came (or shunned them quietly if he could not bear them). He was no more or less prejudiced than the next person. He was, he though, very much a product of his times.
In Home Owner’s courtyard that first night with Someone, he waited for supper with more patience than he might have shown earlier in the week. He was hungry. In fact, he had not eaten all day. In the years that followed Dazzled would see how people could get so caught up in Someone that they forgot to eat for a time. Theirs was a true fast of the soul. They did not sit down to stop eating. They just lost touch with the usual life for hours because of Someone.
His stomach started to remind him about the facts of common life. Away from Someone, who had followed Home Owner inside to wash and rest before a night of story telling, Dazzled felt fatigue start to engulf him. Tired and hungry had always prompted irritability in him but, oddly, Dazzled found what he really wanted was to get with Someone again for his stories. He wanted to know a lot more about Everbreath.
"Are you here with me?" Another One asked. "I don’t want to be alone in a crowd this size. All these people frighten me. I’m not ready for this."
Her simple statement of reality jolted Dazzled. He looked down at her. Tall though she was he was taller still. Her fright made her seem somehow less plain. Her features softened as she looked up at him with pensive eyes. Of all things to happen to him, Dazzled thought, he would never have thought he would become protector of a woman he barely knew and for whom he felt no physical attraction.
For, while Dazzled was a good man, a man of his times, Dazzled had spent a lot of time with a succession of women. He eased his tensions often with a woman’s body. He forgot his loneliness in the moment of first discovery and remembered it again as soon as the first thrill was gone. He attracted willing women and despised their easiness. Dazzled did not love women, he knew or even a particular woman. He just loved that moment of first unveiling when she offered up her secrets to him. The first discovery made him feel new all over again each time. When that was over he was ready for a new experience, another woman, a feeling of newness in the same old way.
To dazzled the act like love (for love it was not and love it had never been) was like a drug which, when taken in abundance, loses its narcotic affect. He recognized the similarity of experiences he had with women as he pulled Another One to him in her fright. They were waiting on a stranger’s porch for a beggar’s meal. Someone had literally emptied them both of themselves so he could fill them up, but with what? Dazzled felt a familiar fear rush through him. For the first time ever he stopped to examine his usual fear.
Men fear a lot of things but, being stronger physically, their fears are different from the fears women feel. Women fear that someone stronger will force them to do things they don’t want. Mean fear that women will laugh at them. The least quiver of a smile on a woman’s lips as she regards her man puts the fear of failure in him.
Dazzled lived every moment of his life with the fear of failure. No one ever loved that fear out of him. He was never strong enough to fight through it himself. He could admit his fear inwardly, study ways to deal with shame and pronounce himself cured for good. Then a person would confront him with a tone of voice or look against which he had no defense. Fear born of shame shot through him. His pulse would race, his voice would quiver and his eyes would find the floor. Frequently, as years went by he repaid any hint of shame with a preemptive strike of savage anger. His victims often could not imagine why he went ballistic. Most withdrew, some bit back but no one loved the hateful man after a few of his outbursts. He was, Dazzled knew, not rich enough to be considered eccentric or handsome enough to be excused.
In truth, though no one could know, Dazzled was born to shame. The people closest to him who counted were persons who could function only in the narrowest terms. Lacking convictions of their won, they had to depend on feelings of others for their bearings. They never meant to hurt him or anyone. They lacked guides of their own. They could not take him anywhere but the ditch if the road curved even a little. So Dazzled Spent his early life watching people laugh at his guides. Inwardly, he decided what any person aspiring to dignity might decide. People might laugh with him, they might laugh because of his wit but they would never, ever laugh at him. If he had to bring blood to compel respect he would drain the life from an opponent. No one would see his shame or get close enough to help heal him. He did not need healing. He just needed another deal, another triumph, another woman he could uncover and discard.
Then, Someone flashed his knowing smile one day and he was suddenly Dazzled. The song caught his attention, the stories intoxicated him and the fear of rejection fell from him like oak leaves after the first freeze. He was captured.
Now, alone with Another One in a crowd of people he knew for sure that he had never loved any of the strangers who coupled with him. He also knew he had never coupled with anyone who was not a stranger. When the thrill of discover passed, when a woman started to know him, Dazzled left.
Yet, that day Dazzled watched Someone behave with gentle love toward loose-limbed women on the street of hard-eyed men. He saw them cover their bodies to follow Someone. Someone was one of those rare men who could make eye contact with a woman and hold his eyes there to let her know she was the most important person in the world to him at that moment. He treated them as persons of worth rather than small mountains to climb.
"All Someone does is show people what they can be, men and women," Dazzled thought aloud. Another One nodded her head in agreement, startling him.
"He lifts people up quite because he doesn’t use them the way other people do," she confided to Dazzled.
She felt it, too, the love of a man who wanted to lift her. She respected Someone for the way the crowds met him. He told truth as she had never heard it told. She saw hard-eyed men cry and lose their squint. Women who daily debased themselves recovered modesty. People who could not have followed him walked after Someone out of a crowd, oblivious of glares and jeers. The short-sighted looked down the street to see, limpers ran and good news came to the working poor. Someone cared about her. He cared about Dazzled. He cared about all of them.
Dazzled looked at Another One for the tenth time that day. He saw her for the first time. He wide eyes, her long, narrow nose and high forehead registered with him. He colored when he realized he had spent the day waking with a girl a full three inches taller than him. Her hair was long in front, as though she wished to hide her face. Bright green eyes lightened her some, as did her white teeth. The lines around her mouth and eyes sowed an age probably greater in miles than years. Another One had been tired for a long time. Her fatigue was more of soul than the body. Eight hours of sleep and two weeks away would not give her the rest she needed.
Now he was her protector. He had enough trouble taking care of himself and now he must watch over a woman from Mean Street. He would not have given her a second glance on the street except to guard his wallet. Something changed that day. His life was not his life anymore. He belonged to her somehow, from the moment she asked to follow Someone with him. Dazzled was losing control of his life. He suddenly realized that his vulnerability thrilled him for the first time ever. He did not fear to lose himself to Someone.
The moment of discovery at the end of a busy, hungry day was all Dazzled could handle. Quiet descended on him as darkness deepened. An hour for the meal, he thought, and then the real feast could begin. What would Someone say tonight? He might sing about Everbreath. Dazzled wanted to know about Otherside. People around him openly discussed Otherside but he knew less about it than Everbreath. He was from Dirtside and breathed Readybreath. What could they mean about Everbreath and Otherside?
Dazzled was almost past caring. He wanted to hear Someone’s voice again. He wanted it more than he wanted to eat or rest. On impulse he pulled Another One closer to him. He whispered reassurance in her ear when he felt her tremble. Dazzled didn’t know if the crowd scared her or his sudden gesture but he wanted to soothe her fear. She was safe with him, not because she was plain but because he was safe for a woman now. A woman was safe with him for the first time he had come of age. At this realization, Dazzled caught himself for only an instant. Tears welled up in him. Great, wracking sobs wrenched from him. He could not stop. Another One stopped her tremblings as he cried. She spoke soothingly to him then. She could not know why he wept. She did think she was part of the cause.
"I’m a man," Dazzled said. "At thirty years old, I’m a man at last. A woman doesn’t have to fend me off, finally. I’m a man, a real man, a grown man at last."
He could not look at a woman as a sister, intent upon her advancement, aware of her body but committed to her safety. He was a man, at last.
Alone with Another One, surrounded by dozens, hungry and tired, Dazzled passed the threshold. He matured into an adult man with self-control.
Soon, Someone would come and teach them. He would surely talk of Everbreath and Otherside. For now, Dazzled and Another One held each other, alone in the crowd and safely so.
Dazzled has been a use for a long while. His story is not much different from that of others. He is so insecure in himself he is very likely to victimize people in order to complete himself. His relationships with women demonstrate his lack of self-awareness and self-assurance. He lacks an inner spiritual guide to help him find maturity. In John’s Godspell, chapter one and verse ten, we read that the way to maturity comes through childhood. When we want to grow up the better way is to actually become childlike first.
Do you ever watch children play? Granted, children can be taught to bully others. Yet, most children can play with others without emotional danger to either party. Occasional spats can often be reconciled by a few minutes of time-out or a well-placed nap. To become a child of certainly implies we get the ultimate parent of all time. The heavenly parent keeps us safe, gives us his name to take as our own and imparts heavenly values to us. He tells us how to know good people when we see them. He tells us how to be good people that others can see. These are really family values.
When supper came it was a thick stew of potatoes and vegetables in a red sauce smacking of tomatoes. The drink with it was dark and grainy. Dazzled gagged slightly as the mug neared his nose but the taste was bearable at first and then better toward the bottom of the mug. His thirst was gone.
Dazzled sat cross-legged next to Another One. Women, he decided, watching her, understood the elemental nature better than men. Another One was thirsty, so she drank twice. He life giving body needed food, so she ate everything in her wooded bowl and looked for more. Dazzled knew his function by now. Without a word passing between them he reached for her bowl, rose and limped back over toward the low serving table.
One his way he bumped into another man, quite by accident, he though. The immense strength of the man’s body caused him to recoil from the slight bump. The man was cloaked and hooded even inside the large eating area.
"Excuse me," Dazzled said, "I didn’t mean to run into you." He cocked his head slightly to one side and tried to peer into the darkness of the hood for some sign of life.
The only answer was a low snarl. The hair on Dazzled’s nape stood up in instinctive fright. This strong, cloaked figure was not one for trifling. He moved away from Dazzled, headed it seemed to the front of the room where he would be closest to Someone when he sang. His posture and gait reminded Dazzled of a person he knew but whose name he could not retrieve for the moment. Dazzled knew that he knew this man but he could not call his name.
At the low table, Dazzled stood confused for a moment. There had been only two pots brought out to feed dozens who came to dinner. No replenishment had been brought but still the servers dipped their ladles to come up full. Had others taken lesser amounts? Would they think Dazzled a pig if he asked for a second bowl for Another One?
"Come, brother, hold your bowl over here where I can serve you," the girl behind the table said with a slightly mocking smile. "I have only short arms. I can’t reach you if you stay over there."
Dazzled started at the sight of her. It could not be, society would not permit it, but for a moment, he though that the server was the Home Owner’s wife. No wealthy man ever set his wife to serving a beggar’s supper. He would never sit on a high place at the gate again after such a sorry display. No, on closet inspection, this lovely girl was much too young to be the Home Owner’s wife. Why, she looked young enough to be his daughter.
So, for the second time in less than a minute, Dazzled felt shock. His closer look revealed that this girl had the same face as the wife. Her mannerisms were identical with what Dazzled saw in the street. There could be no doubt about it, Dazzled decided, and absorbed yet another shock to his system.
The Home Owner allowed a crowd of strangers in his house (unthinkable), shared the honor of the Great Visitor with them (outlawed) and sent his children to serve the meal. Families, if they were seen at all, were presented to the Great Visitor only at the end of a great feast during which the Home Owner produced every servant he could muster. Dazzled lived his whole life on a street where he paid rent and obeisance to the Home Owner and never, not once, met the Home Owner’s wife or children. He seldom saw the Home Owner, who sent others to collect his rent.
"Sir," the girl’s lilting, lovely voice said again, "let me give you something else to eat. You look like you need a little help."
Like a statue slowly coming to life, Dazzled stiffly put out his bowl. The girl filled it with stew and smiled.
