Prologue: Where do stories come from? If some horrible nightmares I've experienced are an indication, stories don't always come from our memories of past events. Take this one that appeared full blown in my mind in the wee hours of the morning when I roused just enough to roll over. I spent the next few minutes scanning this Twilight Zone type story from beginning to end, discovering more surprises.
The man had come to the end of his resources. He felt he had nothing left but death. He headed out into the dark streets, aiming for the river across town. The bridge should be high enough to serve his purposes.
As he wandered, some familiar streets, others so strange he lost his sense of direction, he noticed the absence of life in his surroundings. Huge buildings, windows dark, seemed as ominous as the weight in his heart. All monuments to vanity, he mused, disgusted with the world in general.
A turn brought him past an area called "harlot's row." This was not unfamiliar territory for him. He realized he still had money in his pocket. No sense throwing this in the drink, he decided. He retraced his steps. Even here, the dark street was strangely deserted. Nobody open for business? I suppose it is late, nearly dawn.
Then he spotted the glow of a small candle in a window at the end of the block. Perhaps he was in luck, after all. Maybe he could find some last measure of consolation before he took the plunge into darkness. He tapped his knuckle against the door.
He felt as if he had entered a second-hand store and found a lost treasure, a dusty painting by a master artist, its original bloom hidden by time. The woman was no longer young, but still beautiful. The look on her face, the warmth of her arms, invited him as if he were an old friend. He didn't hesitate.
"Are you like this with all…with your other…customers?" he asked, stunned.
He searched her face in the dim light. Her wistful smile put burning coals into the vicinity of his heart. "You remind me of someone," she said softly, patting the man's balding head. "…except he had a head full of dark and curly hair."
She smiled, again, and the coals began warming their way up to his neck. What a fool he had been! If he had lived the way he should have, this could have been his life with the wife of his youth, a life of joy and comfort instead of despair. Why had he been so stupid!
He realized she had begun to tell him her life story. "He was the first and last love of my life," she told him. "His gentleness, his shy smile stole my heart and took me where I never intended to go."
She paused, but the man wanted to hear more. "What happened?"
"He went off to war…I had one beautiful love letter from him, and then nothing. He must have been killed in action, was all I could think. Losing him was the most devastating event of my life, ever."
Ah, the man concluded, another broken soul, just managing to get by…but where the coals had been, he felt the grip of icy fingers trying to reach into long buried shadows.
"We were both so young. I hadn't finished school, so I could only get odd jobs to support myself."
"My dad was long gone, and my mother wouldn't listen to my problems. She said she had enough of her own to deal with. So, I had to manage, somehow. When the baby came, I couldn't even work. A kindly older man invited me to come live with him in exchange for housework. It did put a roof over my baby's head…but then he suddenly had a stroke and died. And then, we were out on the streets."
A baby! The icy grip competed with the warmth of the coals reaching up his neck to his head. He had to hear the rest of her story.
"Another man came along and offered me a job working for him. I had no idea what sort of work it was until it was too late. I'd pretty much given up on ever having a happy life, anyway. Then, when he said his clients preferred someone younger than I had become, I was left on my own, doing what I had to, just to get by. And, that's about it. That's my story…Would you like to tell me about yourself?"
The man took the woman's face in his hands. He looked into her dark, glistening eyes as his own tears began to wash both his face and hers.
"Do tell me, precious girl. What became of our baby?"
Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. ---Ephesians 2:3-7
Edy, this story is such a wonderful example of the lost and found theme with subtle bridges that lead to 'found' throughout. Each step, each street, the absence of other distractions, the light in the window, and ultimately her story, the baby, and her face draw him into the truth of who they both are to one another. Thank you for the chance to read this tender gift, this gem, given you in the wee hours.
This made me want to read more. I think this could be an allegory of how many of us have come to certain realizations too late in life. I loved reading this well written piece. Thank you so much for sharing.