“I have struggled this year.” Her engraved lighter flashed to life flame lit two cigars. Specific cigars, intentional cigars. “It is 2017 and I have struggled.” She said as she shimmied her shoulders at the night. “Really make it any year. 1983, 2017, 3045 and the human mantra will be I have struggled. Who hasn’t! The rich man struggles underneath the weight of affluence. Trying to be more than they were born into; yet always leaving this mortal coil naked and just as poor as they came. They struggle, we all struggle.”
She took a long drag off of her cigar. She knew it gave her a captivating appearance doing such a masculine thing her being a smaller woman. She didn’t care.
“I see a homeless man everyday. I have given him money and food. I know several people who have yet he still walks the streets looking for hand outs.” She shifted on the park bench as the night deepened. “He looks broken in my eyes but is broken necessarily useless? He mumbles to himself. I talk to myself too. I bet you do as well.”
Her date shifted nervously. She had lead him out there after the tinder swipes aligned. She knew why he had swiped right. She had swiped for other reasons.
“I was married. tragedy visited my home several times. I had three wonderful kids. Two girls and a boy, all as curly headed as I am, they had my husbands skin and eyes.” Another drag from the cigar gave her enough pause to remember their faces. “My three kids all died. Two of them in the same year. The flu was so bad. The fever burned up their brains. We just did not have the money to even go to the clinic. Sure; we had the insurance from the government but the monthly cost nearly broke us all by itself.”
Another long drag. It burned the tip of her tongue and filled her senses with oak hints of nostalgia.
“Then the next year my husband and son were coming home from soccer practice. A semi truck with a sleepy drive plowed through the red light taking with it the last two people I loved.”
Her date sat trapped by politeness and a growing empathy that he had forgotten. She smiled as the cherry at the end of his cigar began to fade starved of oxygen.
“I was undone. I would scream into my pillow at night crying to God to take me too. Then I would feel thank fullness and joy at having even known my sweet men and wonderful ladies.” She could almost feel the unraveling from that time playing out again in her. “The sorrow and pain, anger, rage, then joy again. Each emotion savoring a bite of the same reality slowly unraveling me till all that was left was was threads of memory and a bare mind.”
She smiled at him letting the smoke drift from between her lips. His cigar had nearly gone out as he listened to her. Listened to her fill him with a story that was as real as history and as knowable as breathing.
“I read a book of fiction where a strong man said. The rose petal floats on water. The kingfisher flashes above the pond. Life and beauty swirl in the midst of death. That is just like this existence, like us. Except it is nothing like this, us. There is death yes but so much life. There is justice but also mercy. There is evil but also so much good. As time has woven me back together I can’t help but sense the unseen hand the violence and gentle care of a sculptor on the lump of clay that is human that is reality.”
She knew they had met because of his carnal desire to sleep with her. She had played right into that. The cigar, the story anything to put the memory of her life in the mind of another. She knew her story was not unique either.
“A beautiful tension even in God himself.” She continued. “He holds back his wrath as we humans defy every single moral reality and then pat ourselves on the back and call ourselves noble. He holds back his wrath yes, all the while rushing to us with deep love whispering his care for us and a desire for us to know him. The held back wrath of the ultimate being a hairs breath away from our ears saying I love you.”
What a beautiful tension.
Also published on Medium.