Episode 6: Internal vs External -Natural Intent
I made my way to the starting line for the quarter mile runner's track and when I reached it I dropped into the starting position, my upper body thrust forward, one foot out ahead of me and planted, the other a step behind poised on its toes. "On your mark," I said under my breath, "get set...," I paused and took a breath then shouted GO inside my mind and leaped forward.
I ran like the hounds of hell were chasing me, my legs and arms pumping madly, I could feel my blood rising in temperature as I sprinted down the dirt path, coursing through me and swirling through my organs. My heart pounded and my head throbbed as I dashed around the curve, sweat forming on the back of my neck and under my arms.
Twenty yards from the finish line I dug deep and found the strength to move faster, to push harder, my calf muscles screaming in protest, and flew past the marker, the momentum of my body taking several seconds to slow down and stop. I put my hands on my knees, out of breath and panting heavily, my entire being in a state of protest and pain. Slowly I regained my wind along with my equilibrium and I moved my hands to my hips and began walking towards the swing-set, a slight breeze cooling my slick and fevered skin.
I'd had a bit of a disagreement with my mother that morning, one that had left me feeling frustrated and very alone. It had only been five days since I'd last seen Ijustam which meant I had another twenty-four hours before I had someone to talk to about it. It was going to be a very long day.
I dropped down on the swing and gripped the chain-links still breathing heavily, unable to coax my shocked legs into pumping just yet. I loosened my grip and let the chains slide to the crooks of my arms pulling them together slightly to clasp my hands and leaned forward staring at the sand. The injured and reproachful look my mother had worn this morning was fixed in my mind's eye like a channel I couldn't change. The sun was out in force but I suddenly felt cold and vaguely nauseous. I told myself it was an after effect of the run, and perhaps that's all it was. Or perhaps she was sending up one of her prayers right now in that beseeching voice that disturbed me on a basic level. Casting out imaginary demons...or maybe they weren't so imaginary. Maybe by naming them she was speaking them into existence and rather than warding them off she was giving them power.
I grimaced. This image of her too closely resembled a witch...a sharp cold wind kicked up suddenly and my breath hitched, my heart speeding up again, the summer stillness of a moment ago broken by the loud whispering of the leaves. A foreboding sound, the sound of autumn come early, the warning of winter's swift approach. What were the trees trying to tell me? Not to think these thoughts? Or were they collaborating...the wind kicked up a notch and I shivered and released the chain links and slid to the ground, wrapping my arms around my knees. I scanned the woods that surrounded me with a mixture of fear and awe, noting that the sky had darkened slightly though there didn't seem to be any clouds moving in.
Squeezing my eyes shut I reached out to Ijustam, pushing a sense of need and urgency out and away from me in a wave. The wind began to die down and I opened my eyes and all but shot to my feet at the sight of him standing between two trees directly in my line of sight. I could feel the weight of his intense gaze and my mouth went dry. I blinked my eyes several times, expecting him to be a mirage. When I was relatively certain he was in fact real, adrenaline spiked through me and I took off on another sprint, racing towards him, afraid that if I didn't get there fast enough he would disappear.
My feet slowed when I was within ten yards and stopped all together when I was within two.
"You're early," I breathed.
A smile lit his handsome features. "Really? I thought I was right on time."
I drew a breath in sharply, my eyes widening. "Did you..." I bit my lip, hear me, I finished the question in my head, afraid of voicing it aloud.
His smile widened a fraction and he held out his hand. "Come on," he urged.
I put my hand in his and he squeezed it gently before tugging me into the woods. We were not on the path but he showed no hesitance as he gently pulled me forward, weaving us expertly through the trees. Neither of us spoke, I was too confounded by the events of the day and his seemingly magical appearance, and he was either extremely focused on our trek or waiting for me to speak first. It was I who called him after all. The thought made me breathe out a laugh and he glanced at me, his eyes alight with humor as his lips quirked slightly.
Finally we reached the small clearing that contained his metal box and he drew out the blanket along with two bottles of water which he handed to me as he spread the material out on the ground. He sat down Indian style and I followed suit, settling across from him and handing him a water. I unscrewed mine and took a few swallows, relishing the way the cool liquid slid down my parched throat. Once I replaced the cap he cocked his head to the side.
"Tell me." He said simply.
I nodded slowly, gathering my thoughts. "My mom asked me to say a prayer for my dad today. He has an appointment to determine if he's eligible for disability because of his back problems and she was praying that the answer would be yes, that they would give him the maximum benefits, and then went on to pray for healing...and she wanted me to do the same and I...," she trailed off, ducking her head.
"And you?" He prompted.
