let(From my Series She Listened With Her Eyes. This is fiction.)
I had come to Simon’s house to ask for advice. I had been thinking about my relationship with Yasmin and about the big decisions we would need to make as things progressed, and boy were things progressing. I wanted to talk to him about the practicalities of being in a relationship, of starting a family, of the money issues basically. I wanted to ask, “How in the world do you afford everything???”
I was standing in the living room of his apartment, looking at a row of frames featuring photos of his family. Mat his eldest son, a future scientist; Josh, the most magnetic little boy you’ve ever met; Diane, the sweet princess; and William. I nearly forgot about William. Born next to Mat, William was the second born, though it seemed like he was the youngest, his autism stunting much of his natural processes. I fixed on a photo of Simon cradling William, both their faces beaming with unadulterated happiness.
“Hey David. Sorry to keep you waiting. I had to get the kids to bed.” Simon called to me as he walked into the room, carrying a sleeping William in his arms, covering nearly his whole torso. I had forgotten that he was no longer a toddler but a growing boy.
“Hi Simon.” I shook his hand. “Thanks for making time for me.”
“Of course, David. Did you bring drinks?”
“Right here.” I said, holding up a bottle of Soylent.
“What the heck is that?” he said, with a suspicious look.
“It’s a meal replacement.”
“Get a wife, David. You’re becoming even more abnormal. Do us both a favor and grab two beers from the fridge. The kitchen is at the door to your right.”
I grabbed two bottles. “Where’s your bottle opener?” I called out.
“It’s somewhere there.” he answered, not being very helpful. I found it anyway after opening a third drawer.
I went back to the living room, put our beers on the coffee table, using old magazines as makeshift coasters. He told me to take the master’s seat while he sat on a long sofa. “I prefer sitting here. Lets me lay William down beside me and still have space. He’s gotten quite heavy now. Carrying an 8 year old is a whole lot heavier than a baby.” he explained without insecurity or the self-righteousness common to people aware of their sacrifices.
Carefully laying William down with his head on his lap, he caressed his son’s hair, smiled, looked at me, and said, “So what’s up? What brings the hermit to my home?”
“I’m not that bad.”
“You’re worse. How can I help you?”
“Can I ask you something? Is it hard to have a special child?”
“All children are special, David.” He replied dryly
“You know what I mean.”
“No I don’t know what you mean.” He said, not making it easy for me.
“I mean a child with a condition.”
“You mean an autistic child?” he said.
“If you put it that way…”
“It’s not how I put it. It is what it is. Don’t worry. I’m not offended. We’ve been friends long enough to know you’re good with words when you have the luxury of drafts, but terrible on the spot.”
“It’s true. And that’s what’s important right?”
“What are you talking about?” I asked him a bit confused.
“You asked me a question. You asked me what it’s like to have William. I’m answering you. To have William is a challenge. It’s true. It is what it is. I was featured in our community newsletter once. They interviewed Susan and I about what it’s like to raise a child with autism. For a few months after, we were overwhelmed with support and encouragement. Letters came in, people even sent gifts and money. That was a few years ago. These days, there’s not much encouragement, no letters about on how much we’ve inspired others, no ‘praise Gods’ or ‘God bless yous’. What we do have is an early morning every day, 4:00am to be exact, when William wakes up crying. We wake up to piss on sheets, and piss on me as I carry him to calm him. What we do have are never ending medical bills with no end in sight. What we do have is a responsibility to make daily sacrifices of time, money, energy for him.” He said the last sentence looking down at his son, he smiled, and looked back at me. “But after 8 years, here’s what I’ve learned, more than the things I just mentioned, what we have now, what we’ve always had, is William. We don’t have a special case or lifetime of sacrifice. We have our son. And that’s as beautiful as it gets.”
“I can’t say I completely understand.” I admitted.
“I don’t blame you. You single guys can be efficiently selfish. But you will someday. You’ll understand when you truly fall in love. When the joy of holding someone overwhelms the weight the of the responsibility.
