I’m hiding inside the jagged womb of the Hyatt along the Riverwalk in San Antonio and I happen to be in a very bad mood. Not one to leave me alone for long, God casually dropped a Wall Street Journal on the badly-veneered coffee table and took flight. I peruse the unsettling headlines. A choir of angels wait in line for Starbucks, their badges hanging proudly from their elegant necks. The cacophony of praise frightens me. I wish God had stuck around for a few minutes. And the Wall Street Journal? C’mon God. I toss it aside.
People, so thin, so fat, so empty, so full, so pregnant, so barren, so tattered, so fancy. Bearded, buttoned, long and short. A stooped woman in turquoise joins a youngster in yellow slacks; they dance their way to the river and disappear. I search myself, inside and out, for some indication that I care about any of these people. Most likely, I do not. As a whole, they are mildly revolting, strolling by in their vast imperfections and badly-chosen coverings. They are orbs of self-absorption, sipping and snarking, limping and lying. Filling their mouths, licking their fingers, while I sit and watch from this sagging orange couch, isolated from the masses by my computer screen and the glare on my face.
A man named Mo sits himself down across from me. Clean-cut. Gray. Do I love Mo? No. Emmett? The thin Japanese woman named Janice? Stacey with the suitcase? No. No. No. But what if they were hungry? Would I feed them? What if they were bleeding? Would I dress their wounds? What would I risk to ease their pain? Would I die for them? Each of them? All of them?
God has come back without warning and all the people have now become trees. Willows. Cottonwoods. Oak, maple, poplar. Their limbs, filled with birds and grace, roots exposed, beautiful. As they walk slowly around the lobby, a holy breeze rustles their leaves, subduing the harsh light. The gnarly truth is no longer so repulsive. A merciful perfection has settled over us, and I realize all I have to lose are these few coins in my pocket that were never mine to begin with. I borrowed this life, these coins, this rarified air, and I have mostly forgotten why. William Butler Yeats wrote:
Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun,
Now may I wither into the truth.
Yes, there is a chance I would willingly die for them. In fact, I might’ve already done so. I’m unbearably connected. Suspended in the clarity of oblivion, I realize the choices I can still make.
Everything depends on the fleeting moment and the unguarded soul. Everything.