"You can go now," she said. Her voice activated Dazzled. He took the second bowl to Another One. She absorbed its contents, rubbed her eyes and yawned. Dazzled knew she would have to sleep before the stories. Her body needed rest. She took Dazzled by the arm, pulled him down to the floor with her, wrapped both her arms around one of his and was soon breathing deeply.
Dazzled took his time to look around the room at the other learners. Some were men and women from the street of hard-eyed men. Others were treasure hunters from Pearl. Dazzled had watched them meet Someone for the first time that very day. Like him they still had shiny eye just below brows knit in a state of perpetual thought. They too were starting to think about all they had seen that day. Like Dazzled, they had left home and family. Now they lived like beggars rather than gamblers and prostitutes. They were spiritual seekers instead of gamblers. So much had happened so fast. Dazzled knew his own empty, me-centered life had come to a close but he was not yet sure what he had traded for with Someone.
Dazzled let his gaze come full circle around the room. He sniffed the air while he listened to what scraps of conversation he could hear.
"I’ll bet my mother has police out looking for me," a boy stage whispered to a new companion. Proud of his own boldness when caught in the web of Someone’s songs, the boy had just taken time to consider the consequences of his actions. Family might think him a runaway for his unexplained absence.
An old man put his spotted hand on Dazzled. He asked, "Do you see the cloaked man still?"
The old man sense the danger in the room. His gnarled hands told the story of a thousand battles for Everbreath. He had not eaten with the others, Dazzled realized with a glance at his empty bowl. Instead, the old warrior had watched the room. He alone saw Dazzled bounce off the cloaked man with the snarling voice. Old Warrior knew there was murder in the air while others listened for idle chatter.
"Look there," he pointed, "closest to where Someone will sit with Home Owner to sing. Just next is the cloaked man."
Dazzled followed his words to the soft chair where the great visitor would sit next to the Home Owner’s chair. On the left side, a step below, the cloaked man hunched over to avoid conversation. He sat buried deep within his flowing, dark and dirty robes. Unable to see his face still, Dazzled again searched his mind for the name of the man in the cloak.
"The cloaked man means the death of Someone," Old Warrior spoke into Dazzled’s ear. "It’s not that time yet. You and I have to stop him before Someone comes out of the bath Chamber."
"How? Why me? What are you going to do in a fight" I felt the muscles in that man’s body when I hit him. He would kill both of us in a fight," Dazzled answered. He was glad Another One was asleep. She could not hear his fear.
"The Everbreath gives us what we need to beard this lion," Old Warrior said. "It just takes two who have the Everbreath. Come along, youngster."
Old Warrior rose to a height about half that of a cloaked man. He was even smaller than Dazzled.
"Great," Dazzled said, "I’m going to get killed fighting a giant with a dwarf."
Dazzled started to make some excuse but he was too late. Old Warrior pointed to the cloaked man and called his name.
Dazzled groaned at the sound. Now he knew for sure they would die right there.
"Put off your hood," Old Warrior shouted. He pointed dramatically at the cloaked man. "Let’s see just who you are under there."
"Be quiet, old man. I’m here for the show just like you," the answer hissed from deep in the hood.
"No one else has a hood to hide his features," Old Warrior rejoined. "Let us see your face if you’re here for the stories."
"One last warning from me to you," came his snarly answer. "Eat your stew, sit in your place and I’ll sit in mine."
"You will not stay unless you show your face," Old Warrior shouted. With that he rose to his full stature. Strong hands gripped Dazzled and lifted him to his feet. He found he could not resist Old Warrior. Together they sailed across the floor to the cloaked man. Old Warrior had done with the ceremony. He did not wait but jerked the hood off the hidden man as the whole crowd watched.
Someone Else was hidden in the hood.
The hard-eyed men knew him and the loosed-limbed women. The treasure hunters muttered their recognition, for Someone Else had often been the dissenting voice in their council when they might have looked for the Great Pearl. Even the worried boy knew Someone Else from the times he had blocked children who came to hear Someone sing.
"This is not your place," Old Warrior said. "It has not been your place since you tried to steal Otherside from the One, Someone, and the Spiritone. You have to leave. You have to leave now unless you want to repent."
"Repent? Where do you get these words, old man?" Someone Else mocked. His voice had an odd way of raising a full octave from syllable to syllable. His eyebrows lifted with his voice, forming a perfect point with his trimmed, sharp beard.
"Repentance is where you need to start over," Old Warrior replied.
"Repentance means one admits guilt and hates his acts. I love the things that you think make me guilty. I admit no guilt for my love of everything I do. Repentance is for weaklings like you who can’t face their guilt with pride," Someone Else squealed. Once again, he recognized that his eternal anger betrayed him to men.
Someone Else looked beyond the Old Warrior and Dazzled. He recognized one of his women half asleep on the floor behind them. He had debased her for years. Now she was here with these men who would not even use her! His rage flared. He reached for her to end her miserable life before his enemy could change her. Her words of life would keep a lot of little girls from him if the enemy made her knew. Desperate for blood he lunged for her.
Not for the last time, Dazzled put himself between Someone Else and his intended victim. He shifted his weight instinctively. There was no way he could be seeing already, Someone Else knew he could not see yet but somehow he knew. Dazzled put his full weight between them. In another day it would have been the weight of a feather to Someone Else but today it was enough. Dazzled received the full blow. He got a scar he would carry just below the surface of his hairline. A second blow glanced off his shoulder, forming a deep bruise. Dazzled would hurt for awhile but Another One was safe. Someone Else had run out of time.
The crowd was up now, sleep done, stupor forgotten. The moved toward Someone Else with outstretched hands ready to do him violence. Someone Else froze his face in a glare and seemed to fly over them rather than run. Somehow he was gone. The air was purer. The sense of hatred was missing, Dazzled felt, and not a punch thrown or a shot fired. Still, he felt exhausted. His head reeled and his shoulder hurt for some reason.
"He talks a big fight," Old Warrior sniffed, "but a little resistance from the Everbreathers and he folds up like a tent in a gale. A push from a couple of us and he runs. Someone Else always does his best work when he hides in the dark."
Dazzled realized he had not been breathing. He accepted air. His lungs filled. At the same time his lower limbs refused their office. He fell. Old Warrior saw it coming and caught him before he could find the floor.
"I’m sorry," Dazzled said. "I’ve never felt more threatened than when you threw off his hood showed his face. I met him earlier today and he looked different in here."
"You have met him a number of times before I imagine," Old Warrior told him. "He looks like the things he needs to look. Sometimes he charms, other times he frightens. In truth he look however he wants. The one consistent thing about him is his inconstancy. He becomes what he wants to be at the moment. That makes him very different from Someone who is the same every time you see him."
At the mention of Someone Dazzled forgot his fear. He even ignored the acclaim of the crowd. They seemed not to have noticed his fall after the fight. He was vaguely glad he had not fainted dead away in front of them. Dazzled found himself slumping back over to Another One. For some reason he wanted her more than he wanted the rowdy crowd. He had a dull headache to go with his painful shoulder. When he got to Another One, her look of deep distress made him promptly forget his pain.
"I woke up and you were gone," she accused him. "Then I looked across the room and your were fighting that awful, awful man. I was afraid you’d be killed. It was so bloody."
Dazzled was confused. He saw no blood anywhere. Granted, his head ached and his shoulder hurt but no one bled. Another One must have been half dreaming, he thought.
"I was wide awake," she said with the crispest of tones. She had already learned to read his face. He would often think she could read his mind but she just used her womanly instincts to discern his intent from his gestures.
"You were in danger over there with that Old Man and Someone Else. I’ve seen him eat people alive more than once. They scream, they cry and call for their mothers. No one comes to help them. I have stood like a stone and watched him eat my best friend. I’ve done that more than once; just glad he doesn’t bite me," she continued.
Another One paused. He looked at her with shock as though he saw her for the first time.
"Promise me something, promise me right now and really mean it," she insisted. Her hands had found his arm again. Her nails dug a line in his flesh.
He knew she would catch him if he lied. He honestly wondered if he lie to her.
"Promise me you will never face Someone Else of any of his friends again without me," she demanded. "I know him when I see him, no matter what he wears or how he hides. I know him better than most. When you have to fight him, take me to the fight. I"m a warrior too even if you don’t see it yet."
Dazzled did not sink this time. He plummeted. Someone who ignited his life with a song had endowed him with Everbreath and stolen him from his life on Normal Street. Another One had depended on him first for company and then for food but wanted to confront supreme, life-gobbling evil with him. Old Warrior who looked like death’s next day carried him across a room to fight a powerful enemy who ran away when the old man jerked a hood off his head.
In addition, Home Owner let his wife invite in a crowd and sent his children to serve dinner from a pot that never emptied, whose contents slaked thirst and satisfied hunger. All of this and hard-eyed men, loosed-limbed women, treasure hunters and a runaway teenager met in the same room to overcome the evil intent of Someone Else in the name of the One. Dazzled didn’t even know the One. Still, he was throwing his name around like they were old friends.
All this was too much. Dazzled snuggled close to Another One for reassurance. Another One hugged him to her. Her warmth softened her pinched features. He almost found her beautiful. Mostly, at that moment, she comforted him as no woman had ever done. Old Warrior stood over him to rub his sore shoulder. Both of them worked on his aching head, exchanging worried glances as they handled him. Dazzled just had all he could handle for one day. He slept awake, aware of all that happened around him. Together, loved, in the deep friendship of shared experience, Another One and Old Warrior rested him.
Someone is pulled into a realm where his sight does not work well. There are more things under heaven and earth than he can see with human eyes.
As John has a Godspell, so does an ancient Jewish-Christian whose name comes down to us through history as Matthew. He spent much of his adult professional life as a tax collector working for the Imperial Government to collect money from other people of his nation. If he had a family, he must have collected heavy taxes from even members of his own family!
Matthew has seen evil in its never ending contest with good. He gives a detailed of just such a contest in his Godspell, chapter four. The Enemy of Good encounters Ultimate Good in a desert place where they can go toe to toe without disturbance. The Enemy of Good spins the truth into a lie, makes offers he will in no way keep and shows just how much he despises Ultimate Good. The one who is Ultimate Good sees through the tricks. He is able to look with spirit eyes. He will not do wrong even if right might come of it. He keeps his eyes on the best ever in place of the here and now.
The old man who patted Dazzled on the shoulder was not really so old. He may have seemed aged in a youth crazed culture but he was one of those fellows who might have been 40 or might have been 60 if you looked only at his face. His body was still hard, as Dazzled knew, and strong from toes to topknot.
To be sure he wore the wrinkles of hard days in the hot sun. His face might have been described as several miles of bad road for he had been down a few. He was not stranger to work, no alien from hard drink. The name Old Warrior sat well on him because of the many battles that stretched out behind him. Not wars, not his years, made him the Old Warrior.
Old Warrior knew the songs of Everbreath and Otherside. He knew the names of the One, the SomeOne and the SpiritOne. Songs and names brought power to this realm. Old Warrior fit with the people who sang the songs and claimed the names.
He had ruined his own life before Dazzled was born, before Another One drew her first breath, before Someone came into the world. He listened for years while Someone Else sang his metal songs. They were harsh and crude but he was low enough to have them intoxicate him. He left those who loved him so he could listen more closely to those who used him. No one, it seemed, could call the young man who would become Old Warrior.
For years he frequented the drinking places, feasted with the mighty and crushed the weak. He lived as a mighty man of courage, or so he thought, though at the time he never fought anyone who had a change against him. He built a reputation for shrewd toughness, took a wife, cheated her, fathered sons and cheated them too. He was a man’s man. Weaker men did not speak his name aloud for fear he might come.