I brought my head back up. "I told her that I couldn't because I don't think we should ask for things in that way. I don't think prayers should be about money or material things...in fact I don't think we should ask for anything. I think we can say thank you, or I love you, or I'm sorry but other than that...I don't know. She got upset telling me that we can ask God for anything, that he's our daddy God and we asked our dad's for things, didn't we? I told her it felt too much like we were making wishes to a genie and that I don't see the Creator in that way. I explained that if we ask for something and don't get it than we're doomed to think that we either didn't deserve it or we're being punished, and she said no, that it's more likely a test, and I said fine, but don't you see that it's going to happen exactly as it's meant to and we'd be better off making the best of whatever circumstances we're presented with or changing our circumstances ourselves when possible?"
"Anyway she ended up saying something about Satan and demons and doubts that are planted by them...," I shook my head in frustration, "It's not about doubt. It's just that I've been paying close attention to this," I put a hand on my heart, "and it's telling me that there's something off about prayer and how it's used. I thought maybe it's okay to pray for things like peace and strength and understanding...but even that I’m not sure about. That's when I decided I wasn't going to ask for things, and that did feel right."
He regarded me thoughtfully. "That's interesting, because I instinctively feel the same way. I do ask for things, but not of a deity, not of the creator, of myself. Or perhaps asking for things is the wrong way to put it, it's more that I set my intent and will it to be."
It was my turn to cock my head to the side. Then I grinned. "Yeah, I do that, or I did, today, for you to come a day early. And I didn't feel like I was asking God for that."
He gave me a knowing smile, "You weren't. You were throwing a message out into the universe and directing its course to be received. Mission accomplished little witch."
I blinked, shrinking back a bit.
He grabbed my hand, "No, it's not a bad thing. It's just the power of the feminine spirit."
I frowned, "That sounds...pagan."
He laughed, "Well, pagans knew a thing or two. Though of course they turned it into a ritualistic religion which is the surest way to corrupt something pure. People have the hardest time just letting things be, of accepting things for what they are. So they label them and turn them into something external. In one breath they say God resides within you and in the next they look up at the sky and beseech some outer being."
I thought about how the wind had kicked up earlier, which essentially had matched the wind inside of me at the moment. "Things can manifest externally though, can't they?"
He stared at me for a moment. "Yes," he said meaningfully, "they certainly can."
I flushed slightly at what seemed to be a veiled compliment and started talking to cover my nervousness. "I told you that my father works for the state, right?"
He nodded, "The first time we met. Right here actually."
"Did I tell you that he's also an artist?"
He shook his head.
"Well he is. A painter. He's really good, so good in fact that when he was still in college his Art teacher told him that he should drop his administrative classes and be what he was born to be. He countered that he had a wife and a new baby to support so he couldn't afford to starve. So he has spent the past nearly twenty years toiling away in a job he doesn’t like, all for the sake of money. And now, when he's just a few short years from retirement, his body is failing him. But his eyes are still as sharp as they were when he was a child, his arms and hands still strong. He could still paint, but lately...he's lost interest. So pretty soon he'll have difficulty walking, he'll no longer be working, and he hasn't been painting," I made a face. "He tells that story of how he chose to stay in those classes as if it's something to be proud of, but I don't see it that way. I think he should have done what he loved and Hell be damned, and my mother should have supported him. Especially since the job he doesn’t like never made them rich, they have more debt than income..." I sighed. "But you can't turn back time, can you? I guess all I can do is pay attention and avoid the same path."
He tilted his head, a smile playing on his lips. "No debt slavery for you then?"
I shook my head adamantly. "I'd rather live in a tent."
He dropped his head back and laughed, "A tent....that could be great fun depending on who you're sharing it with." He lifted his head and looked at me as if he were considering it.
I felt a rush of warmth and scooted so I was sitting beside him, our knees touching. We were silent for a few moments and I studied his side profile, committing it to memory. "I love you, you know," I said quietly.
He didn't answer, but I wasn't embarrassed, I had no desire to take it back. It was the truth, plain and simple. He slid his hand, which had been open and lying palm up on his knee, over a few inches and brushed his thumb against my calf. It was a subtle touch and if I hadn't been watching I wouldn't have known it was purposeful. He did it again and my gaze bounced to his face. His expression was inscrutable. He lifted his arm suddenly and wrapped it around my shoulders, pulling me close to him. I laid my head against his chest and he rested his chin on top of it. We were quiet except for the rise and fall of our breaths. Then just as suddenly he released me and stood up. He looked off into the forest at our backs, his eyes scanning and alert as if he'd heard something. He glanced down at me. "Time to go," he said somewhat sadly.
I looked up at him in question So Soon? And he held out his hand, which I took, letting him pull me to my feet. I watched as he grabbed the blanket and shook it out, taking his unopened water and dropping both inside the chest. I bent down and retrieved my own water, and followed him back the way we'd come. When we got to the edge of the woods he brushed his hand down the side of my face and smiled wistfully before turning away.
I watched him make his way back through the woods with an inner sigh. I love you, I thought and it seemed as if he paused for just a moment before continuing on.