“We have to be realistic Simon. There are responsibilities in the real world.” I cut him.
“I never said there weren’t any. Why do you think I work so hard? There are bills to pay! A lot of bills!” he said with a laugh. “And it’s tough” he said in contrastingly subdued voice. “It can get really hard. Especially during bad days. There’s quite a few of them to be honest. But I like how my wife put it in a prayer once, during a particularly trying period, she said, ‘Father, give us beautiful eyes that we may always see Your beauty even though we face dark times.’ It’s when we lose sight of God’s beauty that things get really dark. It’s not the circumstance. It’s our perspective. It’s not William that makes my load heavy. It’s my selfish heart that forgets that to change his sheets is to love him, and to love him daily, to love others daily, is to truly live. Because of William I truly live. It’s not our lack of money that causes me to worry. It’s because I have been conditioned to trust in money too much. It’s not the medical bills that makes me feel deprived. It’s my lack of contentment. We always think a change in circumstances will make all the difference, that a beautiful life is made up of beautiful circumstances. I’ve learned that a beautiful life is a life lived with beautiful eyes.”
As he was speaking, I remembered my conversation with Yasmin just a few hours earlier, “David, promise me that you won’t do bad things to others.” she started. “Even if it will give us more stuff. I’d rather we sleep in sleeping bags than we do anything bad to others. I’d be happier, and I know God will be happier too.”
“It’s not our circumstances that make life beautiful” I caught Simon saying again, clicking back to our conversation, “It’s how we see our circumstances that determine the beauty we recognize. Too many of us are praying for beautiful circumstances when we really should be praying for beautiful eyes.”
I thought about Yasmin’s eyes. She has beautiful eyes. The most beautiful I’ve ever seen. They’re dark sharp, they’re dark brown, and they look like kindness, with no malice through to her soul.
“David.” I heard Simon’s voice call me.
“Sorry. I was thinking about what you were saying.”
“I’m sorry for rambling. You asked.”
“No, don’t be. I liked what you said.”
“So, you still haven’t told me why we’re here. I’m sure it wasn’t to hear me talk about William.”
“How do you afford everything? I know where you work. I have a pretty good idea of how much you make. Yet you never seem stressed.”
“Haha!” He laughed. “Seem is the key word. I definitely get stressed. But that’s why I’m so grateful, despite not being able to afford much, I have Susan, Matt, William, Josh, Diane. I know I’ll never truly be able to afford them, but the good news is this: I don’t have to. They’re gifts. You never have to afford gifts. They’re given to you. To have them, you simply need to receive them.” he winked at me with that last sentence.
I thought about what he said.
“Is there anything else you want to talk about?” he asked, still brushing the sleeping William’s hair.
“No. This was good. Thanks. This was good.”
He smiled. “Come by anytime. Thanks for the beer.”
“The beer was yours.” I reminded him.
“Thanks for giving me a great reason to have one.”
I looked at my friend. How did a foolish guy like me end up with such a wise friend?
“Thanks Simon.” I said as I walked out the door of his place. “I’ll remember what you told me. Beautiful eyes.”
“Beautiful eyes my friend.” he said nodding, carrying William once more. “Oh crap.” He said, as a darker shade of his blue shirt spread across his chest and stomach. “William just peed. Have to go change him.” he offered his hand and I shook it, feeling something warm and wet.
“Is that pee?” I asked more than a little grossed out.
“Haha!” Simon laughed. “Don’t be such a wuss. Welcome to my world. Come back in, wash your hands. It’s not the end of the world.”
For all you sensitive readers who like to jump to conclusions without context, I want to make it clear that this is all imaginary and not directly based on actual characters or events. This is a series about a boy’s journey. Just like you can’t read a chapter and say you understand the book. You can’t look at a portion of a journey and say you know what it’s about.