One night he took himself to a drinking place where mostly younger people gathered. He was looking for a drink, a young girl and a fight to shock the girl and awe the men. He laid his eyes on a likely wench with long hair and a low-cut blouse. Her arms were bare and her hips cocked invitingly in her peasant skirt. She flashed teeth whenever she smiled. She was plainly available. He young men had left her for a moment. The not so young man who would become Old Warrior approached her with a crooked smile that stated his interest.
The young woman, slightly drunk, teetered for an instant. She smiled enough to encourage him but murmured, "My man will be back in a moment. In fact, here he comes now."
He heard a shout, a blade flashed, and the young man who would become Old Warrior unsheathed his sword. He had no time to turn around. In an instant he jabbed his blade backward between his cloak and body, under his left arm. The jealous suitor impaled himself horribly. He cried out as the serrated edges sliced open his bowel. Fear drove him. He pushed backward away from the pain. His intestines trailed out after the sword. The wound was mortal but slow and agonizing.
The young man who would become Old Warrior smirked at the frantic girl. He had yet to face his victim. Deliberately he pulled his blade free and wiped it on her bodice before he returned it to the sheath.
"Why, you’re right. Here your man is now," he smirked and turned to look down at the dying boy.
He had killed his youngest son.
The dying boy pleaded with failing eyes for escape from the wound. Of all Old Warrior’s sons this was the first one who could most abide him. There were six others who cursed him, feared him and plotted his death when he grew too old to fight them. This one, this boy, trailed him around like a puppy. He returned every cuffing with a sickish hunger for fatherly love. He had decided early that his father could only love someone who would drink, womanize and fight. The teenager who would grow no older followed his father every day and even some nights when his father did not know. He watched his father go into drinking places, He saw him come out with a woman or fight or just a roaring drink.
He wanted his father’s love. The night he died on a dirty floor was not his first night chasing a young woman and looking for a fight. Unskilled but eager he had chosen the wrong woman and the last man he would ever contest.
The boy took several minutes to bleed out and die. His suffering was enormous. He cried for his father. He called the name of each brother repeatedly. The names were like spear thrusts for his murderer. The killer had the time to watch his whole life pass while his boy breathed out his Readybreath. He watched, stunned, unmoving for an eternity. When the death rattle came he looked around for a friendly place or for someone to help.
Someone Else was the first one to speak. He was standing with several friends watching death come for one more father’s son.
"He got what he had coming. No one runs up on a killer like you screaming his presence. That’s a sure way to die," he said. His tone tinged with sympathy. the eager look on his face belied any concern for the dying boy or the murdering father. He was excited to watch a young man’s death with his band of soul eaters.
Months later, emerging from drunken grief, the young man who became Old Warrior remembered Someone Else and his friends standing around his dying son. He recalled, no, felt, the sharp attention of their eyes as that son rendered up his soul forever. He would find Someone Else, he vowed, and send him to Hell with all his friends.
His vow disappeared in a sea of drink. For more months he roamed the earth as a laborer intent on earning enough each day to dim his guilt at night.
One who knew the songs and names of the Everbreath and Otherside found him one night face down in a ditch full of dirty rain. The young killer was drowning. The one who knew the songs and names pulled him out of the ditch. His mouth and nose were plugged with mud. The stranger had to clean out an opening for Readybreath and then breathe closely into the killer’s mouth. When he started to breathe again, the stranger cleaned him, covered his naked body (for he had lost every shred of dignity), bound his self-inflicted wounds and took him to the healers. The one who knew the songs and name paid the healers for the killer’s treatment.
For weeks he stayed, cursing, vile and crying. The healers bound him for his own safety. One day the one who knew the songs and names came back to see him. The young killer spat in his face and would have destroyed him if he could have gotten loose.
Wiping the spit from his nose, the one who knew the songs and names said, "I was once not so different than you are now. There is a better way."
Young Killer cursed him. The one who knew the songs and names left him alone then. On his way out he left more money with the healers for him.
"Tell him the stories and sing him the songs. No need to tell him the names yet. He has too much fear," he told them and left.
For more than a year the young killer stayed with the healers. On the day they unbound him he threw himself at the nearest one, only to find himself tossed aside like a rag doll. He put his head down and charged again. The same healer stood to one side, stuck out a huge foot and gave him a slight push. The young killer went down in a heap.
"You are not in a bar fight now, little one. We had you tied for your protection, not for ours. Mind your manners or we might have to tie you up on a big pillow," the healer was smiling but he was not joking.
The young killer sulked for days. His pride was injured quickly but not deeply. What could they do for him? too young for children he had produced he had killed one and ruined the others. Not yet thirty he was a murderer of the week, a fool for Someone Else to exploit.
He could have left. No bars held him. He stayed because he wanted stories (or was it the songs?). He could not leave. Somehow the songs soothed him. the stories gave him hope.
The sins of this father sat on the son and killed him. He just wanted to be like his dad, as do most sons. The innocence of the son exaggerated the guilt of the father. Young killer wanted death, wanted suffering, until he wanted forgiveness, the end of his shame and hurt.
He did not find forgiveness all at once. The healers helped. Time passed and the one who knew the songs and names sat with a hundred times.
"Why me? why help me?" the young killer asked one late night. "Of all the people in the world, why me?"
"What makes you think you are the only one I help? What makes you think I help you because of something in you? It may be that I help you because it is in my nature to bless," he answered tartly. The answer rang true. He was helping because it was in his heart to help.
"And what makes you think you are worse than any other?" the Name Knower added.
At this the young killer snorted disgustedly.
"I killed my own son in a drunken fight over a woman I didn’t know," he spat the words. "Tell me who is lower than that, blesser."
"No one is worse than that," the Name Knower replied. "But I can tell you who is just as bad."
"Who? For the love of God, who is lower than the man who kills his own son?"
"The man who whispers a lie to gain an advantage. The woman who wishes to kill out of hate but fears to wield the blade. The woman who entices a man away from his own family. The man who teaches his child to hare others simply because of their talk or their color. These and a million others who you would deem innocent are as low as a son slayer," Name Knower answered as a nurturer.
"What do you want from me?" the killer asked.
"I don’t want anything from you. I want a lot of things fro you," he answered with a face that registered perfect security.
"I didn’t think you were much of a man when you let me spit on you without giving me the back of your hand," the killer was crying again.
"You think men are those who do what they do because they can. I learned that a man does what he does because he can help in wondrous ways if he will just focus on providing and protecting" the Name Knower said.
"How do yo know?" I spent thirty years thinking a man was a man if he could drink, fight and womanize," his sobs were great now. "How did you find out how to be a man?"
"I got something many, many men never get," Name Knower said. "I met a father, the ultimate father of all time. He loved me out of myself."
"My father taught me how to sharpen my blade," the killer said.
"When he did that, he killed your son. It took years for you to get to the murder but your son was dead when your father gave you the power without the responsibility," Name Knower finished.
"Wait, don’t go. I have to tell you, for so long, it felt good to have that power. God help me, it felt good to be stronger than the others. I like the kill," he was broken now.
"Yes, many men like to kill until we kill the wrong person or until it comes out time to meet someone stronger. Think of the other sons you killed. Every man is the son of a father. Think of the fathers who go to their graces now where you put their sons. You feel their pain now. It was inevitable, in this life or the next to pay the price," Name Knower said and stood to walk away.
"Wait, no, don’t leave me," the young killer said.
"It’s enough for one day," Name Knower said over his shoulder. "This part is better not rushed."
"What part? what are we doing? Help me or I’ll die," the young killer called after him.
"No, you won’t die. It’s too late for that. You already have life. The Everbreath has you now," was all he heard.
To hear he had life did not help him much. He could not identify life, where he got it or what it felt like. He slept fitfully that night, the next and for many nights to come. He longed for the Name Knower to return. The healers shook their heads and smiled knowingly at his frustration but they provided no more direction for him. They were content to help him with his wounds.
One day, after a year, he recognized their healing touch was telling him something. They started to let him help the newly arrived wounded souls. Sometimes the young killer sat all night with another young killer. He held the hand of a drunk from the ditch that was deposited on their door just before dawn in a driving rain. The young man was naked, just as the young killer had been when the Name Knower found him. The Ditch Drunk had undoubtedly traded the clothes off his back to the healers. He left a little money with the healers who would feed and nurse the latest Ditch Drunk night and day. Young Killer could never tell why the healers gave their lives to heal but it wasn’t the money. There are a lot of nights when the healers went hungry so derelicts could eat.
Young Killer finally accepted their kindness. His night sweats were subsiding. Nightmares still came most nights but a healer would suddenly appear to him to hold him while he shook with great, wracking sobs. No one could make those times stop. His illness was self-inflicted and richly deserved. All the sons he had killed called his name. All the fathers he had orphaned of sons scowled their ill wishes at him. He was cursed, damned for ten eternities. He had no hope of forgiveness, no expectation of pity. All the hurt he attracted came to him as just payment.
Still, he thought, he could do something for someone. Granted, he was going to burn night and day forever. Any other sentence would have been an affront to the boys he killed. He just wanted to ease someone’s pain somewhere. He would stay with the healers as long as they could stand him. He would help them heal or empty their night jars. Whey they finally could bear him no more he would leave. He would find death somewhere far from them but first he would learn what he could and help whomever he might.
"How long can I stay here?" he asked the Old Healer one day.
"You will want to leave one day soon," came the answer. "You’re getting better by the hour now. Before long you will leave us behind and start on your new adventures."
"I don’t understand how you see my future. I plan no more than today and not all of that but you seem ten years ahead. I don’t get it," he was frustrated and it showed.
"Relax. Stop trying to be something. Read the Book of Life. Let the truth come to you," the Old Healer was smiling.
"I don’t know about the Book of Life. Where is it?"
"You’ve been writing in it for some time," Old Healer said. "You’ve been written into the Life Book. You’ve been contributing to it for awhile."
"Stop telling me things I can’t see. You’re driving me crazy," Young Killer cried aloud.
"No, you were crazy when we got you. We’ve been driving you sane. You go crazy on what you see. What you can’t see but know is there, that’s what makes you sane."
"Sight only tells you what you see. You still have to interpret all the information you sense. Too much information or a poor interpretation makes your system overload. Then you do crazy things. You will kill because you think it makes you rich. Then, one day, sanity intrudes for a moment and you see yourself a murderer, a liar or a glutton. Perhaps it’s when you will the wrong person or start to believe your own lies or run out of things to want. Somewhere, reality interrupts you. You see you have lived in a fantasy forever. You suddenly want the heaven truth makes but you have to go through some hell to cleanse your system," Old Healer finished.
"I think I’ve been in hell," Young Killer said meekly.
"You’ve lived in a torment you made. Your insanity pushed you along out of control. For awhile you’ve been same and sober but it’s a day at a time. You’ve out of the white knuckle stage, anyway. Everbreath has you now. I think you’ll see in another realm very soon. In fact, I think you do now. You continue to describe what you see in the new way with the old words. If you let the truth take you, you will learn a new language to express truth. Beauty will be more important to you than power. There are some good things just ahead of you, son," the Old Healer was done now.
When he used the word "son," he broke the killer’s heart again. Young Killer had never been a son but he had killed a son he sired. A week later the one who knew the songs and names returned. He had been gone longer than ever this time. Name Knower bore some fresh wounds this time. Deep bruises blotched both his arms. Long scratches dug furrows around his eyes, which were both black. He limped into the compound more bent than ever.
