Florence Nightingale Treating Stockholm Syndrome

My mind reels…I’ve resigned myself to these consequences…this fate…this reason beyond reason that the universe forces me to accept.  Fate is a bitch. She’s an unforgiving temptress poised at the helm of the universe, dictating its ultimate course through the lives of everyone under her control…a control that is as absolute as it is limitless. Unwittingly we become soulless drones and slaves to the paths she has chosen for us.  We cater to unwarranted whims, birthed in secrecy – her motives cloaked in divine mystery.  The meaning remains only what we make of it – the truth is hidden forever…or perhaps it doesn’t even exist.  Perhaps the truth is that there is no reason.  Perhaps the mystery is solved in its conception.  But if this is true, then there is no purpose in life to which we may grasp beyond what truth our minds make of destiny.  Thus purpose, fate, destiny and reason become arbitrary words with only the meanings we give to them.

A man walks down desperate streets when his mind fills with these thoughts.  My street, however desperate I pretend it is, has been emptied.  Whether my solitude this evening is caused by an obstacle of fate or the rain, it has afforded me time to dwell on these things alone…to make sense of life to myself – or to wrestle with the absolute lack of sense in it.

I’ve been walking for hours without much of a recollection of how I got here. Walking and thinking, hoping really, that somehow I can outpace the morning and stop tomorrow from coming.  It feels so much like a dream that it’s hard to convince myself that I‘m still awake.  Exhaustion has set in and makes my walking sluggish. The night is pitch black outside of the dim glow of the few streetlamps that mark my path. Rain is falling in constant, frigid sheets. It’s a distraction – the rain is – keeping me from succumbing to sleep and passing out on the sidewalk.  The buildings and storefronts lining the streets are dark as well. No doubt they’ve been closed for hours; their last patrons and employees hurrying home to beat the storm. And now I’m here, their solitary nocturnal patron, window shopping through darkened sales floors and ‘Sorry, we’re closed’ signs.

I’d like to retell all those stories to myself, turn them over in my mind as I walk, but I can’t remember any of them.  There’s these little blurs; bits of scenes here and there, but nothing solid to cling to. Nothing that would explain any of it away, at least.  Maybe I’ve just shut it all out; maybe it’s the stress, or the exhaustion.  Whatever it is, in a weird way I feel better just pretending that I’m walking away from it.  It’s as if the cold, the darkness, and the constant rain can slow time – suspend sins in raindrops.

The café ahead of me boasts an overhang above its outdoor dining area, so I decide to accept the slight refuge it offers from the rain.  I stop underneath and lean a wet shoulder on the wall.  The tables and chairs have been stacked and chained, rendering them a poor choice for seating, although I don’t know that I would want to sit in my rain-drenched pants anyway.  I sniff in an effort to restrain a slight drizzle from my nose, and look out across the street.  The road opens before me into a large cobblestone square lined on all sides with shops and lampposts similar to the ones I have been passing for hours.  The center of the square is monopolized by a magnificent, foreboding Catholic church; a gray and imposing monolith through a mask of rain and shadow.

I start to recall. Fragments fuse together like sediment in a pond stirred up, now settling back to the bed; clear water flowing again. They all return – the angels and devils do – phantoms of memories set to their extremes. You can’t have any moderates in memories. Only opposites. Good and evil. Black and white. We only pretend we dream in color to make it seem like there’s something in between, but it’s all really just monochrome. Illusions of colors; illusions of choice.

Yelling and crying and curses. You’re there, too, and all the things I’ve done – personified. Actions become characters in macabre vaudeville skits that replay all the terrible things. Hellish caricatures of me stealing time and love and hope and innocence. I become the sea and swallow you; pull you down and drown you – then I rescue you from myself, so I can be a hero. So you’ll need me. You’ll need me to save you from the floods I cause. You’ll need me to give you back the love and hope I took from you. “For God so loved the world that He decided to destroy it and bar mankind from paradise, only to conditionally forgive it back to him.” God and I, we’re not so different in that respect. We’re Florence Nightingale treating Stockholm Syndrome. False prophets and graven images.

I suddenly become very aware of the rain again as it seeps further through my jacket and into my skin.  A gust of wind blows up under the awning as if it, too, is trying to escape the rain. My teeth start chattering.  I sniff again, realizing that it’s probably in my best interest to head back home before I become frozen to the bistro wall; become another cold, stone fixture staring out into the street.  Pulling away,  I wrap my arms around myself, trying to afford some shelter from the cold as I start back. The raindrops are fewer and softer now – fate’s signal that her work is finished for the night. Home is where she wants me. Home is where I go. Another choice that destiny lets me pretend I’ve made.


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