Thursday, May 3, 2012
Prologue to the Arimathean
I've been away a while. The call of real life and the non-literary world has held sway over my time. But the Arimathean rises, it lives and it nears completion. I promise.
There was a time in this life when I did not fully understand what it was I had become. It was early on after I had been left alone to find my way. I had come to this city, something within its watery soul a beacon and a source of peace.
In those days I would walk, in the light of day, amongst the people of the city, unaware myself of what I was.
For a reason I did not understand at the time, I gravitated to a small park situated on the grounds of one of the minor churches not far from my home. It was full of trees, large expanses of open grassy spaces, and as parks are today, full of small children brought there to escape the confines of dark and dreary homes by their mothers and grandmothers.
I would end up there in the early afternoon drawn to a stone bench that sat beneath the boughs of a stately oak. There was a substance woven into the fabric of this place by the running feet, the laughing, the crying raucous sounds of the children, which filled a void, or a need I could not fill elsewhere.
And so it went, my wanderings and explorations of the city, interspersed among my frequent calls to my new duties, always ending at the same bench, under the same tree.
It was only occasionally that I would look around me and see the time spun differences in the world around me. While I stayed the same, the city grew, buildings raised in open spaces I once walked. People who I had passed in market stalls, on city corners, day after day had changed, grown old and disappeared.
And my favorite haunt, that wondrous park, was not spared time’s wear. The stone bench I cared for, surreptitiously repairing and nurturing it over the years. I could not do anything for the tree which shaded my seat. Its limbs grew heavy, reaching low towards the ground, its roots clawing their way to the surface creating canyons which I learned to navigate by rote.
It was the children though that changed the most. As I watched day in day out, year in and year out, they grew as their mothers and grandmothers aged. They would disappear and then reappear with small children of their own, now themselves the mothers and as time wore on the grandmothers. It was always the same but for me it never grew old. I drew some sort of nourishment, established a bond with each one whose tiny feet graced that place.
And then one day it happened. Why it hadn’t occurred before I don’t know, but the shuffling sound of feet coming close drew my attention. An old woman, stooped low like the limbs above me, shuffled around and across the cavernous roots until she stood before my bench. I kept my face forward not daring to look her way.
After a time she sat; I heard the creak and crack of her bones. I’m not sure I breathed through those awful minutes as she stared at me, silent, as I stared straight ahead unmoving. Finally I turned and looked at her and in that moment when our eyes met I recognized her and she smiled.
She used to wear a brilliant blue dress, in those days it stood out amongst the drab brown many of the other children wore. Her tresses, now white streaked with gray, had been a golden wave of light cascading across the fields then. I had watched her grow until one day she had gone. I’d watched for her for days, months, years and then she had re-appeared, a grown woman, tall, still dressed in blue, shepherding a small boy. He too had grown and gone away, taking his mother with him.
Now as I looked into her eyes I saw them fill with tears, yet the smile remained.
“I knew you were real. From the first time I saw you as a young girl to that last time, when I moved from this city, I knew you were real.
“I asked my mother one day why you sat here, under the tree, never moving, just watching. She told me you were an angel, my guardian angel.
“When I brought my son to this place and I saw you, still the same, no older and still watching over me, I told him what you were.
“And then one day sitting in my son’s home, far away from this city, I knew I needed to come here and thank you for watching over me all these years. I knew you would be here.”
Her tears coursed down her face in and out of the creases and crevasses that reminded me of the canyons created by the roots beneath our feet. And then she reached out a hand and placed it on mine and I too began to cry.
After a time she drew back her hand and without saying another word she stood and shuffled off across the grassy field toward the now old and decrepit church. I lost sight of her as she passed through a throng of yelling, laughing children.
In those moments as she faded away I came to realize the danger of what I was, or seemed to be, to those whose mortal eyes might linger and come to recognize me. I was not some angelic being. I was a man; nothing more, nothing less.
That was the last time I ever visited that place.