Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Gate

The young woman walked the dirt road in a slow and measured trudging stride. Her plain white skirt hung lifelessly and the equally plain white blouse she wore seemed as dull as the day.
The damp dirt she walked over made little noise and no echo.
She had been walking the same road for more than five years now. Her plodding steps were rhythmic to her ears, but the slow progress she made to wherever she was going was aging her another day with ever passing step.
She was not a lovely, not a classic woman. She was ordinary; neither pretty nor plain. She was unimpressive and unadorned. She walked the road down the middle neither too far to the left nor too far to the right.
She had features that made her not stand out in a crowd and she'd heard one time that she could hide in a group of five.
The air hung about her. It was neither a cold, nor a warm day, just as it had been since she found this never-ending sameness. The constant low hanging clouds obscured the sun which never shown on her face since she began her walk. No shadow accompanied her on her walk. She was alone.
The road had no scenery. Small tufts of grass sprouted at irregular intervals along her path, but they were as uninteresting as the dirt upon which she walked. The grass was as uninteresting as its greenish-brown coloring.
She had had a coat when she began her walk. She had used it to protect her from the environs that now had become her monotony. The young woman's coat had fallen by the wayside. She believed she no longer needed the protection of the coat, but in retrospect, she now wishes she had the company of her coat. Walking along down this road had become nearly unbearable to her.
Her days were always the same on this road of loneliness. Mists from the clouds occasionally dampened her spirits and made her walk more slowly. Sadness enveloped her on some days while on others the monotony remained unchallenged.
The road she walked was nearly always silent. No birds sang, no trees whispered, there was no distant hush of vehicles going somewhere and she never heard an aircraft passing over her in its destination to somewhere else.
Her solitude was close to absolute.
At times she would pass another person on this road of solitude, but they had baggage she didn't want to have to help carry. She often recalled the people who passed her, always men, some had baggage filled with empty bottles, others had bags filled with lies or anger, some had issues which were hidden in the bags, but she could tell their burdens were heavy.
The young lady had baggage of her own and she often wondered to herself if maybe she shouldn't shed some of it to help make her walk easier. But the baggage was all she had of her past. With no future in her sights, other than the road she now walked, she held her baggage close to her.
Breaking the solitude on her walk were gates. These were the openings she would pass where she would here the voices of others. Every few weeks she would pass a gate. Sometimes they were open to her only enough for her to see through the cracks, other times they would open enough for her to slip through, but not her baggage. She wouldn't leave her baggage.
She would look through the gates to the other side. She had seen men happily playing with their children; she had seen men sitting at their desks working. Through other gates she saw men on the beach playing games. All looked as if they were waiting for someone to walk through the gate and join them, but she never entered.
Many years in her past, when her bags were few and she had been on a different road, she had entered through one of the gates and had gleefully played with the man inside. They had made joy and basked in the sunshine.
But the man had hurt her, had broken her trust and defiled her soul. She left in pain and began her lonely walk down this new road of solitude
Those memories were now in her baggage. She vowed that she had been hurt to the core by that man and no one would ever again have the power over her to hurt her so deeply.
The coat of her childhood protected her somewhat from the pain, but it too became a burden she could no longer carry. So her coat fell by the wayside and it was just her and her baggage.
She couldn't leave her baggage. So these gates to fell behind her in her walk down the desolate road. At some point in her walk, she even stopped looking at what was beyond the gates and just looked ahead of her on the road, noticing how it narrowed further ahead. She wondered at times in the road would ever stop for her, if there would ever be an end to this ennui.
Well into her fifth year on the road, she happened upon a swinging gate.
The gate was rusted and creaked from the wind she didn't feel.
It had been months since a gate had piqued her interest. She had become so used to ignoring the gates that she's almost forgotten that they were there; almost forgot that there was a way off this road of desolation and loneliness.
Her curiosity got the better of her and she had to look at what was beyond the gate. It had been so long since she had looked through a gate, she was somewhat shaken by what she saw.
Peering through the opening, she could smell the fragrances of a thousand flowers; the stiff breeze that had brought the gate to her attention assailed her hair. Colors, which were so lacking in her world of mediocre grays and browns, attacked her eyes to a point where she had to cover them. The sky beyond the gate was a blue she'd never seen before. Her soul sighed in awe at the beauty.
It was only after her eyes had adjusted to the startling yellows, luscious greens, deep purples and delicate reds, that she saw the one thing that drew her attention the most.
