A Stand for Convalescence
I am not a man of faith. But what exactly makes such a man and how do we measure that faith? Is it the number of times he prays in the day? The number of times he recites the verses of the Bible? The way he knew that same book cover-to-cover? The number of times he goes to church? The number of the times he says he is a man of faith?
Then, in that case, I am not a man of faith.
Before you judge me (like you always do), hear my story first. My name is Lazaro. I was born during the marriage of the sun and the moon — when the sun was blinking and the moon peeking. That was what my mother told me anyway. I didn’t doubt her despite the fact that she probably had mistaken me for another child of hers because she had fourteen. But then again, she gave birth to me on the streets so I believed that she was gazing at the sky when she had me.
I grew up in a make-shift house of cardboards beside a stagnant canal; just right below the bridge. My first few years of childhood were spent witnessing my older siblings die. And then spent the latter years wanting to follow them. We seldom eat—sometimes we don’t eat for a day, for a week, for a month. We have nothing to pay for food. From fourteen, we became four. We have nothing to eat but the sweet misery of starvation.
A part of us wants to be fed so we fed it with our dreams, our hope, our identity. With our soul. They slowly digested in our system and they came out as shit.
We became like shit.
My mother didn’t have credentials but her body so she worked as a prostitute, knocking on the windows of strangers’ cars at night. She died one night after a car hit her, it was so bad we barely recognized her anymore. And my father—if he really was my father—stayed at home and then submerged himself to something I cannot pronounce (methamphetamine) and died of something I also cannot pronounce (rhabdomyolysis). Seeing this, my brothers slowly succumbed to despair and then death.
Then at the speed of your blink, I was alone.
I was alone with not even my shadow to accompany me because I walk in the darkness.
I was left with nothing but this flesh. This flesh that is turning pale.
I wander through the streets, night and day. I left my shabby “house” because their ghosts still roams there. Haunting me. I cannot stand it.
So, now. I am taking a stroll, the orange sky above my head. There was a silence inside of me and the sad thing about that silence is that you can hear nothing and everything. I can hear the honks of cars; the screeching of tires; the shouts of people—their laughter and their smiles and their whispers; the cry of a baby; the shattering of glass; the footsteps; my own footsteps; and the way I breathe. I can hear my own thoughts go wild.
All the things I hear sound so meaningless because I wasn’t a part of that—not even of my own. They were all monotonous, drowning me in this black sea called life.
As I am walking, I reached the town’s square where the church is located. A big crowd of people are cheering in front of it, their fists raised high in the air, the sound of clapping thundering around the place. I stared at the magnificent form of architecture in front of me. A man was on the balcony, his arms spread wide.
Wait. I know that man.
He was the one who gave me food when I was digging through the trash to get some. He was the one who patted my head when I was crying on a cardboard on the street. He was the only one who smiled at me when I was watching people get on with their static lives.
Now, he was wearing a robe of white. A big cross on his chest.
And I know him. Practically the only one I know in this world.
I rushed to the crowd, slamming against people as I pushed my way forward. People were throwing me peculiar glances, wrinkling their nose in disgust when my arms brushed theirs. Backing away when they caught sight of my ragged clothes and unruly black hair. My skin blackened by the dirt of the streets.
I didn’t care.
I am not here for them; I am here for that man.
I finally reached the front line after a desperate struggle of dignity and control. The man was still looking around the crowd, his voice making their way to my ears. The only sound worth listening to.
He was looking everywhere but me, his voice pleading with the people. His voice radiating something I haven’t known in a while.
It speaks of life.
And his eyes landed on mine. Black orbs staring into my gray ones. His mouth slowly lifted into a smile, it reached his eyes. He gestured his hand for me to come forward.
Then the square became an irregular shape as the people turned to look at me. Their faces painted with disbelief.
I came forward. I stood beside the man.
He clapped my shoulder then whispered in my ear, “You’re standing on your feet now.”
I looked at him.
He waved at the people. I took it as a signal for me to wave as well.
My ears were clogged with their loud cheering. Cheering for me. Cheering for the man in front of me. Their eyes were kaleidoscopic as they stare at me; no hint of revolt, no hint of fear and suspicion. They were cheering.
Cheering for something I hadn’t known in a while.
Cheering for faith.
Then I did something for the first time: I smiled.
I became a man of faith.