From my FICTIONAL series I Found My Blue Sky
I knocked on the immense doors of the grand church. The doors were probably five times my height and were wider than a crowd of men standing side by side. I could hear music and voices coming from inside the room blending beautifully in a harmonious song. I was so excited to see what was inside. After such a long journey on a long lonely road, to find so amazing an edifice, and to hear this wonderful sound, my heart beat in anticipation. Was this the place Abe was talking about? Was this the place of Who Knows Where?
I straightened my worn clothes and attempted to fix my hair. Then I knocked.
No one answered.
I knocked again. Still no one opened the doors. I could hear the music and the singing, they had moved on to a new song, yet no one answered.
I knocked again, calling out, “Hello! Anyone here?”
I don’t know how long I tried knocking and shouting, trying different ways to get in. I walked around the building trying to look for a way in, which took quite a number of minutes to do because it was so wide. I peered into the large, beautiful, stained-glass windows, which were so opaque that I could not see inside.
I walked back to the front and tried knocking again. Still no answer.
I don’t know how long I had been sleeping on the floor, but I was woken by the noise of a crowd shuffling past now open doors led by the most majestic looking man I had ever seen. He was different from Abe, who, despite being incredibly tall, was unassuming. This man had the energy of a magnet. There was something incredibly weird about this crowd, it’s as if there was something blocking their face. The great man having the biggest device in front of him. I was still on the floor staring at him that I didn’t realize that he was walking right into me.
“Ow.” he said, in a respectable tone befitting his image. “What are you doing there child?” As he spoke to me the crowd following him stopped and waited behind him, looking at me.
I stood up, “I’m sorry sir. I thought you saw me. I was here earlier. I was knocking on the door but no one had opened. I must have fallen asleep.”
“No one opened?” he asked with a frown. “That is impossible. The house of God is always open. You must be mistaken.” I could hear murmurs among the crowd.
“I am not mistaken, sir. I knocked, I called, I tried looking through the windows. I could not get in.” I replied.
Still frowning, he asked, “What time did you get here?”
“I don’t remember sir, but I heard singing.” I told him.
“Ah! So you heard singing! Why didn’t you say so? Of course you would not be able to get in! You were late! Here I was wondering how our kind hearts had overlooked a child. I knew the fault could not have been with us. We are diligent with our love. My child, let this be a lesson to you. There are opportune times. If you miss those, you lose your chance.” he said like a strict professor. More murmurs from the people, this time sounding satisfied at having a reason for my exclusion.
“I’m sorry sir. I didn’t mean to waste my chance. Does that mean I can never enter this church?” I asked.
“Of course not! We are a welcoming church. What do you think of us? We’re not like other places that are judgmental and old. We have a night service. We actually have one in an hour. You should join us.” He said invitingly, dropping his early defensiveness. “Amen.” someone from the crowd said. “Amen.” said a few others.
“Thank you so much, sir.” I said. “I heard the songs from outside. I’ve not heard singing in so long.”
“You will love our songs. We have the most beautiful songs.” he smiled confidently. “But let me ask you something. If I invited you to a time of fun and games, and I told you to be there by 3:00pm. What time would you be there by?”
Wondering what this question was about, I answered, “3:00pm, sir.”
“Exactly.” he said like a hunter whose trap was successfully sprung. “Exactly. Why then are you late for God? If you truly valued God more than fun, if you truly loved Him more than anything, you would not be late for Him.”
“Amen!” a few people shouted in agreement. “Amen.”
“Do you understand me child?” he asked. “If you don’t want to be left behind, you need to show God that He is really priority. Do not be late.”
“I’m sorry sir, but…” he cut me as I tried to explain.
“Child, I’m not angry. I’m not here to condemn you. God loves all of us. God loves sinners. He will forgive you. If you turn from your ways, He will forgive you.” he said trying to sound reassuring.
I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Sir, where should I turn?” I asked him.
“To God of course!” he said confidently.
“I did not know I had turned from Him. I…” he cut me again.
