Story A Day for May, Day 10

angels

Each Other’s Angels

I’m always surprised when someone remembers me. Why would Solomon’s granddaughter remember me? I was no one important, and we were together five, maybe six times. No more.

I had daydreamed about playing fairy godmother to her! I thought: If I get the position at the university, I will be able to take Solomon’s granddaughter on hikes! We could ride the train into the city to watch a play, and afterwards, we’d eat sundaes. She made me light up–so funny, so earnest. Shy, until she saw you were listening with interest–and then, she spoke with sparks!

But I didn’t get the job, even with Solomon’s recommendation. Or possibly, because of his recommendation. He fell so quickly, so fast. But he had been an angel to me.

I was offered the position at the university in the city. Of course I accepted. It was hard for a woman philosopher to find a position, even with the secondary emphasis in gender theory and linguistics. It took thirty-five years and dozens of significant publications before I could pick and choose where I wanted to teach, and that’s what led me back here, a few years after Solomon had passed on.

Sometimes, former students will find me in the library. “Oh!” they say, “I became a teacher because of you!” “I became an anthropologist–librarian–mathematician–journalist–researcher, or yes, even philosopher–because of you.”

And I can scarcely remember their names. Had they spoken in class? Had they ever attended office hours?

“You were so important to me.”

I never knew. Did Solomon know how important he had been to me? Surely, I must have told him.

I remember the first time I met him. I’d just arrived in town the day before. I wandered into the lobby of the Humanities Hall. “We are so glad you’re here,” he said, confusing me. How did he know me from the other entering first-year grad students? Weren’t there dozens of us? Was he glad we were all here? He told me later that my application letter, my transcripts, and the recommendations from my undergrad professors singled me out–plus, my GREs were top-rate, especially in logic. “I could tell you would make it. Those types of students–the types like you–are few and far between.”

He was my mentor, and I was his assistant. But I don’t think I really did much for him besides copy articles I’d hunted down in the stacks and listen. I did a lot of listening. But that was for me, not for him.

When I taught in the city, I often walked through the alleys. One of my research focuses for a few years was the constructed realities of those who live outside of the main consensus reality. And it was in the alleys that I found some of my best subjects.

For about four months, I spoke most mornings with Oskar, a leather-skinned man in a crusty Greek fisherman’s cap, a wool jacket on cold days or a striped polo shirt on warm ones. His corner was behind the pet shop, and sometimes, the store clerk brought out a cat or puppy to sit with him.

Holding a calico kitten in his lap, Oskar told me once, “We are each other’s angels. How does God work? He has no form. He has only this.” He gestured around him to the backs of the buildings on either side of the alley, grimy from exhaust and dirt, to the slice of the bay we could see at the alley’s end, to a dandelion, growing from a crack in the cement. He held out his two hands.

“How does Spirit work, when Spirit has no form? It must enter form. And then, we can do God’s bidding. We become his angels.” Oskar nodded as he rubbed the kitten’s ears.

Who are my angels now? There is a singer in a Korean pop band whom I love–he lights up when he sings. He records videos for his fans with his i-Phone and posts them to YouTube. He is so candid, so fresh, so unrehearsed. In the comments, teen girls write, “I stopped self-harming because of you.” “I used to spend all day in bed. But when you say, ‘Let’s all be happy,’ I get up. I try. And now, I am happy, too.” “Thank you for helping me love again.” We might think this isn’t real–he is an idol, and they are idolizing him.

But I have been observing my own responses–yes, even me, an old lady. His black eyes are soft–he lights up. There is no other way to say it. And what stirs in us? What stirs in him? It is love.

The work of angels is to teach us love.

My students say, “Because of you, I finished school.”

Kate Elder tells me, “You were so important to me.”

I fall in love with a woman on a street corner, whom I will never see again, most likely, and in that instant, she saves me.

We never know when we are someone’s angel. It’s not our doing. It is love, moving through us. It is Spirit. The best we can do is to be ourselves–honestly, openly, generously, bravely. Then, when Spirit needs to work through our form, we are available. It is not our doing–we are only the containers, the medium. We are each other’s angels.


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Prompt for May 10: “Write a story in under 1000 words focusing on creating one brilliant image in your reader’s mind,” from StoryADay.org 
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Three Rivers 28.1

Twenty-eighth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: Nash Downing and his daughters, Nathalie and Ruby, are another beautiful game-generated family. They live in a gorgeous home by Pronterus in Willow Creek.

28. No one suspects his hidden power

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Nash Downing knew from childhood that the thread of his life would be snipped abruptly while he was young. He nearly died in college, when he contracted a staph infection after scraping his shin on a moldy board. He survived, though the infection reached his liver and turned his eyes yellow.

A year later, returning from a party late one night, he rode his bike alongside a tall embankment. He saw two headlights bearing down on him, with no room for him to swerve, and then it went black.

It was over. He had no idea how long he was in the blackness. He felt a gentle hand on each shoulder, spreading warmth like the sun.

He was on his bike again, with the car nowhere in sight. It was still night, still dark, and he was on his bike, riding home. He couldn’t piece together what had happened; he didn’t know to feel gratitude. The severance was that complete. When he pulled his bike into the garage, he remembered he was returning from a party. But who he’d met or what he’d done was lost.

