Episode 9- Swear No Oaths
Hand over hand, I struggled my way to the other side of the monkey bars and when I reached the last bar I turned, and made my way back across, the muscles in my forearms screaming. When I reached the last bar on the far side I hung there for a moment, trying to muster up the strength to make the journey back the other way. Wasn’t going to happen. I let go and landed on the dirt hard, the soles of my feet buzzing painfully from the impact. My hands were curled into claws, and I opened them slowly feeling the creaking of my tendons as I did so. I had broken my record, making five trips back and forth without rest, and my hands were paying the price. They were an angry red, and as I examined them I found two blisters forming on the base of the fingers on my left hand.
“That looks painful,” Ijustam appeared beside me and cradled the back of my hand gently, bringing it to his mouth and pressing a soft kiss on the injuries. They felt better instantly, like the magic my mother’s kisses had once borne when I was very young, and there was no greater indication that I had left that part of childhood behind then the thought that followed:
I wish my lips were blistered. A blush crept up my neck.
He noticed and smiled faintly and I had a moment to think that at least he would attribute it to what he’d done and not what I’d wished he’d done- before his eyes flashed to my mouth. His smile changed in quality to a knowing smirk just before he leapt off the ground and caught the bars overhead. I moved back and watched him make the same trek I had made, but with much less effort and far more grace.
He dusted my record and a smirk of my own formed. “Show off,” I called to him as he made his way toward me on his seventh trip. He grinned and dropped to the ground in front of me. The slight irritation I’d felt vanished in the brilliance of that smile.
A breeze kicked up and we both glanced toward the trees. Fall is coming, I thought.
“Fall is coming,” he said aloud.
I blinked at him, wondering if he’d heard the edict in the rustling of the leaves as I had.
He turned toward me and his expression was wistful, his eyes sad. He didn’t have to say a word, the question that had been on my mind all day, the reason I had pushed myself to pain on the monkey bars, was answered in the look on his face. Tears jumped to my eyes and my throat closed. He closed the gap between us and wrapped his arms around my shoulders pressing my head to his chest.
“From the east it comes, her love and the rising sun and I pray each time they come, it’s not the last,” he whispered, holding me tighter as I began to shake. “The Avett Brothers,” he referenced quietly.
I managed a nod but the tears kept falling hotly; how could I bear this place without having his visits to look forward to every week? It wasn’t fair.
“Life seldom is,” he murmured.
My tears slowed after a bit and his hold relaxed though he kept me in the circle of his arms as I lifted my head. He tugged the bottom of his shirt up and dried my face with it and I almost laughed at the swing of my adolescent hormonal mood. Just that brief glimpse of his abdomen sped up my heart and nearly made me forget why I was crying.
His smirk returned and chased away the heaviness of the past few minutes.
“I’ll see you again,” I said with confidence.
He nodded and took a step back. “Count on it.”
I suppressed a sigh. “How long do we have?”
His shoulder lifted and I followed him over to a bench. “Tell me about your week,” he asked once we were situated.
“Well, you told me that the next time I see you I should ask about oaths.”
He inclined his head slightly in the affirmative.
“Of course I looked up the definitions, and what struck me first is how the two top ones are almost polar opposites. One dealing with a vow of honor, the other a curse. So I dug deeper, and I came across this article, author unknown, that was both a history lesson and a startling eye-opener.”
His brows had risen as I spoke, his lip curving. “Did this article have something to do with the command from Christ to swear no oaths?”
I blinked, “Yes! You’ve read it?”
He looked both amused and awed as he slowly nodded. “Odd that you came across it. I guarantee that if most people were to put Oath in their search engine it would not pop up for them. So what did you think?”
“Well, it seemed to be saying that all of our current problems as a nation, or really as an economic world, stems from swearing oaths. It’s the reason for the prison we find ourselves in. In England when the peasants swore oaths to the Lords they were bound by them and therefore damned to barely eek out a living generation after generation, only the tradesmen were free because they didn’t swear to anyone, working for gold and not for man. And when the Bible first got into the hands of the peasants they were shocked to find that Christ had specifically said “Swear no oaths”, which was how the Quakers came into being, refusing to do that which went against their Christ’s command. The church, particularly Rome, began to lose its power due to this shift so they of course found shady ways to handle it.”