“Just as I feared. You are more deceived than you realize. Brother Sloan…” he called to a younger yet also impressive looking man, “Take this child to my office.” He turned to me, “Child, wait for me there so we can discuss this. As you can see I have duties to attend to.”
I didn’t want to go. There was something I didn’t trust about this man as well as Brother Sloan. He was both kind and condemning. What he said was principled, it was right, but he did not take the time to think if his message was meant for a weary traveler. And of course he did not know. He did not know anything about me. He cut me and never let me explain. I had lost a loved one, was missing my guide, hungry, and tired, yet to him I was deceived, valuing fun and games more than his deity. “I don’t want to go.” I said firmly.
“Don’t be a child!” he said.
“You’ve been calling me child since we started talking.” I answered back.
“Because you’re a foolish child!” he replied with visible irritation.
I didn’t reply anymore. This regal man who had been treating me like a child, was telling me not to act like a child, and right after called me a foolish child. I had no idea what he wanted.
“What do you want sir?” I asked. “I am tired and weary. I was only hoping to listen to the singing and songs.”
“What I want is your salvation. Don’t you see? Don’t you see that I love you enough to tell you the truth? Yet I can see that you’re like them. You’re independently minded like them. Independent minds are easily led astray.”
I was wondering who he was referring to. I was wondering how in the world he could say that he loved me when he didn’t even know me nor care to know me. I was wondering why he expected me to see his point.
He continued. “I’m sorry. Forgive me, child. Forgive my zeal. When you see a man about to walk over a cliff, do you tell him in a gentle voice to watch out? No! You shout out loudly, TURN! REPENT! It is out of love that I tell you the truth.”
I had no more energy to even attempt to explain. I simply offered my hand to shake his, said thank you, turned around, and walked away.
It was then that I realized what was in front of them. Clamped to their necks, extending in front of them in the most elegant formation, were mirrors. The man who looked like their leader, their high priest had the biggest and most ornate. No wonder he didn’t see me when he was walking straight in my direction. He was looking at himself.
Down the road from the giant church, in the darker part of the town known as the Disqualified, I sat by the sidewalk, and pulled out Abe’s letter to me.
“What are you reading there, handsome?” a voice asked me, coming from a scantily clad lady with a pretty face marred by ugly caked makeup.
“It’s a letter from a friend.” I told her.
“That’s nice.” she said. “It’s nice you have a friend.”
“Don’t you have friends? Everyone has friends.” I asked her.
“I no longer have friends. I have clients.” she said.
“A boy like you won’t understand. These people you call friends, they’re really clients. They’re in it for something. Everyone is in it for something.” she said dismissively.
“Oh.” I didn’t know how to respond to her. “I don’t have a lot of friends right now too. At least, I don’t have a lot of them with me. But I have friends in my memory, and I like to imagine that they’re happy wherever they are, and I like to imagine that someday I’ll see them again, and we’ll laugh at everything like we used to. I don’t know what they bring me, they haven’t brought me anything in a long time, but I love them. Do I need a reason to want to be their friend?”
“You’re young. You can be forgiven for being naive.” she smirked. “I’ve learned long ago that there’s the real world and there’s our dream world. The dream world is every beautiful thing we want. The real world is this. Look at you. Look at me. This is the real world. We are nowhere. We have nothing. We are no one.”
“That’s not true.” I told her. “Abe told me that we are never really nowhere. We may not be where we expected, or we may not be where we want to be, but we’re still somewhere, and to be somewhere, anywhere, and to realize you’re there is always a new chance to begin a new journey towards a new destination.”
“Who is Abe?” she asked.
“He’s my best friend. He’s the one who wrote me this letter.”
“Where is he now?”
“He said he had to go somewhere. To prepare something.”
“See. He’s gone kid. Sorry to be the one to break it to you. Your friend Abe abandoned you.”
“You don’t know Abe.” I said defending him. “What would Abe want from a young man like me?”
