Friday, September 30, 2005

Little Boy Lost

Was he floating? His senses were somehow muted; he saw nothing, heard nothing, and felt nothing. There was only the presence of peace. Any trepidation he might have experienced was quelled by the fading grogginess dripping lazily from his consciousness.

"Alec." He heard a name. Was it his?

There was something solid beneath his feet and he was suddenly aware of standing. The surrounding darkness surrendered nothing to his sight. Confusion mingled with curiosity as he claimed a moment to consider a course of action.

"Alec?"

That name again. This time it was a question, a gentle beckoning drawing him forward.
He wasn't aware of taking a single step. He simply complied, led by both the familiarity of tone and content.
Was he Alec? He had no idea.

He was soon met by the sound of lapping water. This brought him further comfort as a memory teased the back of his mind. Didn't he like the ocean?

He felt a stab of irritation. Why couldn't he remember anything? For that matter, where in the world was he?

"Alec, come on!"

A command, his own irritation mirrored within the voice of the mystery caller. He quickened his pace, pleased to be taking control of his own movements.

A sudden flash of light scattered the surrounding darkness. Before him was a large pool of water, seemingly lit from beneath. The lucid surface rippled gently, surreal waves lapping against a non-existent bank.

He gazed down into the softly glowing waters. He couldn't remember ever witnessing such a vivid shade of blue. Then again, he wasn't remembering much of anything.

"I definitely won't forget this." He was startled by the sound of his own voice. It occurred to him how similar it was to the tone beckoning from the darkness.

The urge to touch those inviting waters was almost too much to resist. He commanded his legs to crouch, eyes never leaving the rippling waves. His impulse was interrupted by a disturbance beneath the surface. A figure began to rise from within the depths, shimmering droplets of water dancing downward along his form.

"Hello Alec." The newcomer smiled, taking a single step toward him. "I'm glad you're here.

His retreat was a crab-walk, a backward shuffle as he gaped at the stranger before him. He tried to wrap his mind around recent events. This person just appeared where his own reflection should have been.

For the first time, Alec realized his reflection had indeed been absent from the water's glimmering surface. Only now did he find that odd.

The newcomer chuckled, "There's nothing to be afraid of, Alec." He gestured for him to stand. "Come on, let's get started."

"With what?" Alec returned to a crouch before slowly standing again. "How do you know my name?" He had an urge to be defensive. "I don't even know my name."

"Probably because we share it." The other man shrugged, a wave of his hand indicating a small cluster of rocks now visible a few feet away. "Let's sit and talk."

Alec felt a strong compulsion to comply and soon found himself sitting upon the smooth surface. His eyes wandered to the shimmering water and was comforted by the wave of contentment washing over him. "Wait," the stranger's words slowly settled into comprehension. "We share the same name?" He glanced at his companion who was now sitting comfortably upon a neighboring rock. "I don't understand."

"You will." The other man smiled, his own gaze flitting to the nearby pool. "Relaxing, isn't it?"

His response was simply a nod, lips pursed as he struggled to reign in his rising confusion.

"I suppose you're wondering why you're here." He seemed to be choosing his words carefully, possibly even stalling.

"What is this place?" Alec's question was blurted, the words slipping forth before he had time to consider them. "And yeah, what am I doing here?"

"You're lost." The response was a softly spoken one, words touched with a hint of sadness." I'm here to help you find your way." There was a slight pause, "Again."

"My way where?" Alec found himself wishing for a pebble to toss into the water. He had a strange urge to disturb the illuminated surface.

"Home." The stranger pointed to the pool's surface which slowly began the churn, an image forming within the azure depths. "Watch."

"Mama, Mama." The excited squeal of a five-year-old preceded the slamming of the front door. Rubber squeaked on linoleum as short legs propelled the youth from the hallway into the kitchen.

"Mama?" The boy's search brought him into a living room, eyes brightening upon the discovery of his mother slumped within the ragged arms of an overstuffed armchair. The woman was well past her prime, or seemed so in appearance. Her only response was the clinking of ice as she sipped upon the amber-colored liquid held lazily within her hand.

"Look what I did." The youngster shoved a handful of papers into the woman's lap, rocking back and forth upon his heels in an effort to contain his excitement. "My Sunday school teacher said-"

"I told you I didn't want you going there anymore." The woman snarled, using the half-empty glass to shove the papers to the ground. "Pick those up." A drunken hand indicated the mess she'd just made. "And leave my sight. I'm busy." She chuckled dryly, eyes hollow as another greedy sip is claimed.

"But grandma said-" The boy had already fallen to his knees, protectively gathering those discarded papers.

"Shut up!" She lunged forward as if to strike him, the glass she'd been holding slipping from her loose grasp. She cursed as the amber liquid formed a sizable puddle in her lap, coloring the dingy fabric of her threadbare robe.

"See what you made me do?" She rose in a drunken fury, a hand upon the arm of the chair to steady her weaving frame.

Having already collected his precious drawings, the youth scurried backward, a quick movement finding himself back on his feet. He ran from the room as quickly as his legs would carry him.

"Poor kid" Alec was surprised by the empathy he was experiencing, a lump forming in the back of his throat. "Why did you show me that?"

The other man's attention was still upon the surface. His expression was also one of sadness. There was something else, something haunted within his eyes. "I wanted to show you," his voice caught, a moment claimed as he seemingly composed himself. "I wanted to show you just how long God has been with you."

"That kid was me?" A finger stabbed at the waters which now only reflected the inner illumination.

A nod.