He nodded, “Including changing the definition of the word oath to mean profanity, so that the verse now read that people should not use foul language. Twisting a powerful edict into something insignificant.”
“Exactly,” I nodded. “And the more I looked into it, the more I found that everything we do in commerce is bound by oaths. Every contract we sign, every application we fill out; they all instruct us to “swear that the above is true”.” I frowned. “How do I go about my life without falling into these traps? Is it even possible?”
“I've been giving that a great deal of thought. Unfortunately, the only thing I've come to is their slogan for drug use-Just say No.” He cocked his head, studying her. “Something so simple yet infinitely difficult. Because it means not doing what everyone else considers to be the norm, like getting a driver’s license or a bank account.”
“You mean like living off of the grid?” I asked.
His frown deepened. “I'm not sure I like that as a solution. I mean, it is one way to go about it, but there has to be another way. I've been reading up on law, Black's law in particular, and there are loopholes for everything. Of course there are, how else would wealthy people get away with murder? People just assume they buy their innocence, but that's not the whole picture. Yes their money is a large part of how they beat the system, but they don't create the loopholes. Rather they pay a lawyer to navigate them through the holes that are already in place...,” He trailed off and glanced out across the field.
I followed his gaze, my heart squeezing. Please don't get called away, I thought, not yet. “So you're saying that we can use the system the way the wealthy do, it's just a matter of figuring it out?”
He turned back to me. “Well, we could yes. But that still isn't right. It seems to me that there has to be a way to refuse the system instead. Such as not getting a driver’s license...the word drive is a commercial term and that's how they're able to issue tickets, because when you hand them that ID, you're essentially showing them that you've made a contract in order to “drive” which implies that you are using the highways as a means of business. But if you are in fact just taking the car to a friend's house, then no business is being conducted, therefore you are simply traveling, sojourning, and do not fall under public jurisdiction. Simply put, it is my current belief based on knowledge I've obtained, that you don't need a license to take a car down the road. The problem is that your average cop is completely unaware of this, and while ignorance of the law is no excuse as they would be glad to tell you-often it seems that public officials think themselves above the law. Mistakenly, but that doesn't change the fact that they're likely to detain or arrest you. Now if they take you in and you’re wise enough to keep from contracting-giving them a name to use against you for example-then they will have to let you go. But it is a hassle. And there really should be a way to avoid the hassle. That “way” is what I'm working to find.”
I sat quietly for a few minutes, my brain working overtime to understand. “The last name is another contract used in commerce, right?”
His lip quirked, “Well, the name in all capital letters, the one that comes on your parent's bills for example, which also happens to be on the driver's license, that name is commercial. The last name itself doesn't belong to you. For simplicity's sake imagine that there is a patent on the name, and you don't own the patent so when you use it you are committing fraud. So it's twofold-both contract and fraud. The best way to go about it from what I know is to say “I am called Kylah.” This way you're not claiming to be a name, just that this is what people call you.”
I blinked at him, my mouth working with no sound coming out. I had never told him my name, just as he'd never told me his. His lips quirked slightly as he waited for my response and when I regained my composure I asked, “What are you called?” In a slightly breathless and shaky voice.
He stood up quickly, his eyes trained across the field.
“No!” I cried, scrambling to my feet and feeling panicky, my earlier confidence that I would see him again fleeing, fear that I wouldn’t ever again replacing it.
He pulled me against him, wrapping his strong arms around me tightly, heat radiating from him, instantly soothing. He brushed his lips against my ear and spoke so quietly it was as if he was speaking right into my mind, “Never stop asking why, and never stop having faith.” He stepped back and I mutely watched him retreat. Just as he turned the sun came out from behind a cloud and temporarily blinded me. When my sight returned he was gone. But the feel of his arms around me lingered and I knew.
I would see him again.