Flower in the Wind
Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay
With the hours the Mesa project was giving me I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to make the Wednesday night service – I'd missed the last three – so Wednesday morning I called the church office and asked if I could have some time during the second service on Sunday for an announcement. The secretary checked with Tyrone, and he said it would be all right, so that was out of the way.
That evening when I got home I sat down on the sofa next to Al, after supper, and talked with her. "You know," I said, "that I'm a Christian and that I go to church."
"Of course. It was trying to save me – okay, I know you can't save me, but I don't know what else to call it – that brought us together."
"I was there to preach the Gospel to the prostitutes, and that turned out to include you. We often call it 'witnessing.' But what I'm getting at is that I know you're not a Christian, and probably you wouldn't be comfortable in church."
"No, I wouldn't." She took my hand in hers, rubbing her thumb over my fingers. "I know you're sincere, and that you try to live by your beliefs. That's obvious. If it weren't true, I wouldn't be here – I'd be back in that ... life ... down on Central. But if there's a God and He loves people, why did he let my daddy rape me for two years?"
I let the one foul word she'd used pass, for that was a touchy question she'd asked, and she had made an effort. "I don't agree with you, Al, but I understand where you're coming from. If I'd been in your position, perhaps I'd take the same view of things." I leaned against her a little, feeling how thin she was under the t-shirt she was wearing. "What I'm driving at, though, is that I'll be going to church Sunday morning. There's an open invitation for you. I won't say anything else about it, once we're done here. But any time you want to come, you'll be more than welcome. I'd love to have you sit with me."
"If being with you were the only thing, Alan, I'd go with you every week. But whatever I've been, I don't want to be a hypocrite. I don't believe in God, and I'm not going to pretend I do."
"Nor do I want you to. I want you to be honest – in this, and in everything else. You're in a marriage that's as much life saving tool as loving union, and your husband believes things that you think are nonsense. If you're not honest between us, this marriage won't work – and I want it to work."
"I asked you to marry me. I don't think I understood exactly what I was getting into to." She half turned on the sofa, so that she was looking into my face. "I still don't love you, Alan. I care for you a lot. I like you. You're not just my best friend, you're the best friend I've ever had. Just being around you has cleaned up my language a lot, and brought back a lot of good English that I'd forgotten I knew. You've been good for me, and good to me. But I don't love you, and maybe I never will. I really wonder if I can love. I've spent 12 years learning that 'love' is a four-letter word. But I want this marriage to work too. It's the one thing in my life that is worth the effort."
"In that case, Al, we'll consider this discussion closed. If you ever want to bring it up again, go ahead. But as much as I want you to become a Christian, and as much as I'll pray for you – and ask the church to pray for you – I'm not going to try to ram anything down your throat."
"You're going to show me rather than tell me."
"That's the best thing you could do for me. I've seen so much that words don't mean ... anything to me. It's actions that count. And I've got 12 years of actions that you're fighting against."
"Well, then I'll just do everything I can to be what I need to be, what I ought to be."
She looked at me, and ran her fingers through my hair. "Alan, I want you to know something. As much as there is in me that'll be fighting you, I really hope you succeed."
At the job site I explained to my people where I'd been the day before, and though they recognized how sudden it was, they congratulated me with, as far as I could tell, complete sincerity. They asked for a picture, and I realized that I didn't have any – not even one from our youth in Seattle. I'd have to do something about that. I didn't have a camera, but I could stop by Wal-Mart again...
My mind was on Al all day long. As odd as our marriage was, as incomplete as it was, Al was my wife and it was difficult not to think of her. I suppose most newlyweds think a lot of bed, but as much as I did desire Al, that wasn't uppermost in my mind. I thought of getting home to her, of seeing her smile and her dark hair, of sitting on the sofa with her.
She was already proving to be physically affectionate. I supposed that 10 years of prostitution would break down a lot of barriers, making touching a commonplace thing. I'd have to beware of that, remembering that Al did know all sorts of tricks to excite a man. But I didn't think that she was using those tricks with me. It seemed to me that she was genuinely affectionate – perhaps only the affection of very good friends, but when she held my hand or put her arm around my waist I believed it was genuine.
I was glad that Darvin had made me think about how I felt. I hadn't realized, all those years, why I couldn't forget Al. I'd thought that she'd been a friend. And then when she reappeared in Albuquerque, selling herself, I'd thought that it was merely an old friend who'd sunk in the world, and who I wanted to bring to the Lord. By now, I remembered as I walked through a house my people were framing, we'd seen two prostitutes make professions of faith. One had left the street and was now active in the church, though the other hadn't seemed to follow through on her profession. I'd thought that was all I was feeling with Al.
But Darvin had forced me to see the truth of it. And I was glad. Yes, I wanted Al to become a Christian. And if she ever allowed me to speak of the Gospel, I would. But for now she just needed love – the genuine article, not the raw physicality of her former work – and that I was ready to provide.
The day went slowly, but it was over soon. It was odd how both were true. I got back in my car and got on I-40, getting off again at Carlisle to visit the Wal-Mart there. It was crowded as always. There was one 24-hour Wal-Mart in town, but it was way over on Eubank and that was quite a drive just to be able to pick up a camera. So I fought the crowd, and got a simple 35mm camera and some film to go with it.