"What does the other guy look like?" Young Killer asked.
"He looks like he always does, young strong and untouched by remorse," Name Knower sighed.
"Is it worth the fight?" Young Killer wanted to know.
"Were you naked in a ditch when I found you?" Name Knower answered a question with a question.
They sat in silence for the first time as friends. The day was ending with a cool breeze to blow away a hot afternoon. Neither man had to say anything for some time.
"I think you have something to tell me," Name Knower said.
"I still cry every night. The nights are the worst," Young Killer answered.
"I cry at night too," Name Knower responded.
""You? Why would you cry? What have you every done but help people?" Young Killer was amazed. For the first time in a long while he doubted the words of Name Knower.
"I was long by your age before I ever lifted up another person. No, I wasn’t a killer. I was just a hater. I held others in contempt. Everyone was a fool to me. I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t a loser like most of the men I knew. I lived over on Normal, congratulating myself every day that I was better than the hard-eyed men on Mean. I would have gladly voted for your execution. I would have seen you die with no more emotion than if I stepped on a bug. You were nothing to me, people were nothing to me, I was everything and nothing to me," Name Knower relived his error.
"How can that be worse than me?" Young Killer asked.
"We said before, it is not worse. It is just as low but not one whit worse. You killed because you could. I held my hand from men because I did not care. In truth, men were born to care, to provide, to nurture. We have a heart as well as a sex organ. We shouldn’t use the organ without the action of the heart. We have a soul as big as any ripped pecs. We are born to exercise our soul and watch it grow," Name Knower was excathedra.
"Is that the sanity Old Healer says I’ll see?"
"This is sanity. This is family. This is the purpose for the existence of men on earth. We’re healers, not hurters. We’re lovers and fathers, not rapists or leavers. We love women to us rather than force ourselves on them. We are fathers of the race," Name Knower intoned.
"How do you know? How do you see?"
"You see every person wanting the kind of father you want. You want someone to love you enough to provide and explain. You want protection when you need it and you want someone who knows to make sense of all the news that demands a decision from you. The father you want is the father you must become for a hundred others," he finished.
"I killed my own son in a bar fight," Young Killer repeated for the last time. Only much later did he remember he had fallen to his knees. His face was very near the dirt again.
"But neither you nor I," Name Knower said, "get to decide what is worse than any other thing. We cannot say who is the worse son or more shameful father. That is the way to insanity again."
"What do we do?" Young Killer begged.
"Accept the love of the greater father for yourself. Offer love to all the lesser sons because you and I are lesser sons."
For that, Young Killer had to think over everything he had ever known from everyone he had ever met. All his prose had to translate into the poetry of the place he could not see with eyes. Slowly, over time, in the reach of the songs and stories, clouds started to form just behind his eyes. He began to weep again and again one day, to weep hard and long. He wept until he ran out of water, drank, and wept again.
Then, at last, after a long time, he realized one day he was no longer weeping for himself. He was weeping for his son, for that boy’s loss and no longer for himself.
Young Killer started to heal. He held on to Dazzled that night after they routed Someone Else as a father would hold a highly favored son. The healing, complete and full though it was, never really ended at all.
In Western society, fathering and mothering are looked at differently. When modern Western society discusses mothering it is as a lifetime commitment to nurture and love. Fathering most often means a one time act of procreation. To heal modern Western social structure one might start with the forfeiture of the role of the man as provided and protector who nurtures and loves. Dictatorship is unattractive regardless of who wields the scepter. Leadership that consults, builds consensus, conveys affection and portrays values is welcome almost anywhere.
If social scientists are correct we are witnessing the coming of a generation that is virtually untouched by parenting. Divorce, two career marriages and the overwhelming crush of distractions like video games put parents and children apart from one another most of the time. Life mentoring and coaching may prove to be great growth industries in the years ahead as young people grow to adulthood without the basic knowledge one needs to be happy. the ability to handle a computer does not necessarily imply that one can balance a checkbook or make a life-time commitment to another person.
In John’s Godspell, chapter one and verses thirty nine through fifty one, Jesus Christ is busy drawing apprentices to himself for his ministry. He will spend three years with a close band of brothers who will in turn mentor dozens of others until the lifestyle of Jesus will become the norm for entire societies. First, Jesus takes time, a long time, to teach his apprentices the basics. They change the world with his teachings, even down to our own day. Jesus does not rush their life transformation even though he lives under the pressure of events bordered by a terminal time limit. Jesus does not teach a magic prayer to make everything right. He does present a body of teaching that will link his apprentices with the spiritual realm of eternity.
Dazzled stirred from a waking sleep. While he half-dozed something worked on his mind. The though dogged his subconscious until it snapped him to a violent wakefulness.
Old Warrior, it occurred to him, had called him to fight against Someone Else. That fact was clear. Of all the men and women in the room, Old Warrior laid his iron grip on Dazzled when he needed an armor carrier.
Why was he the one? There were larger, more muscular men within easy reach. For that matter, there were women of fire in that room he would not take on in a fight. When Another One chided him for not including her in the battle Dazzled saw energy in her eyes that out classed any feistiness he could muster. He realized that her soft voice was backed up by a will of steel.
Another One survived for years on Mean Street because she was tougher than the men who used her. He knew she was not just talking. She would go to battle when he called her and fight to the end.
No, Old Warrior did not select Dazzled for his power. Why then? This was the thought/feeling/vision that nagged Dazzled in his stupor. He laid on the hard floor of Home Owner’s inner courtyard with his head on Another One’s soft shoulder. Old Warrior maintained a reassuring presence with his hand on Dazzled’s arm. All the resting time Dazzled thought of nothing other than this one problem. His personal self-doubt haunted his mind while he tried to rest his body.
The great realization awakened Dazzled. He saw the truth of his calling. It amazed him all over again. The truth stood stark naked before him in Old Warrior’s words. In answer to Dazzled’s protest about the strength of Someone Else, Old Warrior said it took only two who had Everbreath to defeat the enemy. The power of the adversary did not matter when one took into account the force of Everbreath. Old Warrior ripped the hood off Someone Else without fear. Dazzled had watched him act from inches away away because Old Warrior identified him as one with Everbreath.
Old Warrior, who had never met Dazzled knew Someone. He recognized Everbreath in Dazzled. He did not ask anything other than the presence of Everbreath before he carried Dazzled into war.
How could this happen? How could it be true? Dazzled had spent part of a day listening to Someone sing songs and tell stories. Dazzled did not remember asking for Everbreath. Dazzled did not even know the rules of Everbreath. He had not heard of it before that day. He still barely knew the names of the One, SomeOne and the SpiritOne. He had not heard of Otherside, either, before that day. He still did not know the location of Otherside, how it was different from Dirtside and how one got there. He knew that many of the men from Familiar knew much more than he. Yet, Old Warrior gravitated to him when the fight started. Of all those present Old Warrior wanted Dazzled with him in the bloody battle Another One woke to see.
Frustration roiled his stomach. If he had Everbreath, when and where had he got it? Were there costs he did not know? Where had he been when Everbreath overcame the Readybreath in him? How had Everbreath stolen on him?
"Old Warrior," Dazzled croaked and coughed then to clear his throat. "Old Warrior," he repeated when he could more clearly speak, "How did I get Everbreath? You say I have it. You called me into the fight because of Everbreath but I don’t know when or where this happened to me. How is this possible?"
"Little friend," Old Warrior began with suddenly misting eyes, "You got Everbreath when you met Someone. Do you remember how it was that you couldn’t take your eyes off of him? You followed him off Normal to Mean where you would never have gone in daylight. You left behind all the usual things of life to go with him. You had Everbreath before you ever turned the corner."
Now Dazzled was truly perplexed. He had not seen Old Warrior in the crowd on Normal or among the hard-eyed men of Mean. He had not seen him at all before he appeared in the inner courtyard of Home Owner’s house. How did he know where Dazzled met Someone? How could he know where the corner was turned?
"He picked you up and bore you along. All of us leave what is common and pass through the hard places when we meet him. He’s constantly walking through the mean streets where good people won’t go. You can’t stay on Normal when Someone looks right at you," Old Warrior added as though reading his mind.
"I didn’t ask him to come to my street. I didn’t ask him for his songs. I didn’t know about him. How can he change me in a day?" Dazzled was not complaining. He was just mystified.
"He didn’t change you in a day, son," Old Warrior smiled. "He changed you in an instant for an eternity for which he got you ready over years. You came with him because he was ready for you to come with him. He is the purest beauty you will ever meet. He knows everything about you in a flash but loves you anyway. You could tell him no but your whole soul tells you not to be a fool. He holds all the truth that’s true in his own heart. If you ever want to know what’s real, you have to go with him. When he smiles at you, every crime you ever committed disappears. He makes life be right."
"I don’t see how this is possible. If he knew me, he wouldn’t want me. I don’t understand how one fellow with a song carried me away from my life."
"You can’t understand because you still think like the Readybreathers. All you know is get and keep, protect yourself and yours. Someone sings about every Readybreather as our neighbor. He makes us think about the exclusive club of neighbors we knew and how different it is when everyone is our neighbor," Old Warrior was almost crying.
The magnitude of the task overwhelmed him for a moment. Old Warrior felt like a man on a high mountain with the devil looking at the nations of the world and knowing he could have them all if only he would sell his soul for a moment. Every time he felt this way he had to decide again that his soul was worth more to Someone than all the world’s nations.
He had also come to see that he would lose the nations as well as his soul if he sold himself too cheaply. The enemy was wily that way. You have to be aware of the soul stirrings deeper than the deals he offered.
"I want to understand," Dazzled said with Old Warrior lapsed into silence. "I can hear what you say, I can feel what you say, I just can’t seem to get my mind around it."
"Can it be enough for now to know what you’ve started?" Old Warrior wanted to know. "Can it be enough for his moment to see you’ve arrived at this place in space and time with Someone who is more and other than you every knew? You’re in a place where the soul animates the body. If you listen, if you trust, Someone’s truth will come to you without an adjective. You’ll get truth instead of truisms."
"What’s a truism?"
"Son, a truism is an argument that’s factual on its face but so trivial as to be irrelevant. Too many people live their whole life by truisms and call it truth. They may even claim that announcing their opinion is telling the truth when all they really do is tell things as they see them. They declare their agenda and call it the truth. Someone will show you truth that matters." Old Warrior finished.
Dazzled sank down again. For the final time that day he found things too much for him. He would have to be glad his starting for awhile. A start was necessary, he knew, but what he had now was too much truth to ignore. He would have to know more. These mystic place were new to him. He needed time and guidance. He needed insight into his experiences from someone with real wisdom.
For now, it was enough to know he had started. He saw that the privilege of position with Someone’s band would mean responsibility rather than status. He had already been dragged into a fight. He had left all the familiar stuff of his life. He had made new friends unlike any he had ever known. Now he lived like a beggar with a mob of people who were beguiled by Someone. They all sat in borrowed space and ate a shared meal. He fought with Someone Else at the urging of a wizened old man whose grip with a grip like a bear. He rested his head on the shoulder of a tender, savage woman whose energy overwhelmed him.
To start with Someone was not exactly like starting with anyone else. He breathed deeply, folded up with Another One. They were still waiting for Someone to come. He hoped to hear more about the names. He wanted information on Otherside. They would have to wait but they would wait. They would be fools not to wait where they sat.
