|January 20th, 2017
It was September of 2014, sometime past one in the morning, when You bribed me
Lord. Neither Your first time nor Your last but a bribe, as always, of incalculable note
that the exile of details crowns to new heights my absent shame for remembering
I had gotten off the 4 train at Fordham Road station in the Bronx and I was walking
home. The area was as empty as it usually was around that time; deserted yet full of
eyes, someone's always watching from somewhere all the time. I didn't know this until
once, a few months earlier mid-summer, I dented a gray mini-van with my white
Hertz-rental-Mazda around two in the morning and shortly after got solicited by a guy
who claimed to know a good body shop (possibly round the corner) who could fix up
my car. I declined, of course and he went on his way just as NYPD showed up to take
down my report which they almost immediately delegated to two other cops that
happened to be women. If New York is said to never sleep, I've accepted since that
Bronx is always awake to notice.
But this particular night, I didn't care. Because around 7pm that evening, my full-length
play had a staged-reading on the second floor of a pub on the Upper East-Side to a
whopping two person audience of which one was the boyfriend of the actress in my
play, and I was in fact doing my walk of lame home.
The feedback from everyone involved, about eight people including three in the cast,
was very courteous and accommodating to my feelings. However, my one single
audience member took great pains to get me to admit that my full-length play was
probably better off as a one-act as it was originally conceived. Had I never mentioned
the One-Act version, his initial response would have remained gentle and curious.
Instead, almost as if emboldened by his own suspicions, he got forceful with his
opinions in a way that left no room for mine. And that hurt me the most. The fact that
he was completely dismissive - probably not as intentionally as my emotional bruising
would like to remember it - of what I was attempting to accomplish with my three-act
exploration of my one-act story. Anyway, old-wounds beg digression so.
As I was walking home that night, I brushed off the fact that I was not broken. Hurt
maybe, I'd have admitted that but definitely not broken and therefore delved head first
deep into my investigative soul to confront any possibility, even if it was smaller than
the tiniest seed of doubt, of never becoming a Playwright. To prove to myself that I
was not afraid. I was okay with being disappointed because I knew how to work
through failure. But I needed to prove to myself that I was not afraid. I needed proof. I
was not broken. So I plunged deeper into analysis mode only in the real world it was
My head hanging as low as it could physically go, perhaps counter-intuitively to rescue
my sunken spirit, and my eyes staring well beyond the oscillating blur of my feet that
was trying to get me home in time but instead, perhaps accidentally, accenting with
each step my hypnotic descent into what would have been my eventual unraveling that
- I now know - was awaiting me with a smoldering sinister grin just around the
crushing left I had to take to get home, You said...
"Hey, look up. It's not good to look down."
Or something like...
"Hey, hey look up. Don't be so down."
"You okay boo? Look up." I know You never said 'boo' but You might as well have.
Because, for the life of me, I can't remember how exactly You phrased it. And I think I
"What? I'm- what?" or something looser, definitely a weaker version of that as I looked
up to notice through whom You said it to me. But You had already walked past me
before I realized what happened. As if it was no longer necessary to make Your point.
And it wasn't.
I had looked up.
You place the reward of merit at the end of Life's challenges. I believe that the true
measure of the challenged is in the affirmation; in how one says, 'I'll take this on no
matter what', in how one owns the challenge essentially allowing to occur a
transformation of status from 'The Challenged' to 'Challenger' ergo Warrior. But I have
always been afraid that once I said "Okay, I wanna be a warrior!" You were going to
keep challenging me. So, most of the time, I came up with elaborate excuses to forfeit.
Because deep down growing old terrifies me. And losing my hedonism even more.
But in the very few instances I do "accept" Your challenge and it becomes apparent that
I'm not overcoming it as instantly & flawlessly as I had desired, I would immediately
opt to lose. Hard. So it can punish me. Because, ultimately, my sourness is oft inclined
to judge Your challenges as 'rigged' before it accounts for any of my weaknesses.
Almost as if my participation in Your "game of life" should have automatically awarded
me immunity from any loss. But it doesn't which only exasperates the inevitable fact
that, just as easily as I lost, I am surely going to die. Therefore, as much as I engage
Your challenges, I ill-engage them by discrediting their premise not at the possible cost
of my well-being but precisely at its sought expense.
Why? To get Your bribes. To live off of Your bribes. Somehow I got it in my head that
if I stay frustrated and in perpetual complaint long enough then You might just bribe me
and get it over with once 'n for all. No more challenges. No more required spiritual
growth. Just straight chillin. And that the "key" to never getting tested by You is to be in
self-imposed "test" constantly. Whether in pretense or for real, by continually setting up
unrealistic expectations I can fail spectacularly, I can walk-up to You with my sad
pouty face as "clear" evidence as to why You should balm my wounds with honey.
But let the record show that, no matter how much I fake broke myself, You have never
once bribed me for any of that self-indulgent foolery. If anything, I have always felt I
was letting You down by choosing to be weak, to be emotionally fraudulent and
therefore sought, in the back of my mind, Your well-deserved overdue look of
disappointment, ironically to motivate myself to quit whining. But I never felt it. And I
didn't stop. So I just indulged and indulged. And You remained quiet.
No bribes. No look of disappointment.
In comes my Ego. Something I care - cared (trying really hard not to care) - deeply
about. Sinfully so more than I care about- I'm sorry. So it's no surprise when my Ego
hurts, I let it hurt me as much as possible because I hold myself accountable. And I
don't want any pity from anyone, even You - especially You because failing myself is
my fault and my fault entirely. And it is very important to me that I fix that on my own.
I got me into it and I'll get me out. I'll figure it out, it's fine. Even if my Ego is
bludgeoning my spirit, it'll be fine. I may bring my fake cries to You so I can indulge in
Your benevolence but I don't want to owe You anything. Real tears stay home.
It's during moments like that, time & time again, You bribe me Lord. You make an old
friend text me. You have my family rescue me with a joke or a smile or some needed
caring questions. You send compliments & recognitions my way that smell of lifelong
desires and childhood ambitions. You blow a waft of aromatic hope to pique up my
interests that I just abandoned as trash. You cleanse my palette to refreshing vigor for
Your cooking about my food. You persuade me with the idea of what You could be
cooking for me - just for me. You ring the bell of my church where I go to worship my
(e)goals. You bribe me with my own religion.
You do this without fail and I receive it, abuse it, indulge in it, without surprise or
shame. In fact, almost even indignantly. You pay me priceless attention that I'm
empirically not worthy of receiving just to draw me out of my exclusive seclusion of
You do this, I feign to suspect, because ultimately my life is not my own. My life is not
about me but about everybody else. I do not live in a vacuum. So Your bribes are not
meant to persuade me to keep me on the grind, to keep me trying to succeed or to be
better at caring for myself - although that might be the bi-product - but rather to keep
me from taking everyone else with me. To keep me from hurting. Others.
I have always had issues with the savoring of blessings by comparison. "I'm not rich
but at least I've got my health." "I may not be this but at least I'm not that!" Although I
subscribe to being mindful of one's blessings, I do not however approve of how we are
inclined to do so by default - using the crutch of others to stand tall our own. I do not
have to think of others' misery to appreciate its absence in mine. What I should be
thinking about is how I am not contributing to it.
If Your light is the sun and my shadow is the measure of my darkness - my capacity
for hurting someone (even if accidentally) or hurting their feelings, then I should always
be walking towards Your Noon when I will have most crippled my shadow. And as
long as I have faith, Your sun will never set. But I know, without a doubt, it will always
be moving forward making it harder and harder for the warrior to attain True Noon.