It was his third visit in as many days. That alone made him my sole regular visitor. Although his ever-present grin unsettled me during every visit, we knew each other from long ago. Was he at that traffic light in my childhood too? I am not sure. But I remember him well from that day at the beach, some forty years ago.
I guess it makes him a long-time friend? Somewhat unwanted, comfortable but unwanted, yet still a friend… or dare I call him just an acquaintance? He’s a nice enough bloke; albeit unsettling on those occasions he drops by.
His challenge has been always the same, voiced soft and with a somewhat sobering silkiness. “Will you choose?”, he lisped yet again. My answer was always been the same too: “Choose what?” It was not intended to be argumentative. One does not argue with him about anything. No, I merely never had a clue what I should choose.
But where my response during earlier visits had always been a cue for him to sigh and leave, this time the lights in his eyes shone brighter. Or was that just the fever playing tricks with me? He leaned closer and pointed at them, pointed at the lights in his eyes. “It really is time you choose,” he sighed, “choose left or right.” Still I did not know what he meant, and he seemed amused by my confusion. “Really,” he searched, “is it so hard to understand that you are not judged?”
“You judge yourself,” he persisted, “look back and weigh your decisions. Weigh the choices you made. Then choose your right of passage.” He pointed yet again at the lights in his eyes. Did they shine even brighter this time? He was more adamant now: “Choose, left or right.” Still it did not dawn on me what I was supposed to choose.
“Dear God,” he got restless now, “how obvious should it be? Choose left or right, darkness or light, heaven or hell. Whatever you want to call it, your instincts know which is which!”
It took quite some time for that proclamation to sink in. The Pentecost fanatics we used to frequent had been adamant that sickness and setbacks were punishments by God; anything bad in life was a direct consequence of recent sins. Sins of the father; born in sin, come on in. Was all that a cheap pacifier for the soul? My mind reeled from the mental shifts going on.
My resentment of their faith was – and still is – the paradox of the petty, vengeful and cruel acts by an omnipotent, caring father figure. What pervert punishes a child with radiation sickness for having a child out of wedlock? I want nothing to do with such a “God”! I want nothing to do with such a “heaven”, nothing to do with …
My friend interjected the maelstrom of moods. “Choose now!” he challenged me, once again.
I looked at him as he grinned with anticipation. How could his grin actually show anticipation? Then, the answer hit me like a brick: “I choose neither, a little boy at home needs me and I will not let him be!” I laughed nervously, expecting a squabble or squelch.
But, once again, my friend merely sighed, turned around and left. That was the last time I’ve seen him in nearly decade. Yet, I dread his next visit. One does not laugh Death in the face and walk away for long.