He looked in the mirror: his sclera were white again.

After that point, memories of his early youth felt distant, like events that had happened to a character in a novel. His existing relationships, even with family members, lost their relevance. Friendships faded. Nothing old seemed real.

When he met Claire, he felt the first semblance of connection since that night. Her hands felt warm when she touched him.

His life fell into place when they married. They had a daughter and adopted her niece, who’d been orphaned as an infant.

When the girls were ten, Claire died of cancer.

“You’ll still be able to talk to me,” Claire told him on her deathbed. “And I’ll answer. I’ll be with you always, and watching over the girls. I’ll help you with your angel work.”

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He didn’t know what she meant. She must be delirious, right? But now it was six years later, and she was with him always. They spoke often. Though it was hard to admit to himself, he was beginning to understand his truth.

His work was simple and rewarding, as long as he didn’t expect anything reciprocal or personal. He was a friend to others, and few were friends to him. He helped others, and few stepped up to help him, except for his wife, who, good to her word, was with him always. Through her, angels spoke, and so, he was never alone. Even in his loneliest hours, he was surrounded by love.

His work, which he called “angeling,” was often as simple as grilling a meal at the park so the hungry could eat.

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Sometimes, no words were needed. Companionship was often enough and brought peace to the lonely or confused.

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He had learned, through time, to listen before marking a job complete. Sometimes, the instructions said to do more.

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On an afternoon when he shared a meal with Sebastian Rhine, who’d been camping out at Oasis Springs National Park, he was told to reach out.

“Talk to him,” he heard. “He is not right, at the moment, but talk to him, and he will be.”

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“Living like a lily, are you?” He asked Sebastian.

“Like a lily of the field?” Sebastian asked.

“Exactly.”

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“But a lily of the field has her needs met,” said Sebastian. “And me. I’ve been forgotten. By God and everybody.”

“Not so,” said Nash. “What did you want today, huh, brother?”

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“Food,” Sebastian said. “I was so hungry. I just had an old burger yesterday. That was all. And a coke. I drank water from the faucet, but I was hungry.”

“And now?”

“I’m full! And can I take the other potatoes with me?”

“You can!” Nash said.

“I wanted someone to talk to, too,” said Sebastian.

“A friend?” asked Nash.

“Yeah! A friend.”

“You have one now,” said Nash. He gave his card to Sebastian. “You can call or drop by anytime. You need a friend? You’ve got one, brother.”

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Sebastian pointed at Alec Dolan, who was approaching the picnic area.

“There’s my other friend,” said Sebastian. “He’s the guy who’s getting me free Wi-Fi.”

“What do you need with free Wi-Fi?” Nash asked.

“Don’t know,” said Sebastian. “Do you got a device? I don’t got a device. Do I need Wi-Fi? I need a shower.”

“There’s a free shower in that brick building over there,” Nash said.

“Sebastian!” said Alec. “Have you registered to vote yet? How is the day, Nash, mon ami?”

“Sun’s shining,” Nash said. “People are being fed. Can’t get much better than that.”

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Alec couldn’t linger. “Alors! Get out the vote,” he said, as he walked towards the park center, where he was scheduled to speak at a rally.

Nash had a few more stops that day. He often didn’t know what he’d be asked to do, but he could feel when his work for the day was complete, and when there was more. Today, he felt there was a little bit more.

He walked through a neighborhood in Oasis Springs and ran into Rachael Stanley.

“I took your advice!” she said. “I bought the expensive paints! I even bought caseins! Oh, they smell like milk. And they spread like butter!”

“And the paintings?” he asked.

“They–they feel like me!” she said. “Thank you, Nash.”

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He felt a little high when she left. Thanks were few and far between. Often, when he did his work right, he’d lose connection with the person, once the job was done. And sometimes, he’d receive curses, rather than thanks, even when he’d done what had needed to be done. But this was something rare: a thank you, and every indication that the connection would remain.

“You look happy!” said a young woman who was walking past.

“It’s a beautiful day,” he said.

And she smiled, too, a genuine smile.

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When he had the sidewalk to himself, he felt his wings unfurl. He only let them out when he was alone and when his happiness was so great that he needed to feel his power stretch and breathe.

It was getting dark when he arrived home. His daughter Ruby had grilled a plate of fruit, and Nathalie, having just finished her homework, was coming out to join them for the evening meal.

These were the true angels, he thought.

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He never spoke to them about his truth, his work, his conversations with Claire and the other angels. These are not things one talks about.

He wondered, sometimes, if Claire spoke with them. He knew the angels did, for his daughters, they were goodness through and through.

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They didn’t seem to share his task of helping those strangers who crossed paths. The girls had the task of helping each other and helping him.

The universe is taut with invisible lines. If you listen, you can hear angel voices speeding through them. If you look, you might catch a flicker of light. It’s thought. It’s feeling. It’s a whisper of love that travels the line, lighting it up like gossamer in sunlight. It’s here. It’s gone. But the message remains. Listen. Look. We are never alone.

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