Killing Me Softly

19:16


I walked into church late one Sunday horrified that I would be walking in in the middle of the sermon. Mercifully, the program had extended longer than usual and the pastor had not yet taken his place at the pulpit. Instead, a woman that I recognized as the usher was introducing someone, saying that we would be blessed by what we were about to hear.  I sat down as the congregation clapped, welcoming the woman on to the stage. She was dressed in a black, long-sleeved jumpsuit, with 4-inch heels on. Her hair was a crown of curls that looked like a butterfly in ascendance. She looked beautiful. And nervous. She stood in front of the mic and began speaking: “I find myself jealous of you and your life. It isn’t that I want something specific that you have, but it is the pace at which your life is going that twists my heart and brings me sorrow.” She paused, took a deep breath and continued: “But I tell myself to release that jealousy; that love does not carry such things in its bosom and I ought to release it immediately.  I remind myself to keep my eyes upon my own labour, and toil in my own field.” Here she looked up and smiled a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. The camera panned to her face and I saw her eyes glistening with tears on the screen. I suppose she thought smiling would keep them from tumbling. But no matter how much you endeavour to keep them away, tears sometimes betray you. She blinked and they fell. “I toil. Once, I toiled from sun up to sun down for many weeks. I lost sleep. I couldn’t eat. There was a fire in my belly that propelled me to fight, to work, to never rest. I did this for many seasons and did not harvest. Was the soil too acidic? too alkaline? Was I planting the wrong crop in dead soil? I investigated, made adjustments, but still I did not harvest. And even now, as I toil I am reminded of this, of the hunger I experienced, how I demanded that death take me. I provoked Death; I tried to force his hand, to no avail. And so, when I see my empty field I am reminded of that time past, where I toiled to no avail.
"Forgive me for my envy. Forgive me for the covetous spirit that afflicts me from time to time. Forgive me that although my face beams in joy for you, my heart constricts in agony for me. For all that I desire that continues to elude me. Forgive me for these things that I feel. I’ll peel my eyes off your field, and be grateful for my empty one. Perhaps what I planted takes a little longer to breakthrough the soil. Perhaps…perhaps…perhaps…” Her voice broke, and she wept. The room was silent. No one spoke. No one clapped. I watched as she wiped away another tear; she made like she would continue, but thought better of it, crumpled the speech and walked away.

I wanted to clap but my hands were arrested before they met together. Was it..? should I have…? I didn’t know what to do. A few seconds later there were a few scattered claps that echoed from various points in the room. I saw the senior pastor walk to the pulpit, Bible in one hand and adjusting the mic with the other. I saw his lips moving but my mind had disconnected.  I felt a discomfort that I couldn’t explain. Her words were a mirror that I wanted shattered. But the way she had given up…why had she given up? I scanned my eyes looking to see if she was still around, but I couldn’t see her. Had she left? Why had she stopped speaking? I sat fidgeting in my seat and then stood up to go to the bathroom.
I found her there. Her body tensed and I didn’t know what to do. “I like what you wrote,” I confessed awkwardly.
“Thanks,” she mumbled, barely glancing at me. I moved closer to her, part of me wishing I’d just pretend to use the washroom and get back into church. She looked up at me, confused. Her thick lashes framed beautiful light brown eyes, the shape reminiscent of the Khoisan. In her eyes I saw too much, that I almost hesitated. “It’s going to get better, I promise,” I said, smiling encouragingly.
Her eyes teared up once more. They were already a faded pink from the crying she had done moments ago. “Yeah,” was her response. “Oh my gosh, I can’t stop crying,” she said embarrassed, grabbing more tissue. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s ok,” I whispered.  It was as though a dam crashed because the tears kept coming.  I gave her a hug and let her cry. And when she pulled away I realized that I was crying too. We laughed awkwardly.
“Thank you,” she responded, smiling. I nodded my head, unable to speak. She threw her tissues in the bin, and smiled at me before leaving. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and dabbed the remaining tears away. Tossing the tissue in the bin I followed her into church.

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