As the evening dust settled and as children reluctantly unglued themselves from the seats of their neighbor’s houses, as the penultimate piece of meat was chased down unaccustomedly over-pampered throats by cheap wine and even cheaper fruit juice, and as the Noel blared relentlessly through badly-tuned speakers (the same speakers that played Obesere’s “Apple Juice” a night before”), Maravilloso coughed harshly, his eyes watering as he emerged from a thick cloud of smoke – the result of a backfiring Pepsi truck.
He squinted through puffy eyes – eyes that were tinged vampire-red by the conjunctivitis that was going around with all the Christmas cheer – and inhaled the toxic air. He rubbed callused fingers together, trying to force heat into his arthritic phalanges. His lips were badly peeled, for divorced of the soothing protection of a lip balm, his lips had presented themselves unwittingly to the rape of the harmattan wind.
Maravilloso began his walk in boots that had soles so thin he probably could have told what part of the city he was in, even if he had been blindfolded. He heard a man call through the fog, and he stopped, cocking his ear to hear better.
“Merry Christmas to you. God bless you.”
Maravilloso stared at the man. He was blind, and there was a plate beside him on the floor. People streamed past him, hurrying home, generally ignoring the blind man (some actively so, for they feared that if they stared at the man, they would be weighed down by crushing guilt), with only a few people stooping momentarily to drop some change in the plate.
Maravilloso approached the man, unobtrusive in the crowd. Even though he stood out from the crowd – wretched he looked – he easily looked like an assistant to the blind man.
He stretched his hand, and his fingers lightly touched the gritty forehead of the blind man. He felt a surge of power, but then he withdrew his hand.
It would not be right, he thought. I have people who should be doing this. This is no longer my job. Sighing, he reached within his multi-robed person and produced money – good money, an observer might add.
Pressing the wad to the blind man’s hands, he whispered, “Merry Christmas to you too. Go home and be with your family.”
There was a fleeting look of confusion in the blind man’s face, but that passed quickly, and it was replaced with an understanding. The blind man smiled, picked up his cane, and began the tap-tap, cane on concrete that heralded his return home.
Maravilloso turned and immediately saw a man stab another man and make away with his wallet. The sky darkened a shade, and there was a humanly imperceptible rumble overhead.
“Forgive him, pa,” Maravilloso mumbled. “Forgive everyone.”
He sat in the shadows, watching the stabbed man, fighting the near-overpowering urge to go touch the bleeding man. He breathed into his stiffened palms, his heart racing.
He knew he could not do anything anymore for the people of the world. He had given the power to his disciples. He had to respect his own principles.
But it was so hard sometimes.
It was hard when his disciples staggered about, with vacant eyes, apparently unaware of the urgent task they were commissioned to do. It was a physical pain building up between Maravilloso’s eyes, and it hurt to watch, to supplicate daily, to grip his pa’s hand as his pa gritted his teeth. His pa’s fury escalated every day, and it was all Maravilloso could do to say “forgive them, pa. I am the one who has a right to condemn them. I bought them…”
Here he was, in an uncomfortable body, sensitive to every stimulus the city brought, staring at a dying man in the shadows…
Someone came along. Maravilloso’s heart skipped a beat. The dying man may yet live, and he thought fondly of a story he once told – that of a Samaritan, and he settled in for an “I told you so” story he could tell his pa. This passer-by will save the dying victim, he thought excitedly, and pa will remember once more the good that resides in the hearts of these children.
The newly-introduced character in this story – the passer-by – noticed the dying man, blinked excitedly, looked about and took – literally – to his heels. Maravilloso saw his heart, and he knew the man was afraid. Afraid that he might be somehow implicated in the attack of the dying man.
Maravilloso came out from his hiding place, and sat beside the dying man. He held the man’s hand and was once again enthralled by the perfection of his own design. The old grief hit him, and he sighed.
“Mary did you know/
that this child you delivered/
would one day deliver you…?”
The carol brought tears to his eyes.
Once again the world was celebrating his “birthday.” Once again, the world had neglected to give the celebrant a birthday gift.