In the center of the field, beyond the gate, a man stood.
He was a nondescript man, neither large nor small. He stood in the center of the field looking off to the horizon. He stood strong against the warm wind that whipped his hair. His arms were bare to the elbow and the small hairs on his muscled hands danced with water droplets the size of teardrops.
The flannel work shirt whipped in the warm winds and the denim jeans he wore were faded, but sturdy.
As the lady from the road watched, the sun grew warm upon her face. Birds sang songs of summer and the winds became gentle relief from the summer heat. Grass grew and waved to the sky while she watched and trees blossomed generous leaves that provided shade to the man in the field. Storms came and soaked the man even though he was under the trees, but his face, haggard but sensitive, never lost its small smile.
Soon the cool autumn winds came to blow summer away. The sound of rustling leaves startled her for a moment. It had been a long time since the lady had experienced such raw life. Thunderstorms rattled the man, but he stood staring into the distance.
Something he stared at made him happy, the young lady concluded. That something must be very wonderful for him to keep smiling that way. She wondered what rapture could bring such joy.
Autumn turned to winter and cool winds became and icy blizzard. Snowdrifts formed around the man's feet. Ice hung from his hair that was no longer whipping in the wind. The tree that had shaded the man from the summer's heat now stood lifeless, cracking slightly in the winds that blew the snow.
Frigid temperatures froze the young lady's fingers and again she wished for the coat she had left behind.
As she thought about the coat, the gate was nearly blown shut, cutting off her view of the man in the field. She couldn't help herself, she had to watch that man and soon put all thoughts of the coat away forever.
The gate again swung open again. The man was still standing there, staring enigmatically into the distance. Try as she might, she could not see what drew the man's attention. She wanted to know what it was the man saw that caused him to stand in this field full of changes.
The snow, which had piled around his legs, began to melt with the warm breezes of spring. Ice fell from his hair and his eyes softened like the breezes. The spring rains caused flowers and grass to jump out of their dormancy.
Birds once again sang their songs and the warming winds kissed the man in the field as soft as a butterfly's whisper. The man's smile widened just a little, but to the lady, it was the first emotion she had seen in so very long, and she had almost missed it.
The lady compared this man's life to her own.
Here there was a multitude of weathers he must contend with, a series of challenges he must overcome. He must face the stinging autumn rains, the ice and snow of the winter, but he also got to hear the spring and feel the heat of the summer.
In her life there on the road was nothing.
The road she walked was never changing. It was neither warm nor cold. The sun never shined on her and she never smelled the flowers of spring, but she never had the chance to feel the cold of winter or feel the sting of a hard autumn rain. Her life was an unending road of nothing, no emotions, no joy, no sorrows, no pain.
But how was this man's world different from those in the gates she had passed before? What had drawn her to this man in the field? What could he see in the distance?
She looked again at the man's face as the summer sun beamed its light upon him. His smile was still as it had been when she first looked. She decided this man must be happy. He always seemed to enjoy whatever it was that he was looking at. She also noticed the baggage he had beside him. There was a bag lying limply on the ground. It was small and opened to her. She could see what he carried and it scared her not at all.
But it was the something in the distance the young lady wanted to see. The young lady from the road, who had grown in years and maturity wanted to feel that happiness.
The gate that blocked her way was rusted. She could squeeze through, and for the first time, her baggage followed her through.
Entering to field and cautiously walking up to the man, her baggage fell to the ground. In the first few steps she had already forgotten the reason she had kept the smaller baggage. They fell to the wayside and were left to the field.
The young lady took a moment to examine this man well. His eyes were thoughtful and she could see them shed a tear. She supposed it was because of the beauty of the new day arising.
His hands looked strong but gentle. As the weather here changed from blistering highs to frigid lows, the hands of this man seemed to grow weathered but never cracked under the strain.
He stood tall against everything this land threw at him. He never angered at the unfairness of the rains or the heat that reddened his fore head. His calmness was a stark contrast to the field in which he lived.
The lady, who had become a woman, noticed that her baggage was being blown away in this man's field. The pain and hurt, which she had been keeping with her, was fading into her yesterdays.
She had to know what it was that he saw in the distance. She wanted so badly to feel the eminent joy he so obviously felt. She had to know what it was that made this man so happy that he would stand all the ups and downs this field was throwing at him.
Speaking softly she asked: "What is it you see?"
Gently taking her small hand in his, eyes never leaving what he saw in the distance, he spoke in a smooth baritone voice: "Our tomorrows."