Friday, July 13, 2018

The blaze of the fire would be mirrored in my father’s eyes

The sun scorched overhead, beating upon the steep, rocky slopes. I hesitated. I looked back. The peaks of the tents had shrunk away. A short time later, they disappeared completely from view. 
The notion of asking my brother—no, begging him—to forgive me, crossed my mind. I thought of retracing my footprints and perhaps, finding my way back home, only to realize, by nightfall, that those footprints had led me astray. 
I must have been walking around in circles that entire day, which made me feel helpless. I thought that in the future, if I was lucky enough to have one, I could never become more helpless than this. How wrong was I then! 
Now I laid down under some wilted bushes, using a rock for a pillow. So miserably disgraced, so alone was I, that I wished to bury myself right there in the sand. A great blackness yawned upon me. It was like no other night sky I had ever seen before. 
Back home, I remembered, it would be lit up by the campfire, around which the family would gather for the evening meal. The faces of the young girls, sitting with their skirts spread on the woven mat, would blush. You could see their cheeks flaming as they giggled, hinting at the shepherds, who would rise up then, stand in a loop and play their flutes, made out of reeds, or strum their stringed instruments, made out of sheep sinews. 
The blaze of the fire would be mirrored in my father’s eyes, and looking at him, you could barely believe he was going blind. His rich voice would lead us in songs, which turned, gradually, into wordless melodies, as the wine cask was passed from one hand to another, making its way several times around the fire.
At bedtime you could spot, through the canvas of your tent, the glitter of my mother’s candlelight. Her soft, charming voice would bid goodnight to you, goodnight to all. 
Then, from the maidservant’s quarters, you could hear the gurgle of a baby, falling asleep on his mother’s breast. And later, the whispers of love making from one tent, then another, followed by peaceful rhythms of breathing. All around you, men and women stirring, from time to time, in their sleep. 
The glow of this memory was as tempting and as fanciful as delusion. I ached for warmth, and wished I could leap, somehow, over time and distance, and find my way back into that circle. I wished I could sit there by the fire pit, and stretch out my hands, even blacken them by touching the dying embers. 
Now in this place, the moonless sky was completely devoid of light, and for the first time in my life I was forced to listen, really listen, to the desert. 
Here was the void. The silence of God.

Jacob in A Favorite Son

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