“I know men.” she shot back. “Maybe he needs followers! I don’t know! I do know men are liars. We women are liars too. We’re all liars. You’re too young to be a good liar but you’ll learn it too. No one will be there when you need them. It’s best you learn it now. Would I be selling my body now if no one had lied to me? Of course not! Don’t hate me for telling you the truth.”
The truth. That was the second time today that I was told what “the truth” was, and it could not have come from such diametrically opposite individuals, a spiritual leader and someone I would later realize was a prostitute.
We were both quiet. I don’t know what was in her head but I had nothing to say. I still run of things to say.
“Do you want to read my friend’s letter with me?” I don’t know why I asked her after she had just tore into my belief in friends. “I like reading it. I like reading it over and over. I don’t understand it completely but I like reading it anyway. You might like it too.”
She looked at me and smiled at my naivety. “Sure, kid. Read it to me.”
I unfolded the crumpled paper gently.
“Dear Lion…” I read. “He liked to say I was a lion.” I proudly explained.
“Cute.” she said dismissively.
“I wish I could tell you everything. I wish I could show you everything. You would love it all. You might wonder, ‘Why not just tell me and show me if they’re so wonderful?’ But it’s not as simple as that. You see, there’s more to just hearing and seeing, there’s more to just explanations. There’s a deeper understanding that comes from feeling, a feeling you must experience for yourself, on a journey of steps you have chosen to Who Knows Where. Too many people say they want answers, they say they want wisdom to do what’s right. What they really want is comfort. What they really want is security. When wisdom threatens their hold on either they are unable to recognize the truth.
Don’t be like them. Fight your pain, fight your fears, and journey on. Do you think I invited you to journey with me to self-preservation? Where is the fun in that?
No. I invited you to the beauty of mystery, a beauty too many have forgotten. Don’t hate her when she doesn’t answer. Appreciate her with wonder. Stay until she introduces you to her best friend, discovery. You will not regret the cost of meeting her. She will explain destiny.
In the meantime, have faith. What does it mean to have faith? It means to be in love even when I’m not around. It means to make me a part of your journey, even when you feel I’m not there. It means to trust that I’ll be where I said I would be, with you at all times, yet also ahead of you preparing a place.
Make my promises your sanctuary, your place of peace and rest wherever you go.. You will enjoy a hearth warmer than any other.
I wish I could tell you everything. I wish I could show you everything. You would love it all. You might wonder, and I hope you do, because to be able to wonder is a gift in itself.
Fighting tears, the lady spoke, “Nice letter. I wish what he was saying were true. But they’re not. I’m telling you this for your own good. You don’t know the world.”
I didn’t know how to explain Abe to her, but I remembered Sam’s words to me in my dream, so I used them to talk about Abe, “I can only say what I’ve seen in my own life, that every thing he’s touched he’s made better, and that wonderful can never be remembered apart from his fingerprints. And I know that if I continue on this path for even just one more day, with him, the world is made better one more day. If I touch just one more life, with him, the world is made better another life. I know life is hard. But I also know this momentary wasting away has a purpose.”
“You’re not as young as you look, boy. You’re naive, but thank you… What’s your name?”
“David.” I said.
“Thank you, David.” and she walked away back into the shadows.
I sat there shivering in the cold, enjoying the warmth of my sanctuary.
As many of you who follow my blog know, I’ve been adding the chapters to my story little by little. I have a lot of stuff written but the process of re-reading and editing takes a while, and even that will be reread and re-edited. I’ve prepared this page to make it easier to access all the different chapters in order. I have not put the chapters in order first because there are sections that will go in between posted chapters as I post them.
– Wake Up
– Will You…
– What A Difference A Day Made
– Sailing Away
– I Led the Way But She Was My Light
– On the Way to the Feast
– Before the Feast
– The Feast
– The Devouring
– Everything is Illuminated
– Promise to Remember
– This Momentary Wasting Away
– Higher Thoughts
– Silver Lining
– The Mirror Men