Jesus Christ spent a night in deep consultation with the Spirit that guided him. His apprentices spent the night on a level just below him waiting to see what he might discover. When he came down from his night-long consultation, he picked twelve special assistants who would spend a lot of time with him. After the consultation and the selection of special assistants, Jesus went to yet a lower level to help people in need. This story is in Luke’s Godspell, chapter six and verse twelve. Jesus Christ trained those special assistants to train apprentices of their own. He helped people take up a residence in a kingdom they could not see. They began a long tradition of service to that unseen kingdom that changed the world they could see.
Another One adjusted herself again as Dazzled nestled with her. He would need her energy very soon to resolve his latest confusion. Just then he needed her presence to reassure him.
Another One knew her own vulnerability. She had the helplessness of a woman in a violent world that valued physical strength. In her world women and slaves did the hard work of strong men made them do. Another One had not illusions about taking care of herself. At one hundred and twenty pounds, tall and thin, she recognized that any man thirty pounds heavier than her could have his way. She kept her life more than once in surrender of her body to some man other men called weak.
Another One saw early on her total dependence on her father in her father’s house. Later she felt her naked vulnerability to her husband. If she had given him sons, they would have supplanted her as well. Still later she fell under the sway of this man and that man and another man when her marriage died. She lived in a man’s world where pure physical strength mattered most. She lived in a fallen man’s world where the natural urges of both sexes propelled men and women in a parallel course intersecting at tragedy for the whole human race. When women could not say, "No," when their dignity was reduced to painful play, all mankind paid a price.
"I’m not exactly pretty," she told herself at many mirrors. "No heads turn when I walk through a room. I’ll never be a girly girl."
Her smile lifted her features some. Even that made Father wary of her. He did not want her smiling at the wrong time.
In fact, Father wore her virginity as proof of his masculine power. Other men noticed her deference to him with approving nods. She was proud of the way a crowd parted for him when he led her to market with her veiled mother, swathed from head to foot even on the hottest days. The whole town knew her father’s temper. He was a man of his times, a product of his society and the son of his father. If he used his women to pronounce his place, he was doing no more of less than his father had had done before him. He lived as the son of his father. His sons would live according to his practices as well or they would feel the back of his hand.
"You remember what happened to Innocent," Mother often reminded her, as though there were need. "You were her favorite playmate. What happened to that girl can happen to any girl who is not careful."
The girl she meant had lived a few houses down their street. She was lovely when she was a little girl. Long, dark eyelashes and raven hair framed her piercing blue eyes. Her skin was milky white, without blemish. Her mouth pursed s perfect vee surrounding short, straight, white teeth. For all that the little princess exuded an air of innocence. She did not seem to know how her appearance affected others. The boys who were her playmates in early life could not have known what compelled them to act out of her. Their antics amused all the girls but they performed for Innocent alone.
When she came of age, suitors lined up to offer the dowry. She had matured from an idyllic child to a Helen in form. Her meekness smiled through her eyes. Her father and brothers obviously adored her. They almost worshiped her as the incarnation of her dead mother. Innocent entered maiden hood without the counsel of a married woman who could guide her in the difficult days just ahead of her. Her beauty and obvious chastity attracted older men like an open petal calls to a honey bee.
"We must get her married," her father worried day after day to his friends at the gate. "Her beauty will be my death."
One suitor persisted more than anyone. His age was twice that of hers and he had married three times before he came to her door. He preferred younger women whose bloom had not faded. When he grew tired of his wives or saw a more becoming beauty, he gave his women a writ of divorcement. They went away into lives of poverty, shame or both. Unencumbered by wife or conscience he was perpetually free to continue through life as a teenager. He careened from woman to woman, gathering speed as he glanced off each one, certain that they existed for his pleasure. He needed increasingly younger and more beautiful women to validate his fading manhood. When he heard of Innocent, he knew she must be his latest wife, if not his last.
"You would not be good for my Innocent," Father told him. "Your record does not inspire confidence. You are not a good risk."
So one night he took Innocent from her room by stealth. He forced himself on her. Violently at first and then repeatedly he forced her submission. In this way he hoped he would cause her family to accept him. Instead, Father entered into an intense negotiation through the middle-man for her return. They paid a hefty ransom and agreed that he captor could be left off with a fine and banishment from their street.
"You have been with a man," Father moaned and wept at her return. "I can see it in your eyes. You did not keep yourself Pure."
The girl, a victim of kidnap and assault, traumatized by a man she did not know, returned to a house where he existence no longer honored the family. Father still had his place for he paid the ransom on her behalf. His pride remained intact. Innocent was lost to him forever but he could still have his place by the gate.
Frantically Father and brothers began to look for someone to take her. She would not bring a dowry. They would have to pay a man to have her now. Her beauty was unchanged but her other suitors now evaporated. They did not return messages from her family. To marry her now meant they accepted a fallen angel. Everyone would know. They could not go anywhere without thinking that every caustic laugh in the crowd meant someone knew they slept with a soiled woman.
After a week there was no longer any hope. Family position demanded they offer up Innocent. If she could not be a wife, she could not life with them, she could not live. Rough hands dragged her to edge of town. Rougher hands shoved her down into a kneeling position. Heavy stones rained down on her until she was buried under the barrage. She was badly injured but not quite killed outright.
The men who interred hie alive included her father, brothers and uncles. The men who stood guard over the stones crushing her were some of the men who once offered half their fortunes for her hand. Now they stood hate-faced, silent sentinels to ascertain that not rescuer came for her. No one could offer her water or a kind word. Innocent lay crushed and left to die, mute testimony of what happens to a girl who is not careful with her virtue.
Her father shepherded Another One out to the rubble pile with other girls her age. Their trip took place the day after Innocent finally stopped breathing. Familial protectors pushed them close to the pile when they would have turned their faces. The lost Innocent still lay where the weight had pushed her days before: near the road of the main gate where travelers shuddered at her fate. The men who passed by grimly nodded. When they reached town, their first stop would be a drinking place where they could hear this story. Their women would hear this story, too, and repeat it to their daughters.
Not one of the girls forced out to the rubble pile ever forgot the odor. Estrogen enhances the sense of smell. They covered their noses to block the gag reflex they felt. Another One woke up crying at night for weeks, remembering the insects buzzing and crawling around the poor dead girl. No one would ever lift the stones from her body. She would not be buried in the family plot. No one in her father’s house would dare speak of her again. She was as gone as she was dead to their embrace.
Another One entered young womanhood by this passage. This was not the kind but the point was clear. When one became defiled, the whole family was dishonored. To remove defilement required an act of blood swiftly, finally spilled without thought of mercy. Strong men set requirements for purity. No one thought to argue. The status of the family depended on the father’s position. His status depended on the number (and virility) of his sons and the purity of his daughters. The father’s place mattered more than more than life. Daughters must remember. In that place and time, innocence and purity were the same. If one slipped, the penalty came quickly. death came for unfortunate daughters even if evil forced their chastity from them.
Another One grew into a young woman ready for marriage. She noticed how her father had changed toward her. He no longer touched her shoulder even, or hugged her at the end of the day or held her hand as they went to market. Father and brothers formed a protective circle around her on those rare times when she left the house. They glared with plain hatred at any young man who glanced at her. Some of the bolder young men might approach them and get a lump for their trouble. She had known some of the boys all her life. Now, to get within several feet of her proved a task too difficult for any of them.
Still, as hard as her father made it, they came to barter for her. Her plain features and angular body did not discourage them. They came with their fathers. Some sent courtiers to bargain for them. Still others came to press their suits themselves but this was far too modern for her father. Boys who came alone alone quickly saw the door again. they could return with their fathers or a representative but not alone. Their suit was as unwelcome as they until an older an pressed for them.
When they started to come in earnest, Mother took Another One aside. She told her about men and rolled her eyes. Mother lectured Another One forcefully on her duty as a daughter and a woman of her race.
"This will not be about your pleasure," Mother told her ten times. "See that you do not disappoint your husband and in that way dishonors your family. Give him sons and pure daughters. Then he will keep you to himself, no matter how he may wander, and never send you home."
Given that introduction, Another One wondered why she had to marry at all. She kept that question to herself, though, as Mother would have slapped her face. At that she would not have had an answer anyway, so why bother? If she had to marry, she would hope he was not old or ugly or mean. She would take what pleasure she could from her life and hope her husband did not mind.
Another One met her husband on the day of their wedding. He walked in with his father who accepted a large dowry from the hand of her father. Much of it was returned later for the match was a good one for his family. The young man and his father gained a seat at the city gate for the match. Much local commerce would not flow through their hands as a result. The dowry had to be large to appease the honor of both families. Others would hear of the vast amount that changed hands with the bride; her father would have his honor again.
Her first glance at him took her breath. He was tall but not abnormally so. Her head would just fit at his shoulder. She would not look down on this man. Immediately she felt more like a girl than ever in her life. His shoulder sloped out from a bull neck with pronounced veins. His deep chest taped perfectly down to a narrow waist. Strong legs moved him confidently about the room. Everything about him announced his presence in the room. Men measured themselves silently against him and moved out of his way. Each woman stole glances at him while she wondered how to convince her man she would prefer him for this Ulysses. First, each one knew, she would have to convince herself.
He was not the kind of man to spend long with any one person. His eyes cast a gaze into the future. He moved around the room, talking a moment here, a moment there, a head taller than anyone in the room. His thick thatch of dark hair glinted some natural auburn highlights as it fell to his collar. No beard adorned his jutting jaw. Perfect, white teeth, gleamed behind full thin lips with a ready smile for those who needed for today and might need tomorrow. He was, in a word, breathtaking.
"Your groom is too pretty to be a man," one of her bridesmaids whispered. She was wondering why this marble cut creature would give himself to a woman as plain as Another One. She smiled to hide the unworthy thought.
"No one will know you’re here at this wedding," a second bridesmaid answered laughing and pinched her friend down low. She hoped her father would pay a dowry that would attract such a catch for her.
Imagine, she thought, my friends envy me. Straight as a board up and down, they envy me because I’ll spend my life with someone who can make children as pretty as himself. He wants me. I’ll clean his house, cook his meals, make his children and dress him in the finest. He will be a rich man because I get up before dawn to see to his house and business. He will sit in the seat at the gate to receive his proper due. When they appear in public me will bow to him. She felt herself the most fortunate girl in the world. Fortressed in her father’s house until now she was going in marriage to the prettiest manly man she had ever seen. All the other girls did envy her, wanted him and longed for their day to stand beneath the veil.
When she said her vows he accepted her with a nod. Just after came her first full look at his face. Her knees betrayed her for an instant. Aware of his affect on women he expected her swoon. He caught her in one oaken arm and held her to his side. She did not know if her feet touched the floor just then. She did know she felt perfectly safe and protected.
The wedding party afterward seemed to last a lifetime. Another One wanted to be alone with her Dionysus. Fear of the moment gave way to her deep longing to give herself to him, soul and body. He had seen something in her; she just knew, that made him want her as well. He must be as wise as he was beautiful. He knew she was solid and dependable. He would love her with all his heart once he saw her complete devotion to him. Oh, they would have their arguments but she would love him so fully that he would forgive her occasional unhappy moments. She would not disappoint him.
"Remember your father and your family," Mother said as the party finally ended. She was not much for sentiment. Life with Father took away most of the happy girl she must once have been, Another One knew. Mother did take great pride to know that she had brought her daughter to the marriage bed safely pure. The identity of the groom made the match better still.
