In the beginning, I felt an urgent need to leave this place once and for all. Anywhere would do, as long as it wasn’t here. I took my bag, stuffed whatever clothes I could into it, and headed for the door.
“Where you goin’?” came the inevitable question.
“Out and about.” It was the only answer possible.
“When you comin’ back?”
“I don’t know.” I didn’t care. What did it matter anyway?
I slammed the door shut behind me, and climbed down the stairs two at a time. My construction boots crushed the wooden steps like a runaway pile driver, but my spirit soared like a bird. I rumbled into the foyer like an earthquake that echoed straight into the depths of my heart. The fault lines of this relationship cracked open this time, and flight was the only option. I couldn’t let it be like before, when the aftershocks of regret imprisoned me whole in a cage of self-doubt.
That night, in an alley somewhere far away, there was nothing but void. Big, empty, and dark. My anger was my only companion, but it was a very disturbing bedfellow on this mattress of cardboard boxes.
At least the summer sky was clear. If each of the stars was a lost soul, like mine, each sunrise made us all disappear for a while. Look normal, maybe. Go to work. Do a job. Keep busy with anything but life. But the sunset, man, the sunset was always the worst. Normal people go to sleep at night. Those like me, well, our madness keeps us awake even when our eyes are closed.
I heard a different kind of rumble this time. In my stomach. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and then only one fried egg and a toast. In the middle of it all, my life would become anorexic in more ways that just food, I knew it. Where there’s no roof, you got to ask yourself if there’s even a foundation. All I had were crumbling walls around me, of my own construction, of my own demolition.
I heard a noise somewhere in the alley. A raccoon, for sure, rummaging through the garbage bins.
“Damn it” said a scruffy voice.
I bolted up. “Who’s there?”
“Jesus Christ, you scared me!”
The vagabond was only a silhouette in the night, but I could tell he was a veteran of the homeless life. “Sorry,” I said. “I was just trying to sleep.”
“Keep the alley, buddy. Nothing in here anyway.”
I knew he was talking about the garbage bin, but he could just as well have been passing judgment on me. Nothing in here anyway. Nothing in here. Nothing.
Months later, years later, I don’t remember, and it doesn’t really matter, I found myself on the front steps of a monastery.
“Would you like to come in?” asked the monk.
“You don’t know where I’ve been,” I answered.
“It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. All that matters is that you are here now.”
“But I don’t even know if I believe in Jesus Christ anymore.”
“What do you believe in?”
“Nothing” I said.
The monk bowed his head, like he was going into prayer. “And is that nothing void of everything?”
I didn’t understand the question, at least not the way he asked it, but somehow I still knew what he was after. “Not always.”
He nodded his head three times. “Then we will wait with you until that something comes to visit you again.” He stepped to one side, and waved a hand through the doorway.
It was not the first time I walked through an unknown doorway, and most times in the past I decided at one point or another to run back out full steam. But this felt different. If it didn’t matter where I came from, did it matter where I was going?
In the end, now that I am home in my own skin, there is a presence that wraps itself around my heart and keeps me warm and safe in its gentle embrace. All there could be, of course, is a unitive consciousness that brings divinity to humanity when humans accept the divine. We may call it the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost. I simply call it love.
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