A story about light in the dark.
A man comes down with the flu. He’s the sort of man who swims laps at the gym before work, who remembers to back up his computer on a weekly basis, who displays his kids’ crayon masterpieces in frames on his desk. He is used to being in control. But thanks to the flu, he is forced to surrender the second half of a day when he had intended to Get Important Stuff Done. At lunchtime, he crawls home in his car and retreats to his bedroom, demanding to be left alone. I imagine him contorted under the covers with the curtains drawn, sniffling and writhing in the dark, and sputtering through the garbles of congestion, Everything is shit. (Pan to millions of fellow Americans entertaining the same sullen notions, each sickened by 2016 in their own ways.) There’s a tiny, timid knock on the door that evening. It creaks open — his small son stands in the sliver of light that leaks in from the hallway. Daddy? From the bed, a groan. I just came to hurt with you. The boy climbs up onto the mattress and curls into the mess: father and son, recumbent and quiet, small tangles of warmth within the awful. A slit of a sunbeam slips between the drapes, just enough to illuminate a wrist bone, a pink fingernail, a slow rising and falling of both chests. … This is not my story. It’s an embellished version of one I heard in a sermon at Washington National Cathedral on December 23rd. The ailing man (now recovered) is the reverend’s friend who had recently recounted his son’s comforting offering, marveling at how the moment had provided such simple but transcendental solace. I invented the details, but not the fact of the disease (and the dis-ease), the bedroom withdrawal, or the boy’s words. I just came to hurt with you. We are not a church-going family. We attended the Cathedral’s Christmas-themed service for the carols — for the warmth, for the nostalgic ritual, and for the enchantment. However subliminally, we went to be told, I am here to hurt with you, or just to soothe the year’s hurt in a space built on faith that everything is not shit. … During an average holiday season, it doesn’t feel so necessary to collect proof that everything is not shit. Most years, it’s probably not normal for a Christmas…
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