I found myself on the edge of the
valley-induced mountain, looking out upon the darkness-induced lights. I’d never
walked up here before—a new view of the city below. The wind was playing gently
with my hair. I could hear the trucks on the highway below me, carrying their
passengers far, far away. What is so safe about here? Up so high? Hidden in the
dark? Sitting above, apart from the twinkling lights before me?
Kevin drifts back into my mind.
Sitting on the bed. Tan work boots. Faded jeans. Plaid, flannel shirt. Ripped
cap. He leaned over to talk to his father. A Marlboro pack was peeking out of
his breast pocket—anything to take off the edge of stress, I suppose. He
reached out his hand to his father; calloused fingers, tainted black.
Kevin asked me to stay an hour
longer than expected. The prospect terrified me. The last time had depleted my
strength. His father had at first held me suspect out of dementia-induced
paranoia; then he had held me captive out of loneliness-induced beggary. Kevin
asked me to stay an hour longer than expected. I couldn’t say no. “Are you sure
you’re okay with it?” His father had fallen twice today. I couldn’t say no.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
Kevin reached out his hand to his
father, but his father didn’t take it. Kevin was held captive by
loneliness-induced beggary. I studied Kevin’s face. Stress cut canyons and
sleep-deprivation painted black-bagged eyes. Kevin was held captive. He
couldn’t say no. “Sure, Dad, I’ll stay a little longer.”
His father became occupied, but
Kevin couldn’t leave. He stood with me at the doorway. “So how are you handling
all this?” I asked. I doubted he would give me a genuine answer. Here I am, probably
half his age, someone he’s only met once before, and will hardly ever see
again. Why would he trust me? “I’m handling,” he replied. Bull shit. Don’t
trust the little girl. I let him be. More captivity. More empty chit-chat.
Finally, “So how about you? What
are you going to do?” I could have answered empty. Could have returned his
distrust-induced shit. But he’s someone I’ve only met once before, and will
hardly ever see again—I don’t have time for the vague niceties. I told him how
I’ve been burned-out before. I told him that I’m scared. I told him that I feel
weak. I told him how easily I get drained.
And that was all it took. “I’m
burned out,” he said. “This place is a shit-hole,” he said. “I can’t do this
anymore,” he said. “I’m watching him fall apart, and it’s tearing me apart,” he
said. “I get drained too.” He paused. Then he said, “So thank you for doing
this.” I wanted to say to him, “I’m doing it for you.” But I didn’t.
He went to check on his father
again. Twenty minutes had passed since he had first tried to leave. He was held
captive. He couldn’t say no. I wanted to say to him, “Give me your chains for a
bit. I can handle them. Sure it may tear me apart, but it will only be for a
few hours—you’re getting torn apart every day.” But I didn’t, and he still
It was dinner that saved him.
Once more the Marlboros peeked out of their pocket and the calloused, blackened
fingers reached out for his father’s hand. “Bye, Dad. Bye, Jaime.” And out the
door he went. I hope the chains fell off—even if just for a few hours. I felt
them settle around my wrists and ankles. “I’m doing this for you,” I thought
after him, and then turned toward his father.
The darkened heights called to me
when I finally left. I didn’t want to go home. So I climbed. I crossed over the
highway, where I paused to watch the trucks speeding by into the night to
who-knows-where. “Take me with you,” I thought. Then I climbed farther and
higher than I ever had before. I found the edge: a guardrail at the end of a
street. I sat alone. The lights twinkled before me. Why do I feel so safe up
here? Up above and hidden in the darkness?
Kevin was only one of the many
people who drifted through my mind. “So many,” I thought. So many to love. And
I feel inadequate. And small. And weak. And scared. Maybe the darkened heights
are a refuge. A reprieve from the daunting task before me. Hadn’t I just prayed
the night before that Christ is enough? Maybe I don’t believe it. Or maybe I
do. He has
to be enough—because I’m
And then there is that other nagging question: who will love me? Or maybe it's, who will I let love me? Yes, the darkened heights are safer. Then a dog barked behind me. Loud and threatening--I'm trespassing on his territory. I guess my reprieve cannot last forever. Back into the lit valley I descend.