A light rain began falling just as Angelique closed the door to her apartment. She walked to the place she occupied the last two days, a concrete bench beneath a triangle of trees in Place Andre Maginot, trying to understand what kept drawing her there. In all her years living in Nancy, she never set foot there—why walk fifteen blocks to sit in a concrete park and watch people carrying bags of treasures, things she had no hope of having?
At half past nine that funny group of black, yellow and white people returned. They set up their instruments and played songs in English and French, unfamiliar to most who passed by. All day long the band would play two or three songs and then a handsome-looking Frenchman would step up to a microphone and talk about Jésus.
Angelique remembered hearing similar words long ago, before her calamity … Jésus est l'amour.
Porquoi, Jésus, porquoi? The intruder always entered in the middle of the night, but there was no pattern of days. Angelique went to bed afraid every night.
Then she remembered when … she stopped asking porquoi.
She knew Jésus didn’t hear her. Porquoi? Her rent soul dissolved more, more, and more still for months and years as the intruder took from her. She endured each episode knowing she was powerless to resist, hoping each time it would be the final appeasement.
Thirty years had passed since the intruder’s last visit. There was never an explanation from her mother or brothers, uncles or aunts. Nothing from Father Sauniere. Whenever she asked anyone about the intruder, her queries met with silence.
Her drive to subdue the madness intensified as closure eluded her grasp. Why didn’t anyone protect her? Why was everyone protecting the intruder? Was he dead? Did God finally end it, or was her body no longer fit for the intruder’s insatiable lust?
Her obsession with her abuser became as brutal as the abuse. When she realized there would be no understanding the insane rendering of her essence, she discovered her hiding place. It’s there that Angelique stores her unresolved anger and bitterness and warehouses the powerlessness and bewilderment that no one intervened—not even the Jésus whom the handsome-looking Frenchman was proclaiming to the gathering crowd.
And she keeps on a special shelf, behind a tightly locked door, the shame that in the chop, chop, chopping away of her soul she found fleeting morsels of life piercing the anguish with distorted pleasure.
It’s home now, where she marks the time until everything stops and it doesn’t hurt anymore. She allows one window into her hiding place—some people must be let in ever so briefly to meet whatever needs she can reckon into her existence.
A soft voice pierced Angelique's window as she stared at the band and the preacher. “Are you alright?” the voice asked in Chinese-tinted French.
“My name is Liyan. May I sit here?”
Angelique looked up and nodded affirmatively, her eyes betraying her emptiness.
Liyan sat down on the concrete bench, several feet from Angelique. “I’ve seen you here the last two days. Are you enjoying the music?”
“Oui, the black man, his voice is beautiful.”
Liyan inched closer, but Angelique immediately backed away.
“I’m sorry,” Liyan said. “May I stay with you?”
“It’s alright, yes.”
Liyan stared at the ground for a moment, then turned toward Angelique and made eye contact. “I am with the group that is singing.”
Angelique started to squirm with a sudden, unfamiliar discomfort. “Why are you here?”
“To share l’amour de Jésus.”
Angelique recoiled in fear, bolted upright, and started to stumble away. “Please stop,” Liyan cried. Angelique stood still, her back still turned. “What is your name?”
“Angelique,” she mumbled.
“Why did you get up to leave?”
Angelique stared at the ground, swaying left and right, then spun around to look at Liyan. “Jésus, he doesn’t love me. I asked him to protect me, and he didn’t.” Tears welled up in her eyes instantly and she fell into Liyan’s arms, sobbing.
Liyan held her for several minutes. “Who hurt you?”
“Do you know who?”
“Someone who was supposed to love me and protect me.”
Angelique now felt Liyan begin to tremble and cry softly. Silence, then Liyan whispered, “he comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received.”
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