This story is excerpted from a forthcoming book on my monastic journey. As it is long, I’ve broken it into serial posts.
The girl was just ten, sitting on an overturned boat half buried in sand, kicking bare heels and sucking a stick of barley sugar. It was a worn, old boat with great gaps in its timbers. The girl called it her playhouse. It made a good perch to watch the men mend nets on the beach.
At ten the girl was old enough to help at home. And she did help, but then the salt sea wind would call and she couldn’t resist, slipping away between one task and the next. Part of a large family, she was easily overlooked as long as she stayed out from underfoot. So the wild girl and the tired, old boat were left to each other, forgotten by the women, invisible to the men.
The girl smiled at the sun and waves. Her toffee-brown legs swung free under a too-short dress that had once had bright stripes of red, blue and green, many wearers ago along the stair steps of older sisters. A breeze stirred the sea-thick air and tossed her dark, unkempt curls.
Something was happening. She squinted to watch a strange man talk to her brothers and cousins mending the nets. He left them and stood on the wet strand gazing out to sea. Little waves lapped his feet. Before she thought much about it, the girl hopped down and ran to him.
“What are you doing?” she asked, not considering the impertinence of a young girl speaking to a grown man.
The man didn’t consider it either. He turned, looked deep into her eyes, took her hand and smiled.
“Do you want to see my playhouse?” she asked, smiling back and swinging her new friend’s hand.
“No,” he said, “I want you to leave all that and be mine.”
Stopped still, her eyes grew big and round. She felt like she’d been poured full of something as thick and sweet as honey, yet as fiery as the mid-day sun. Then she frowned, looking back over her shoulder.
“What about my playhouse?” she asked.
Very simply and quietly he repeated, “Leave that and be mine.”
“Okay,” she replied.
They turned and walked hand in hand away from the water, blazing, honey-joy flowing between and all around them. The girl held her stick of candy out to him. Its pale, red-gold color glinted in the sun. He reached down and took it. Their eyes met and flashed with private laughter. She leaned against him and he put his arm around her. The fire-honey feeling flowed through her whole body: mouth, throat, fingers, stomach and between her legs.
* * * * *
I jerked back into myself. A man in a sexual exchange with a child? Whoa! That was no good. I peeked around the monastery room. Three of the sisters sat there. Eyes closed and breathing deeply, they were icons of serene meditation.
Bright, April sun slanted in through large, west-facing windows. The monastery's pond was just visible out the windows, beyond a field of native prairie. A delicious wind ruffled its surface into sparkling wavelets.
I shifted in the uncomfortable, monastery chair and shut my eyes again - with an admonishment to fix the sexual problem. To whom I spoke was not clear. It could have been my psyche, my soul or God.
Immediately, I was back on the beach, embraced by the man, Jesus. As radiant, sexual honey flowed between us, my little girl’s body flickered, shifted, then steadied into that of a young woman, age-mate to Jesus. We both had strong, young arms and legs, tight bellies, and clear, brown skin. We left the beach, walking with our arms about each other’s waists. I rested my head on his shoulder. We crossed a road drifted with sand and walked toward a crowd of people. He pulled away from me to call them. I felt peaceful but thought, “Oh. My time being his only is over. Now it’s their turn.”
At that Jesus’ head and shoulders filled my vision. Brilliant, laughing eyes gazed deep into mine as exclusive, intimate love flooded me. Yet all the time he loved each of the other people in the same intimate way. It was odd, like seeing double: two images filling one screen. He was in a monogamous relationship with me, yet also with a multitude of others. Visualizing it was like trying to see in more than three dimensions, many more than three dimensions. For a split second I could hold them all, but then they’d slip away.
Finally Jesus said, “Don’t you see? Through me, you are bonded to everyone else.” My struggle dissolved into expansive, encompassing joy.
* * * * *
The sister in charge of the meditation drew it to a close, recalling us back to our bodies and the room. Everyone looked centered and happy. I beamed at them, but at the back of my brain a small voice whispered, “Jesus. You just met Jesus. And. You. Were. Lovers.”
© 2007 R. Elena Tabachnick