“Maria! Did you see what happened? You shouldn’t be playing match-maker! Our strange neighbor isn’t even a believer and Oscar, our brother, is vulnerable!” Tony can’t wait to begin correcting his wife after the last guest leaves. Oscar’s interest in Estelle is the perfect excuse for him to vindicate his extreme separatist views. His perspective comes from his damaged psychology and an unmet need for protection as a child but being in deep denial of his broken state, he is able to twist many scriptures to suit his need for safety from the dangerous other. Maria knows this about her husband but for years, her efforts to help him look within and face his problems rather than project them onto others have been unsuccessful. Maria’s answer is soft, “Tony. All I did was invite two lonely people to a dinner party. It’s up to God, Estelle, and Oscar after that. They are mature adults, Tony.” “Estelle isn’t a Christian, Maria! It’s wrong for Oscar to become involved with her and you…you set him up to sin!” Maria squelches the urge to criticize in retaliation, “Tony, I can’t control everything and neither can you. Maybe Estelle will find faith in Jesus and maybe God will use Oscar to lead her to Him. It’s up to the Holy Spirit, not you or me.” Tony is exasperated as he always is when he can’t force his control in a situation that causes him to feel threatened, “Maria, I love you but you are so naive when it comes to people and what they are capable of! I know first-hand what kind of evil lurks in the heart of a woman like… like that Estelle! I don’t want that… that poison infecting my daughter or my friend! How can you trust like that!” Maria pauses from clearing dishes and sternly gazes into her husband’s red, flustered face, “I trust God, Tony. Do you?” Tony answers by turning on his heel and fleeing from the room.
Propelled by a force he doesn’t understand Tony dashes out the front door and slams it behind him. The night is muggy and heavy like his mood. Storm clouds rolling in reflect the street lights eerily as if validating his suspicious mindset. Tony walks fast to keep up with his racing thoughts as he clenches and unclenches his fists. He knows he has to keep moving or he will start breaking things. Old memories flood his brain and remind him that he might even hurt someone in the way he had hurt people in the past. Walking it off is the only way Tony knows to ‘be angry and sin not’ when he can’t get control of a situation and feels compromised. As a young man, he’d learned to gain control by going out of control and ruling people through fear. He knew now how wrong his actions were but he can’t get a grip on his own fear and it reigns over him. “Trust? If she really knew what I went through…God, I trust You…or I try my best… but I don’t trust people…I mean, You know what people are like! There is no evil they aren’t capable of! I don’t know how to get around that reality…”
Thunder rumbles over-head and big, cold drops begin to pelt Tony but they can’t cool his rage. Driven by memories of his mother and junky girlfriends, he begins to run as if he believes he can outdistance the storm with his past. Flashes of an old world he’s locked away inside and is vigilant in hiding break into his conscious thought. Those memories and the emotions that accompany them are overwhelming. “Maria, you are a good woman, innocent and you have no idea what some women are capable of…things even the world won’t speak of because no one wants to think of mothers doing those things…” Tony feels a sob come up into his throat. It breaks through his effort to keep himself from crying and exits his body in an agonizing scream. “GAWWWWD! Why did they do those things to me? Why did my mother…why did You let that happen!” Tony upon saying these things immediately feels guilty for his anger. “How do I get rid of this anger? How can I trust You, Father and still keep my family safe? Father, help me…”
As the rain begins to pour, Tony’s rage gives way to feelings of utter helplessness, not unlike the pain he knew as a small boy who had no father. A boy who had no one to protect him from the mother who should have kept him safe but instead abused him and shared him with women more demented than herself. Heroin is a cruel god that demands even the sacrifice of the faithful’s children. “Oh Jesus! Please, help me learn how to be a real man…help me figure out what that means. I’m failing everyone who depends on me…and I’m failing You…” Tony being fully submerged in his secret inner world, forgets how far he’s come since Jesus came into his life and is overwhelmed by his stock-piled, emotional pain. As if crying with him or for him the rain intensifies, soaking him to the bone and threatening to drown him.
Tony can’t ignore the weather any longer and begins running back home. As he approaches, he sees the lights still on, guiding and welcoming him. Maria meets him at the door with a towel, helps him get out of his wet clothes, and taking his hand, leads him into the kitchen where a cup of Chamomile tea waits for him. Neither of them speaks but each is pre-occupied with the same problematic thoughts. Maria caresses Tony’s hand in an attempt to show understanding but the truth is she can’t fully understand and it is beyond her ability to heal his heart and mind. Tony struggles to regain composure by stuffing his past back down deep where he hopes no one can see and for emotional relief, practices that by which he has so aptly learned to cope, begins re-projecting those horrifying images onto others. He takes a sip of tea and thinks to himself, “This wouldn’t be happening if that strange woman hadn’t entered our lives. I’m going to have to do something about her so our lives can return to normal. It’s up to me to keep us safe.”
To be continued.
For previous posts in this series go to https://joyindestructible.com/the-recluse-series/