The Face of God

Summer has ended. It is obvious from the northern winds as I open the door to get my morning paper. I guess I better dig out that old Harris Tweed from my closet, the one the Scots claim won’t wear out before you do. Hmm, somehow that fact didn’t seem very comforting to me. Paper in hand, I grab the Pop-Tarts from the pantry and drop two in the toaster. Blueberry ones I believe, even though I hate blueberry! I guess I keep buying them out of habit, since they were the ones Jack always craved. Jack. . . In the fridge the milk sits begging me to drink it, for the jug is wearing today’s date like a beacon. Well, no juice, no sunshine today, I will have to settle for souring milk with a twist of chilly haze.

Pop-Tarts drowned; newspaper read; I find the wool sport coat in Jack’s old closet. Why had I hung it in there? Why there? I grab a few Kleenex to combat that dreaded wind and shove them into one of the pockets. Oddly, beneath the tissues I feel other, stiffer paper. There in my palm--two tickets. One but a stub, one unused. I couldn’t help but to cringe.

They were tickets to Les Miserables, tickets bought for the two of us last spring. Jack. . . He had begged me to buy them, and I did, but strictly against my better judgment. If only the show had been a few months earlier. . . If only so many things. . . That April evening, I wanted to stay there by his side; he was so sick, so gaunt. Shaking, he held my hand and whispered, "Please, please go see it for me. Be my eyes, my ears. Tell me all about Jean Valjean and Eponine when you get back. Tell me everything! Tell me of Fantine, my poor, sweet Fantine. . ." He smiled eagerly, lovingly as I left, while all I could do was cry. I have never felt so helpless, so hapless, so alone.

As I stand here holding these fated tickets, I swear I hear the angelic voice of Fantine singing to me. "Come with me / Where chains will never bind you / All your grief / At last, at last, behind you / Lord in Heaven / Look down on him in mercy." Then the soprano deepens into that familiar Carolina drawl I had prayed to hear again. "Take my hand / I’ll lead you to salvation / Take my love / For love is everlasting / And remember / The truth that once was spoken, / To love another person / Is to see the face of God."

On the dresser, our portrait shines up at me. Jack was there at my side as always, but the mirror holds just a lifeless shell of myself. I look longingly again at the picture. "Jack, you said you’d never leave me! You said no one or thing could break that vow!" Then, through my tears, I notice the brown vial, and in it I see salvation. I button the tweed and slip out the front door. There, amidst the azaleas and magnolia boughs, I lie down. Pine needles as my numbing bed. Spanish moss slides cool beneath my head. Twelve Demerol as my engine. Smooth milk gliding as my wings. Jack, I’ll be home soon! Real soon now. Real soon. . . As I close my eyes, I again hear Fantine sing.

Chikara, 1995

(This short piece contains lyrics from Les Miserables.)

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