Tales From Abroad: Vignette Carlos Jan27


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Tales From Abroad: Vignette Carlos

Like the perfectly planned spiral grooves on an old vinyl record, the creases on his weathered hands waited to tell their story. It is neither a story for the faint of heart nor one for the judgmental ears of those who think that salvation is met through the process of walking up a single staircase. It is not a story to be pitied. It is not a story IMG_3908to be criticized. It is not a story to be told and retold like some sort of folklore. It is the story of a man whose life is a great war, in constant battle with the world. But the world is not a merciful opponent and is not easily defeated. The world begins its attack at the birth of each child holding a newly sharpened blade to the newborn’s throat, looming over its soft pink flesh, a shadow awaiting its first opportunity to puncture such an innocent being. Many times the world is kept at bay for we, as people, tend to protect our young. We shelter them from the hard things in life and act as blinders for children so that they may not be distracted early on in the race. He was not so lucky; for the world seemed to have a personal vendetta against him and the day he was born the looming shadow snuck a thick leash around his neck and began its twisted game of cat-and-mouse, of loosening the slack on the leash just to rip away any shred of hope with the tense reminder of its grip on the other end and its ability to carve the grooves that tell the story of his life.

I looked across the isle of the small over-crowded bus and saw a man who seemed to be anxious about something. He was perched on the edge of his seat and though his arms fluttered with each bump conquered on the road he kept his legs stiffly pressed together. He looked out the window. Then to the front of the bus. Then to his feet. Then to the front of the bus. He opened his mouth as if to say something then furrowed his brow and rejoined his lips. The wrinkles on his tensed forehead seemed to cry out from overuse as his fingers danced against the seat in front of him. Out of fear that his aging body would implode if his mind was not distracted I came up with aIMG_3141 diversion. “Hola, señor ¿Como se llama?”. His shifty eyes darted to me as if I had suddenly made a loud ruckus. For a second he just stared, his gaze seeming to look
right through me to the passing scenery of the window behind my head. Then everything changed. His brow dropped, his wrinkles unraveled, his eyes softened. His jittering fingers found rest and his legs became two again. The corners of his mouth began their walk towards his cheeks and it was clear it was a path well traveled. He looked directly in my eyes and a feeling of warmth overcame me. This was the beginning of his grove on my life’s personal record.
IMG_2960For the duration of the rocky trip he and I talked. I asked about his life, his faith, and his country, and in return he gave me a piece of his soul. For he was a poet and with him he carried his most prized possessions- his works. He handed me the first edition and asked if I would do him the honor of reading the written version of his heart. As I opened the crème colored cover, the needle fell on the outer edge of his life’s black vinyl and the music began. The song was scratchy and unpleasant at times. It sang of addiction and abuse, hardship and war. It wailed, it moaned, it mourned- each tune muffled from the noose choking its musician’s neck. For on each page and in each word the world’s shadow relentlessly cast its darkness over the lettering. Then the needle skipped and the song was momentarily interrupted. But the silence was not unwelcomed. It was not the type to pound each heartbeat in the eardrum nor the type that is more frightening than sound. It was like the silence after a freshly fallen snow- peaceful, tranquil, soft. What followed next was unlike that which had been playing before- as if a new conductor had picked up the baton. It was clear, without the coarse byproduct of the noose, and it chimed rather than scratched. The crescendos and decrescendos were smooth and manageable and the needle approached each bump and crease with ease. It was the same record but it had found a new tune.IMG_3737

He looked at me expectantly, awaiting my critique; but I had nothing to say. I was speechless in front of such a warrior. He was still fighting the war he had lost at birth, for the leash was still snuggly wrapped around his neck. However, he was no longer alone in his fight. Firmly grasping his hands and leading him forward was his God. A God mightier than the world and brighter than the shadow it cast on his life. A God who was working tirelessly to take the burden of the world’s noose and place it around his own neck. A God who would sacrifice himself for the broken remains of the man sitting before me. A God
who had softened his grip on the ways of the world from his cracked, beaten, and weathered hands and put in its place a pencil. A God who took a sinner and turned him into a poet. For this is the music of his story- no longer defined by the jagged and rough creases found on the outer surface of the vinyl, but rather by the smooth inner surface.

The needle continues along its path, no set groove before it. But he does not worry for his composer is greater than the shadows of his past.