SEA OF LONELY

By John Thomas Tuft

There were so many times he just wanted to give up.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this. All the countless hours spent traveling from city to city. All the upturned faces hanging on his every word. Saints and sinners, they’re all the same. Pass the grace and cash the check. He pours himself a strong one, gulps it down, pours another. Pulls out his wallet. Thumbs past the pictures of his wife and children, perfect strangers. Pulls out a card, punches in the number on the bedside phone. “She’ll stay the night for a thousand, buddy.” He demurs. Everybody has their standards, after all. The knock at the door startles him. He pulls off the cleric’s collar, tosses it onto the dresser where the cash is neatly folded on the far corner. When he opens the door, he is taken aback. It is a man, maybe in his thirties, plaid shirt, jeans, muddy boots. Dark skin. Who looks him in the eye, reveals a sad smile, and says, “Show me your scars.”

And it was day. And it was night. And it was good.

Her fingers tremble as she struggles to fit the key into the lock. Her heart is beyond broken. It is crushed. She finally gets the door open and throws the key at the dresser. It slides across and falls to the floor. She sits on the side of the bed, head in her hands. Will the tears ever end? How could he do such a thing? They were to be married. Two weeks before the wedding, he sat her down. Looked her in the eye. And said, “I never really loved you. No, please don’t touch me. No, no, it’s not you. It’s me.” She is utterly alone. Her brain feels like it is on fire. Her soul gasps for air. There is a knock at the door. “No, no please go away!” she screams. The knocking continues. She avoids looking in the mirror as she stumbles to the door, opens it. It is a man, maybe in his thirties, she’s never been sure. He’s in a plaid shirt, jeans, muddy boots. Dark skin. Who looks her in the eye, reveals a sad smile, and says, “Show me your scars.”

And it was day. And it was night. And it was good.

The hallways stink of disinfectant that never quite covers the smell of urine. The young boy clutches his father’s hand as he dodges the wheelchairs filled with wispy-haired gnomes who make feeble gestures as they reach to touch him. He is on his way to see his mother. For the last time. Except he doesn’t know that. What child should? Ever? They had been trying to enter the Promised Land. The people in the uniforms took his mother in one direction, him in another. The cages are cold, the cement floors hard. Some children are taken away. He is frightened.  Did his mama forget about him? Now his father stops outside of a door in an endless hallway of doors. Takes a deep breath, kisses his rosary and pushes on the door. His mother is there, ever so still. Forlorn. Weak. The boy sees a doctor beside his mother’s bed. A man, maybe in his thirties, he’s never forgotten that face.  A white coat covers a plaid shirt, jeans, muddy boots. Dark skin. Who kneels down, looks the boy in the eye, reveals a sad smile, and says, “Muestrame tus cicatrices.”

And it was day. And it was night. And it was good.

A teenager sits in the middle of worship, people all around. Yet utterly alone. They all stand, they all sing. They all mutter words. They all bow their heads and hope against hope to make a connection. The heavy cross hangs above all of them, it’s shadow falls on the wooden table in the front with the intricate carving. Does it matter? What about any of this matters, they all wonder. The flickering light reveals the scars on his wrist, illumines the fear in her heart. Body of a man, the soul of a woman. The desires of a human being. The loneliness of a human being. There is a rustling at the disturbance of a late arrival. The teen feels someone sit down next to him. She looks up. It is someone in their thirties, maybe. In a plaid shirt, jeans, muddy boots. Dark skin. Who looks them all in the eye, reveals a sad smile, and says, “Show me your scars. Please, all of you. Show me your scars.”

And it was day. And it was night. And it was good.

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.