"All the good it did me," He snorted. "Looks like He only got me in trouble with my mother."

"God helped you through that. You turned to him at a very young age."

"Why in the world would I do that?" Alec was incredulous. He simply couldn't imagine taking part in something that would bring such wrath upon him.

"You have your grandmother to thank for that. You came to Him as a child and were received with open arms. What your mind has forgotten, your heart and spirit has not."

"Huh?"

"God hasn't forgotten you either."

"What are you talking about?"

"Just watch."

A young man fiddled with the dial on his locker. His hand shook nervously causing him to start over several times. A single finger upon his free hand lifted for a poke against his glasses, lips pursed in frustration as he issued a futile tug upon the handle.

“Hey geek.”

The books under his arm suddenly scattered upon the floor, liberated by a strong slap from a well-muscled teen. “Having trouble with your locker?” The other boy flopped against the adjoining locker, his expression one of mock concern. “I could help you with that.”

“I got it.” The lanky boy never looked at the other, eyes fixed upon the dial he was still desperately trying to manipulate.

“I’m serious.” Two other boys now joined the first, all sporting jackets identifying them with whatever sport was fashionable for the season. All three snickered as one of the books was kicked into the base of the locker.

“I’m just trying to be nice.” A swift gesture brought a meaty hand to the smaller boy’s chin, a jerk forcing their gazes to meet.

“Leave him alone.” A diminutive blonde stopped angrily into the fray, a flick of her wrist slapping at the larger boy’s shoulder. “Quit being such a jerk.”

“Hey,” he lifted his hands in a gesture of surrender. “I was just trying to be nice.”

“Right.” The single word was drawled, slender arms folding across the letters in her cheerleading uniform.

“I guess the geek needs a girl to fight his battles for him.” The three aggressors laughed again, although they seemed to be missing some of the confidence that was so abundant only moments ago.

“Bye.” She waggled fingers at the group.

There was a collective grumbling, another book kicked into the wall before the group finally retreated into the streaming crowd of the hall.

“Here, let me help you.” The girl crouched daintily, gathering the scattered materials before rising to offer them to the gangly youth.

“Thank you.” He didn’t look at her, hastily accepting the proffered books.

“I liked your poem in Youth Group.” Her tone was friendly, a graceful side-step as she positioned herself in front of his locker. “Now, what’s your combo?”
* * *
“That was me again, right?” Alec frowned, definitely having mixed feelings at having witnessed that last scene.

Another nod.

“I don’t think this really helps make your point.” He gestured wildly at the water. “Look at me. I was an loser, an outcast. What good did God do for me if that’s how I turned out?”

“You married her. You’re expecting your first child.”

“Her?” Alec blinked rapidly. “Well, so what? God had nothing to do with that.”

“Of course He did. You heard her, didn’t you? She noticed you through Him. She became the one person you could trust and confide in. Not to mention, it was her influence that kept you from being bullied in the future.”

Alec prepared to argue further but found the protests withering before he could begin to speak them. Something warm stirred within him, a glow undefined and yet familiar all at the same time.

“I love her.” Is what he finally whispered.

“Yes, you do.” The other man smiled fully. “A love that’s made stronger through your mutual love of Christ.”

“I want to see more.” Alec felt himself eager, already looking toward those revealing waters. “What else happened?”

“I have one more thing to show you.”

Rain splattered against the windshield. The flip-flop of the wipers creating a rhythmic beat which nearly drowned out the voice coming over the speaker.

“Honey, when are you going to be home?”

“I’m on my way.” The driver smiled, an upward glance toward the speaker as if he could actually see the woman on the other side.

“How long?” That voice was impatient, straining with barely contained excitement.

“Soon. It’s raining pretty bad out here.” A pause as he took extra caution to navigate a pretty tight turn. “Want me to stop and get something for dinner.”

“Nooo.” The protest was almost petulant. “Just get home. I have something I really need to tell you.”

He laughed softly, genuine affection settling upon his features. “Okay, I should be there in about ten. Love you.”

“Love you too. And hurry.” A click followed the hastily spat command.

His smile widened, a forward lean attempting to improve his vision as the rain poured even more steadily upon the windshield. It was then he caught a flash of movement, a black streak only halfway across the road. His foot quickly found the brake, control of his vehicle lost as he slid helplessly forward.

Trembling hands franticly jerked the wheel, right and left to no avail. “Lord, please...“ The request slipped from clenched teeth. “Take care of her.“

His plea was followed by a deafening whir and the sound of crunching gravel as the car propelled headlong into a ditch.

Alec sobbed, head buried within his hands. He remembered everything: His waking up at the hospital, The look of dismay on his wife's face when he didn’t know her, his bitterness and anger when she spoke of God and their common bond. He remembered her pain, the tears in her eyes when she tried to brush the hair from his brow and he met her tenderness with scorn. “Alec.” He looked up into the face he now recognized as his own.

“How could I have forgotten her. How could I have forgotten Him?”

“You didn’t.” His mirror image slipped from the rock, extending a hand toward him. “Your body was damaged but not your spirit. If you’d forgotten Him, I wouldn’t be here.”

Alec drew a ragged breath, sliding from his own perch while accepting the extended hand . “Is it time to go home?”

“Yes, it’s time to wake up. You’ve been sleeping far too long.”

The two moved toward the pool, the mirror image vanishing as soon as their feet touched the edge of water. He paused only a moment before continuing further into the blessed sea of his life.

“Thank you for not forgetting me.” These softly uttered words carried all the gratitude and love which swelled within his heart.

And then there was light.