He will teach me about life with grace and confidence, she thought. He carried himself with such ease. His many friends kept him from her during much of the party but he would soon be with her forever.
Finally they touched hands. The party was ending, the last revelers drinking their way to the exit. On their way out the door she noticed the slightly leering faces of the men mixed with the unveiled sympathy on the faces of the women. She would make the night a pleasure for her new husband. If he faltered, she would comfort him with the assurances her mother had taught her. He would know he could come to her at any time. She would make his life good. She put eyes only on him as they left the party. She did not notice moon or stars for he eclipsed them all for her.
Of course he hated her from the beginning. Not hate, really, more contempt or dismissive arrogance. She was, after all, a matched wife. Her place was to secure his place in the commercial life of the town. He would use her to make sons, certain they would look and act like him. He would find other women for sport, exploit the connections her father gave him and set her out when her father died or lost his place. He hurried her to the bedchamber, finished with her quickly and left her for a night of deal making with his friends. He was empty inside as he was full to the eyes. Bred from birth for the starring role he took her for what she brought him away from his home. He would find his happiness in position. Women, he knew, were for his use. They could make children he wanted to prove his virility. What happened to the woman or the child after that did not concern him. Men would know he acted like a man. Sadly, this was all the man he knew.
Another One died to love that first night. Bewildered, she sat on the bed after he left and could not even cry. Her husband had not fully uncovered her. He did not look at her much. He took his due and was gone. He did not tell her she was less than he wanted. His eyes, his sharpness toward her and his quick departure said all she needed to know. For all their five years together his every action told her she was less than nothing to him. He would use her to make his sons. He would have his boys. She would be silent in her place until he gave the word that she no longer had a place with him.
Another One could not make sons. She could not make daughters either but her husband beat her mostly for not making sons. Her womb knew that love never entered and would not admit a child to the loveless place. He might have his seat at the gate but he would have no son to trail behind him. Her body would not give him what he wanted most though he took what he could with increasing violence.
Her girlish heart broke. Her womanly soul never formed. Another One formed a major disconnect between the young girl’s dream and the woman’s hell. She could not make sons for him. He hated her more every day for her failure. He was sure it was her failure.
"You are divorced, divorced, divorced," he said to her on their fifth anniversary. "You are cursed. You cannot make sons. Get out of my house. I will have a wife who can make sons."
No one blamed him. No man lifted a hand against him. No one offered her sympathy, shelter or food. She was absolutely, totally alone.
Another One wandered for a time. After a few hours she curled up in a doorway of a great house. She hugged herself since no one would and cried softly. The rest of her heart was dying in her. She would not mourn for her heart long. Sentiment would encumber her in ways she could not afford. She could not go home to Father. She might live with a distant relative somewhere but could not expect to be more than a despised servant for them. If she could get another man to marry her, he would treat her as someone lower than himself. She had no dowry to offer, no man to protect her and not hope her plainness would attract a good match. She also had no money. The clothes on her back were not suitable for cold weather when it came or for rain when it fell. Her husband put her out without her veils to mark her as a failed woman. Indeed the men she encountered now either pushed her rudely or handled her in the dark. The women looked at her with unbridled hate. They could see their fate in her bare arms and face. Their men would seek her out in the alleys, they knew, rather than come home with them. She would entice them with her need. She would do things to survive they would only do after a beating. They hated her. she could feel it. She was not wrong.
Another One fell over to Mean Street where she lived for ten years. She was not the worst of the loosed-limbed women or the best. She just lived best she could in a man’s world where rules meant a woman did not fit. She hated men, all men, everywhere. She reserved special hatred for her husband but kept plenty for her father and brothers. The men who came to her she refused to notice. Occasionally she would be covered by a man from her old neighborhood. Once she collected money from a man who had been at her wedding. He grinned his way through a poor performance, seeming to believe that he demeaned her more than himself. Another One was beyond that point. She felt nothing, no dignity, no worth, no shame, just her hate. Her hatred stoked her fire. The fire gave her energy few could match. Men sought her for her passion assuming it was love for them that drove her. Few could actually see it was her intense hatred for the men who put her on the street and the men who kept her there in her station below them.
Another One came to know men as well as any honest girl or loosed limbed woman. She knew the danger signs. She learned to disarm most men with a laugh. The strongest slightly drunken man shriveled at the sound of a woman’s laugh. Another One flashed her eyes at them and widened her smile. Words brought danger at such a time so she laughed, quietly at first and then loud enough for others to hear. Her laughter was apropos of nothing. She used it as a warrior might use a sword in close fighting. She never got cut or shot and seldom badly beaten. She did not make peace with her life as much as she fought her way through each encounter. She owned her hatred and mostly turned it outward to the men who came to her on Mean Street.
Then, that day, Someone walked on to Mean Street. She heard him singing as he came, swinging his head from side to side as though he did not have a care in any world. No one like him ever came down her way. He walked by the drinking places, shook his head at the powder sellers. He did not return the caresses of the women or the crass offers of the men. Everything was for sale on the street of hard-eyed men and loose-limbed women. Someone had not come that way to buy or sell, he said, but to give away something that cost a great deal.
She would think many times over the months she knew him that Someone had a math that never worked. Less was more. Dying was living. Losing your life was gaining the cosmos. Saving your life was losing your soul. Seed grain fell down to the earth to die and out came life. Her head spun frequently as she considered his odd way of looking at things. She had a straight fee system in her business. This cost this and that cost that and if you had to ask you probably couldn’t afford to do either. Someone talked to her from the first moment about getting something for free that would cost her everything and be worth it. How could anyone make sense of this man? He had no sensuality though he was a strong, confident presence. Another One was long past feeling a physical need for any male. He did not appeal to her that way though his body would have been considered very masculine. He might be a singer now, she thought, but he had worked for the bulging muscles that pushed open his tunic at the arms and chest.
Why didn’t he respond to her? She gave him her best seductive smile, the one that declared her intentions and announced her availability. He could have her if he paid like all the others. She could tell in an instant he neither pitied her nor lusted after her. He operated on a different level. She knew men who would not take her because they loved their money more. She knew men who wanted men to do for them what she did for others. She got turned down a few times over the years by decent men who wandered down her street by mistake or to cut some time off their trip. Mostly, the decent men who rejected her pushed their way by her quickly, as though her look could damn them. If she had given herself room for feelings, their rejection would have hurt more than any. She had grown up a decent girl.
Light surrounded him, she thought. Did it surround him or did it come from him, she wondered? He seemed to carry his own lights with him. When she lowered her dress a bit so he could see her, he never took his eyes from her face. She might have been naked. He would not have known for his gaze met hers and held her. For the first time in a decade she felt shame to call to her modesty. She pulled her dress up and hugged it close to her, pulling the gash slit aside her legs together for cover. Her tricks did not work with him. He was not a man for garish temptations.
His eyes did not leave hers until she surrendered to him. Another One could stare down most men and laugh down all the others. Men might take her but she conquered their will in the process. With sudden volition she felt herself given over to this strange new man who seemed more interested in her soul than her body. Someone did not reject her for her plainness. He scarcely seemed to notice her looks though he seemed to know all about her somehow. He loved her, she thought, despite the fact he knew her.
Women do not find themselves attractive. The most beautiful woman alive will focus on the one flaw until it overwhelms her confidence. She smiles in hope others might smile back at her with acceptance and encouragement. A man in the same spot will assume that everyone he meets thinks he is robust and virile, a man to reckon with for all. A woman needs one to look her in the eye, not up and down, to make her feel his love from the eyes into the soul and out again.
Someone did that for her. She could wear the veil again for him and he would love her like a little girl in her father’s house. His arms did not move to embrace her yet she felt beckoned to his side. She gave him her best scornful laugh, the one that withered other men’s eyes to the pavement. He cocked his head slightly to smile another way. His smile rose to his cheek bones, high and gentle. Her laughter died. She could not scorn him and, instead, began to cry. She did not cry for long for too many thoughts crowded out her tears. Somehow, she knew this was the man who would call out her tears and dry them forever. Another One felt a serenity she had not known since she saw Innocent crushed under a rock pile by the roadside.
He carried her along with his eyes. Another One found herself one street over from Mean. She realized she was walking a way she had not gone for a decade. Her life changed as radically as the day her husband banished her. A man came along with the song and some eyes, she thought, and I’m a giddy school girl again.
No one had wanted her for much of anything for a long time. She was going to need some help. Another One spent some moments looking at the crowd gathered around Someone. A man hung back at the edges of the crowd. He seemed to be frightened of something and out of breath from running. She remembered him standing back from the crowd over on Mean. He gave off a confused energy. When Someone moved on with his new followers, she marked the frightened man. He could be useful if she keep from frightening him away. Someone was almost out of sight; she needed a companion and this one seemed nonthreatening.
She played the part of the frightened female as well as anyone. Her face was just the right combination of sister and bride. Her voice conveyed her need of his help.
"Are you thinking of following Someone," she heard her voice ask. "I was thinking of going off after him but lost my nerve. Are you thinking of listening to him again?"
His face took on that oddly male look of uncertainty when he answered in the positive. She saw clearly he had not made up his mind until she asked.
Men, she though. What they won’t do to prove to a woman they don’t know what they’re doing.
Still, he seemed a steady man. He was walking along half dazed, like her but he was a companion after all. They wee going the same way. She would do better with another person and this poor man could hardly do worse. He would take some looking after but she did not feel insecure with him. Together they would find Someone. In his company they could hear the singing, the stories and the names people around her were naming. She would get what she needed from Someone and she knew she could handle this Dazzled man. He did not seem a threat.
The story of Jesus Christ from the Godspells shows him with people other people tend to forget. He seems to be the kind of person who feels very comfortable with those who live on the edges of society. A man who regularly cheated others climbed a tree to catch sight of the Christ. When he came down the cheater agreed to pay back all he had taken four times over. Jesus had that affect on people. You can read this story in Luke’s Godspell, chapter nineteen and beginning in verse one.
Mainly, it seems, Jesus gave people hope when hope left them. Jesus passes on great information about life but does so out of a heart that accepts the unacceptable persons. It is a shame that people who claim Jesus often recluse themselves in spiritual colonies where certain behaviors are required for acceptance. Jesus spends his time establishing a whole new way of life that values attitude over morality, as in Matthew’s Godspell, chapter five and verses twenty-one and following.
The first day with Dazzled was hard on Another One. She knew how to control men, as least as regards their base urges, but Dazzled as so different. His blood did not rush when she brushed against him. His mid took him elsewhere. She could see it in the absent way he looked at her. Dazzled was not after her; he was stalking Someone. His heart had left him. He didn’t want a woman just then, not for the usual reasons. Another One gave him courage for the walk but he drew it from her quite without knowing it consciously.
"You’re not like other guys," she told him late in the morning. She startled him with her sudden assertion and found she liked the feeling it gave her.
"I think I’m just like every other guy," he blinked in response and reddened. "I’m just as lost as the next guy.
"No, I mean you’re treating me like a big brother or a host or something," she said quickly. She didn’t want to put him off before she knew if Someone would even keep her.
"I’m just finding my way along with Someone. I don’t really understand why he gets to me yet. I didn’t intend to get caught up in this whole inner spiritual thing," he answered too quickly. He was not one for talking about feelings. Lack of practice betrayed him.
"Well, you’re sweet to let me tag along with you," Another One assured him. She found his lack of certainty endearing. Men often admitted their weakness to her without meaning to let her see them. This man announced his vulnerability.
I wonder how long this will last, she thought, and smiled again to hide her doubts. He may not always want to be my big brother.
"What are you thinking?" she asked as they followed the treasure hunters from Pearl.
Dazzled shook his head, slowly at first and then very fast. He seemed fuzzy to her just then, as though he could clear his mind with violent physical movement. He stopped after a moment but did not much look much clearer.
"I don’t know how to talk about him," he gestured to Someone as he spoke. "I want to know what he knows. I want what he has but not the stuff he owns. He doesn’t seem to have much stuff or care about it. I just think he’s someone more than anyone I’ve ever met."
"I know," she whispered. "Do you know how he makes a woman feel?"
"I can’t explain to myself how he makes a man feel right now," he said. "I don’t ever know what a woman thinks."
She laughed and saw it hurt him. He was serious, not flippant, so lost in his feelings he could barely find his way down the street.
"He makes me feel like I don’t have to do bad things to live," she said, as gently as she could. "He makes me feel like it’s safe and right to be good. He makes me want to be good. He did all of that with a song and a long look in my eyes."
"I know the feeling," Dazzled answered her. "He makes everything I ever even claimed to be kind of small and mean. I just want to do what he does. I think he may be the teacher I’ve waited for my whole life."
"I believe Someone knows things that no one else knows but … but … we should know. Maybe we did know these things once but they got covered up or forgotten. Maybe we quit caring because we got hurt," Another One was crying and smiling, rain and sun together, refreshment and warmth.
"I know, I know, I feel, I believe. I just never put these words together," Dazzled said. "Right now, it’s enough to just know that I want to know."
The primary problem with moral codes may their emphasis on behavioral changes that in no way touch the inner, spiritual being. The greatest difficulty some may have with religion is the tendency of religious people to focus on the later to the exclusion of the present. What if there exists a source of truth, beauty and moral rightness that offers a change of behavior (meaning for now) a a glimpse of future reality (hope for later)? Forgiveness for moral error or spiritual bankruptcy, in this view, would morph into spiritual direction for a life that offers purpose.
Men and women scarcely change unless someone can give them a very good reason. Even then, behaviors most often change because someone or something captures their imagination. The roll call of those who would significantly alter their lifestyles because of a purely intellectual argument does not run very long. A call must go to the soul. the recipient of truth may not understand all the facets of knowledge or even how to apprehend truth. There are those times when it is enough to know that we want to want to know. From there one decides the effort he or she can expend on each step of the journey.
Later, when they reached Familiar Street, Someone taught about Everbreath. Another One forgot the world around her. She forgot all the wrong she ever did, saw or wanted. Riveted to the face of this good man, for she had decided he was a good man and could be trusted, Another One did not even see Dazzled sink to his knees. She remained upright for she wanted to catch every nuance on inflection in Someone’s voice. The expressions on his face interested her. She was caught and caught but good.
Someone owned her just then. His reactions to those around him, she though, were almost childlike.
"He is completely self-aware without a trace of self-absorption," she murmured aloud. "He feels everyone he touches but he is completely giving. He is not holding back a thing. He is not taking anything for himself. He is the first man I ever saw who could completely, totally give. He was such a presence."
She could imagine him saying to her, "Come here, you can feel the power I feel. I just let it wash over you. There’s plenty for the whole crowd and a thousand more crowds on a thousand other days."
Another One felt she was suddenly, irrevocably part of everything Someone thought. She could almost say what he said before he said it. Their spirits married. He was the man she looked for all her life. She was safe and excited all at once, in the father’s house and her lover’s arms, her real lover’s arms, not the husband who hated her or the men who bought her. She leaned close enough to Someone to kiss his hair where it kinked down off his shoulders. He was salty sweet from his morning of work. Someone could not feel her faint touch but a current shot through her when she kissed his hair. She was in love with a man who had never spoken directly to her. She did not want his body or want him to have hers. Another One was simply in love, without lust or impurity or desire.
The rest of the scene blurred for her. She stood like a woman at an opera presented in a tongue she did not know. The beauty of the notes transported her beyond any need for the language. She felt the words even if she did know them. Some people would have called the experience mystical or magical. Another One surrender herself for the first time in her life. She had kept men from her heart, so many men apart from her heart. Yet now she yielded herself to this man who wanted her soul rather than her much used body.
When divorce stuck a woman like Another One, she could go back to the home of some relative and hope to live as a wretched servant. She remembered the creatures she saw in this sorry state. They often huddled alone in the corner, eating scraps and dressed a bit less than well. Others laughed at them with stunning cruelty. If a divorced woman could get a man to marry her, he often treated her as damaged goods fortunate to have the company of a man. There were exceptions of real love but these were few.
Or, as Another One did, the despised woman could make her body available on streets like Mean, just off the corner of Normal. Sadly, there was more dignity in using her body on her own terms than for a relative who tolerated her or a husband who demeaned her. Another One decided to set her own price. She offered her body and with it her dignity for the grudging respect of those whose fire she subjected to bartering before she would satisfy them.
"Someone change all that for me," she said in recognition. Someone paused in his story telling. Only then did Another One realize she had spoken loudly enough to disturb him.
"How did all things change for you?" he asked with a huge smile. He was not perturbed. In act, Someone was working her into his story.
"I met you today," she answered. "You looked at me with longing but not with lust. I just knew you wanted something better for me."
"I do want something better for you," Someone answered quietly. "Tell me how you’ve used yourself."
"I … I … guess anyone who looks can tell how I’ve used myself. My husband put me out, my father wouldn’t take me back and I’ve lived on Mean Street for ten years. I suppose everyone here knows how a woman lives on Mean," she stuttered in reply. Some of the crowd stepped back from her. She feared Someone would step back as well.
"Will you be my sister?" was his only question.
"Yes, I will, if you’ll let me," she squealed.
"Then come be my sister, with all my brothers and my sisters," he smiled in reply. His look told her she was sister now. He gave her a place of honor with him People around her touched her now with respect, which is always more important to a woman than mere affection. Her heart felt strangely warmed. She looked at Dazzled still in the dirt at her side. Did he feel as she felt? The perplexed look on her face told her he was still sorting out what he heard. Still, she knew he was her brother now for the Everbreath filled them both.
Almost too late Another One saw Dazzled was in danger. Lost in his reverie Dazzled let his knees go limp. He could not rise. Another One felt her protective instincts give rise to a kind of fury. She lunged into the man nearest her, all elbows and anger. He bellowed with rage and drew back to strike her. Another One kicked him just below the knee. He fell into his companion with a thud. Their bodies blocked the mob from Dazzled. Another One jerked him upward by his collar. She got him half way out of his crouch, just enough to help get his legs under him. Dazzled leaned toward her, half jumped and held them both for a moment when his weight would have pushed her into the crowd. They both straightened up in safety.
Another One turned to the man she had elbowed and kicked. Her look plainly said she expected a beating in return.
"I’m sorry," she said. "I was afraid for my friend."
"Sister, forgive me for not noticing your need," he answered. "I was so startled I yelled at you. Anger was my big problem for a long time. I still get bent out of shape when things happen in a hurry. I just get over things quicker now."
"I hope you and your friend are not hurt. Those of us who follow Someone need each other," he added. Then he was gone in the crowd.
Another One was speechless. She could only look at Dazzled.
"We are going to have pay attention, friend. I don’t know how to act around these people," she said when she regained her voice.
"I know," he said. "Someone is going to get us killed trying to save us from ourselves. We get so caught up in what he says we can’t even see what’s going on around us."
They did not know at that moment the ways they had sensed the truth of their new lives. They would learn new ways to react. They would have to pay attention to new dangers just ahead of them. Life was going to be different from that moment. They could only hope to have an inner steel needed to build.
Do you feel condemned to bad behavior or unhappy feelings? Most of us know some places where we need to alter our actions.
One way to look at our need for change is in relation to healing rather than just correction. When an athelete is injured no one expects him to perform at a peak level. In fact, everyone involved works to perform some therapy that leads to healing. No one just says, "Stop having a broken leg. Get up and run."
Our bad behavior and unhappy feelings may demonstrate where we are less than whole. Rather than just correct bad behavior, Jesus the Christ said, "Come to me if you’re tire or overloaded and I’ll help you heal" (read this in Matthew’s Godspell, chapter eleven and verse twenty eight). We can run faster and work better if we heal. To heal emotionally and spiritually almost certainly means we will respond in more wholesome ways to the negative stimuli that come our way.
"I know what it is, I know what it is, I know what it is," Another One said suddenly when they got to Home Owner’s inner courtyard. Dazzled was so tired he didn’t even see her.
"I see it now," she went on to his dazed look. "The Everbreath is the life, life. life." He did not move. He did not even blink. Something happened in him, not against his will, but in a way that took all his mind and heart.
"Everbreath means life. Life means we can dare to be good. We can say it makes sense to be good. It’s safe to be good," she was talking for her own understanding now. "We don’t have to bad to protect ourselves. In fact, to be bad takes us away from safety because it steals life from us."
She seems to be talking to me, Dazzled thought, but he could not register her words. He vaguely hoped she could not read his thoughts just then. She doesn’t lecture, he thought, not really. She just announces the latest Eureka in her heart. Why can’t I do that? She doesn’t really know much more than me. In fact, I got to him first. What does she know that I don’t know?
Later he would see her life on the street had prepared her to know her need. Another One was quicker to grasp a lot of things simply because she knew her need. Dazzled felt like a little guy from Normal. Another One knew she was a loosed-limbed woman from Mean.
"I’m a little treasure again," she went on though he could not hear. "Someone makes me feel like I felt in my Father’s house before I saw Innocent crushed. I feel like I did the first time I saw the husband my father sold me to before my plainness made him hare me. I feel like a mother. I could have been if not for my barren womb. I’m a little treasure again. I’m clean after all the years I laid in the dirt."
"I’m part of something bigger than me," she added after a moment. I’m part of something better than the bad in me."
"How can this be?" she asked aloud of no one in particular. Dazzled was still lost in this place. "How can one day with a man I barely know hit me so hard? I’m not exactly a virgin but this Someone makes me feel like a little girl, a grown woman and beloved bride and a careful mother all at once. He respects me," she announced and laughed. He laugh was giddy. She wanted to draw Dazzled to herself so she would have someone to hold. Instead, she beamed down at him and left him to think his way though a place his heart would have to guide him. There was time to help him later when he found his head alone could not take him where he wanted.
"i know I love Someone," she told Dazzled. "If I’m not careful I may start to love you, too, in an entirely different way."
"Well," she told him, "at least you still have some involuntary motor skills." She was joking but he would never have known. He was caught.
After awhile they ate. She wanted more and decided to ask with her eyes to see if he knew her yet. He heart lept when he got up without a world, took her empty bowl and went to the serving table. She had not said a word.
She watched him go across the floor. Her kidneys jumped when he ran into a cloaked man. Fear ran up her throat. She relaxed slightly when the stranger went on his way. She lost Dazzled in the crowd but kept her eyes on the outside until she was sure he would not double back on Dazzled. Dazzled intended to feed her, she saw, and knew he was not thinking about a rude, snarling man. Another One knew the cloaked one did not fit. No one else in the room radiated hate. The courtyard was crowded by peaceful. Only the presence of the hooded fellow disturbed the air.
A moment later Dazzled returned with her dish. It was then she realized he did not take his own dish.
"you just went to get food for me?" she asked.
"I didn’t want to wag two bowls up there and look like a big old pig," he said. "I was full anyway. I can’t eat much when I have to do a lot of thinking."
"I can," she told him. "I can eat just about anytime."
"You’ll live to a ripe old age, then," he finished. She was ignoring him now, intent on her supper.
Another One was too tired to stand guard over Dazzled after the meal. She wrapped both of her arms around one of his, pulled him down to the floor next to her and leaned heavily on him. All of her body language instructed him to stay right there where she could be sure of his safety while he slept. In an instant she nested, breathed deep, lost to the world until Someone came to sing."
Electric current passed through her body, shocking her awake. How long had she slept? What had changed? Dazzled was gone, her arms empty and death in the room. Another One snapped to a sitting position, looking furiously around the room for a man she had met just that day. When her eyes found him, what she saw frightened her more than anything she had ever seen.
When we heal, we can start over, stronger than ever. Many people who find their healing in the Christ also discover they are now able to love people more readily. Some find they can have self-love without egotism or guilt. In fact, when he was asked about the greatest instruction he knew, Jesus gave a two-fold answer.
"Love God above all," the Christ said. "And love people with equal love as you would have for yourself."
The framework for the lifestyle Jesus favors is meaningful, wholesome affection for God and humankind. One who wishes to remake social, political and *yes, even) religious systems could start at love and stay there a long time. If the Christ serves as one’s ultimate model for love, his life expresses a high regard for service and personal sacrifice to the ultimate degree.
Another One drew her breath, missed breath, felt her heart stop and then race. Across the room too far for help Dazzled stood with an old man who wore bright armor and brandished a shining sword. The sword was broad and thick but sharp and powerful. He must, she thought, use all his strength just to hold it so high. She could tell it dripped red. The two men wrestled with Someone Else. Around them swirled a hundred combatants locked in a death grip with one another. Some tried to reach Dazzled and Old Warrior. Their hate hit her from two dozen feet away. An equal number drew a protective circle around them and fought with no regard for their own safety. Still, when an attacker fell two more sprang up to take his place. Another One could not see how the defenders could win. Dazzled and Old Warrior were doomed, she knew, and tried to go an share their fate. If she could only stand, she would go and die with them.
Something froze her in place. When she saw the enemy attack, she recognized his hateful face from the crowd at Innocent’s murder. She heard her father’s pitiful bleat in Someone Else’s snarl as Old Warrior’s sword bit his side. The unsatisfied lust for status her husband showed her condemned her soul again when the haters hissed their war cries. Someone Else himself slashed with hands set in cruel talons. Blood gushed at his every stroke. He was a wraith, a fallen angel with despairing hatred for all that was good. Once there was scarcely anything he could not have. Still, he wanted more than almost everything. He would kill the world to take from the one who makes the things the men he made. Hate and greed spurred him to destroy what he could not control. No one could love him anymore, but everyone could fear him. Another One could see he had a special hatred for Dazzled. Dazzled was about to die.
Someone Else screeched his death yell. Old Warrior fell back under the onslaught from twenty new attackers. Another One watched the plan unfold. Old Warrior was the equal of ten, then of a dozen. The enemy sacrificed a score to drive him back a few feet. Still, the attackers came against him. Their last assault bent him over under the weight of twenty more spirits.
Dazzled stood alone. The hateful horde concentrated on him, now, with Someone Else in the vanguard. He howled his rage, which made a timeless echo in the courtyard. A liar and murderer from the beginning, Someone Else rushed in to take his latest victim. Someone Else had pushed Old Warrior away from Dazzled so that he alone could make the kill. He wanted to feel flesh tear, bones crunch and blood spurt. His lust for death drove him forward. Rage ten thousand years old made him want to watch the life drain out of Dazzled.
"Where is their protection?" Another One screamed. "Why does no one come to their aid? Some must see! Someone must come!"
Her scream sat in her mind. No sound escaped her lips. The soldiers who helped her men at the start of the fight were nowhere to be seen. Another One would have looked away, would have joined her man, and would have flung herself in front of the enemy, if she could only move. Instead she half sat, half stood, frozen in fright for them.
Suddenly, the courtyard grew quiet. Someone Else paused in his advance. His henchmen hissed in fear now.
Blood covered everyone. Blood already covered them all but his wiped away the old blood. The old blood ran down the faces of Dazzled and Old Warrior while the new blood clung to them. Someone Else bellowed his enmity. He reached out to take the lives of the blood covered men, and then recoiled when the blood burned his fingers. Strangely, Another One could see the blood did not hurt the men who wore it, yet Someone Else and all his demon fighters were terrified by his presence.
Out of the blood Someone Else spied Another One. He wanted a victim, any victim and the blood did not show on her. He startled her with his reach from across the courtyard. Dazzled stepped between them offering his own body in her place. For his courage he received a powerful blow to the head and neck but, intent on the battle, he did not seem to notice the wound. While he absorbed the blow, Someone Else pushed back from him with smoking hands. The chief of haters seized the demon fighter closest to him. He drew off the soldier’s head quickly an plucked his spine out to a point. Shearing off the arms, he transformed his dead confederate into a spear. Someone reached back to hurl his weapon at the heart of Dazzled. He would have his death blow. No one could stop him. The dead soldier would not recoil in fear at the acid blood over the two fighters.
Another One watched in horror. Dazzled would die. The soldier’s spear would take him in the heart and he would die. She knew this death blow. Her whole being shook with desperate might. Her soul screamed, "No! Stop! Someone stop him. Do not let this be!"
She gave herself over to one violent act of will. The spear stopped midair on the way to the target. No hand touched it; no wall interrupted its flight. The spear just stopped in its flight and fell harmless to the floor.
Enraged the more, Someone Else howled. Blood caught even then. His fateful ones disappeared. Defeated for the moment, Someone Else caught himself up in his filthy cloak. He shot above the crowd and was gone.
Silence reigned. The blood turned the air. The smell in the courtyard was like spring in a meadow. Dazzled stood with Old Warrior in the midst of a garden, exhausted but alive.
In a moment, Another One thought, he will remember me. He will come to me. I will help him plot a strategy for future fights. I want to be at his side when the enemy comes again. The next time someone throws a dead soldier at him like a spear, I want to be right there with him. I have to convince him, she thought. He will just have to understand. This is the end of one fight. The war goes on.
When Everbreath comes to a person, that one can look with spirit eyes. The spirit-eyed one can see the mastery of the spirit over body, of energy over matter, of good against evil. The spirit-eyed man or woman can see reality is not limited to what one can see, hear, smell, touch or taste.
The word "religion" comes from a French word that means "re-liguere" or "reconnect, reattach." In the same way that God intends to let people rest and heal, God intends for people to have a chance to reconnect with Godself in the spiritual realm. Religious law and preaching prophets worked to point the way to God but people mostly failed to get home. In the final act of reconnection, God came intervened in human history in the form of a man, who embodied all the law and the prophets but who transcended them all. He is the means by which men and women reconnect to God. Therefore, He is worthy of closest study and intense attentiveness.
Someone Else gone for the moment, Dazzled sagged across the floor back to Another One. She watched him come, unfazed in expression but slouching, tired, favoring the side where he had taken the blow meant for her. Tears stung her eyes, ran down her cheeks, found the floor. He took the blow for her. Her violent prayer of a thought spared him the death blow that Someone Else hurled at him. Still, the man who asked nothing of her had brought Another One with him, fed her and deflected the death grip of Someone Else. She had saved him from trampling in the crowd once and the death blow in battle. He did not notice what he had done for her.
They had known each other less than a full day. They spent the day sharing their thoughts and saving their lives. The bonding going on in their spirits was growing by leaps and bounds.
"What will tomorrow look like?" she asked no one in particular.
"I expect it will come clearer tonight when Someone shares his heart with us," Dazzled answered, just close enough to hear. "My head hurts and my neck and side. All I did was walk across the floor."
With a start she saw that Dazzled did not know all that had happened. For some reason she had seen the fight while he fought it. If he were to see the fight, she would have to show it to him. He could not see the spirit fight, yet, and she did not know why. Another One did not wish to insult his male pride. He was the son of a father she never knew but she had known many, many men. The warriors, the providers, the settlers, all lived as sons of fathers. Dazzled gave off the aura of a son crippled by a father. He could not look her in the eye for very long. She noticed that he seldom looked at others with any but the stoniest expressions. She knew he was protecting himself from others who might find his weakness and pick at it. If she offered him too much that seemed like criticism, he would just pull inside himself and disappear.
"I just found you," she told him. "I don’t want to lose you any time soon."
He was rubbing his head where Someone Else hit him. He felt the pain whether he knew the source or not.
"Who said anything about losing?" he wanted to know. "I was just across the courtyard with that old crazy guy. I’ll tell you he’s a lot stronger than he looks."
"You’re stronger than you look," she answered and saw him brighten. Good, she thought to herself, that’s just the right amount of admiration without patronizing him. He already takes praise from me. If I keep it real, I can help him heal. He’s already giving me what I need from him.
Still, the woman in her needed to tell him what she saw in the fight. She needed to take care of him, to make him feel happy and safe with her. She did not want his body for she knew plenty of bodies. If this man offered her provision without question and his protection without a thought for himself, he would be a man unlike any other she ever knew. She just needed to find words that would register with him.
"I was so scared," she told him. "You wee gone when I woke. I saw Someone Else fight you and Old Warrior. Blood was everywhere."
"Someone Else is the worst person ever. He’s even worse than you know after the fight. I watched him bight the life out of my friends. He holds them for minutes so he can see their fear. They cry for their mothers; they beg for help from anyone, any friend. No one goes to help them. Everyone just stands there glad they are not the one he feeds on," she added. She felt a little resentment when he shook his head at her.
Another One knew at once he had not seen the fight with her eyes. She realized he thought she had been half-asleep. His lack of awareness annoyed her for just a second. After all, she thought, he’s a man starting his spirit journey. He might miss subtle signals more than once.
"I was not sleeping," she said and his jaw dropped at her perception. "I saw it all. There was blood all over you and Old Warrior in the armor. Blood dripped from his sword. You took a hit to the head and neck, where you hurt how, when Someone Else reached for me and you got in his way," she was lecturing forcefully now. Near her summation, her very low voice refined steel in her words.
"Promise me something," she intoned with the same energy that stopped a spear in mid-air. "Promise me that you will never go fight him or any of his without me again. You can’t see it now, but I’m a warrior, too."
For the second time that night his legs failed him. Poor man, Another One thought, this is all just too much for him. He was wakened that morning on Normal Street, walked past Old Glory Building on to Mean Street where he saw death up close for the first time. Along with Another One he followed Someone to Pearl Street where they found treasure hunters willing to follow the singer. Together with the growing crowd they made their way to Familiar where Someone awed him again with stories of Everbreath and Otherside. If Another One were right, he thought, he had just fought a titanic battle with an old man as his only ally.
Enough was now too much. He needed this woman to let him rest with her, safe from conscious thought for a time as he put all this together. Another One seemed to know what he needed. She made him feel both good and safe. She let him sleep while she stroked his shoulder just below where Someone Else hit him. Old Warrior came over to stand behind them. He put his hand on Dazzled, almost lovingly, as though he aw a son in him. Together, half dead, they waited for Someone to come out of the bath chamber to teach and sing all night. None of them knew how they could stay awake for another hour. They knew, when Someone came, the night would light up for them. They would celebrate as with a bridegroom at his wedding. As one, the three locked in the embrace of shared struggle.
And, for them, the morning and the evening were the first day.