© April 29, 2014
“It is this man!” Magistrate of the law, Mortimer, yelled as he stared at the downcast man sitting in the small wooden chair in the middle of the room. The piercing rays of hot sun shone through the open windows spotlighting the young man sitting there amidst several well-dressed men standing in a semi-circle around him.
“We cannot yet be sure.” The reply to the accusation came from a smaller man than the accuser. This smaller man, whose name, Arndell, was the only attorney in town willing to give Rafael Oblivio a defense. Not because he believed the man was innocent but because he believed in a system of justice where even the guilty are given a defense if for no other reason that good men could sleep at night. His size had always belied his integrity, strength of will, and huge character. He was a sweaty little man but a contender in many ways. His grey pin stripe suite hung loosely on his small frame. A black handkerchief adorning his jacket pocket. The grey stripes much wider than the black it almost appeared to be a homemade suit.
“Arndell, need I remind you he was caught with the weapon in his hands. Sitting over the dead woman’s body with her blood on his shirt and pants. What more do you want?” Blasengame Mortimer said. His nearly shouting the question in frustration caused beads of sweat to form on his brow.
“Indeed that is how he was found.” The Sheriff of the town and county of Hardbridge announced with an air of authority designed to remind people who cared nothing about him that he was still in the room. One of the smallest counties in all of the state, he was a self-important man in law enforcement. No one else cared for him so they were able to risk his death doing something no one else wanted to do themselves.
There was Rafael sitting on a chair surrounded by men he did not know nor cared for. They were certainly men for whom he was just a game- live or die, as he was nothing to them and had nothing about him to change their mind. He had heard a woman screaming and had done what he felt any person should do, he ran toward the screaming and found the last breath yet gone from her lips lifted the rock from her head where it lay. The blood dripping onto him, he did not notice, as she was dying in front of his eyes. A life extinguished so near to him and yet so far away as to nullify his help. He saw the light in her eyes fade and was unable to grasp her last words or wishes. The soul of the departed looking down would have been horrified so he knelt there looking down upon her ivory skin and deep into her lightless blue eyes. He felt his very soul straining at the bonds of life within him to leave, as well the sadness of the loss before him taking him from conscious thought to a dreamlike state of his own making.
He heard the men talking perhaps even asking him questions but he paid them no mind. He was lost in his thoughts as much as he was lost in life. He was at the hands of others that did not understand nor were, he feared, able to.
An hour or so later he found himself in a jail cell alone. Even the neighboring jail cells were empty. From what Rafael could tell he was the only inmate in the entire jail that night. He sat there burning in his own thoughts of self-destruction.
“Oh what is this that life has thrown to me?” He pondered in the darkness, for they had turned out all but the dimmest light in the far corner of the jail by the door. His cell was far away down the aisle. There was a barred window but it only shone the light of distant stars in the moonless night.
There was no one for him in the town nor in his life for that matter. He had a few acquaintances. One old boy he worked with on a sailing vessel he liked until the journey ended and they parted ways. One trail rider, on a cattle drive, that again had parted at journey’s end.
He sat there that night and in the distance far away the scratching sound of a violin’s song drifted into his cell and it soon was joined by another’s chorus. He thought of the tapestry of his life and of the thread that ran alone along the sides of others but never intertwined. Rafael Oblivio, from far north in New England, was alone with only his misery in company. Its song was a dreary one without harmony. “He will die soon enough for Maggie’s death,” a stranger’s prediction drifted through the bars with laughter for an answer.
“Why not pay a price for life with my own,” he said in solitude. “Why not find a peace in that for which I can let go?”
Then a voice responded.
“Why should you go and do that for me? A gal you never knew? I saw you come and kneel by me and all the sadness there.” Rafael strained to see who had come in the dark but his eyes betrayed no one there.
“Who has come to watch me die? Who would care what befalls a stranger to this town?” He called out.
“I care stranger. That is who. The one you came to when I needed someone most. Why do you take this burden upon yourself? Do you just want to hear, Rafael Oblivio, you have been found guilty of the crime of caring for someone you have never met? Of kneeling by her side in the last breathe of her strife? For those crimes you lose your life?”
“How dare you intrude on my dreams? Are you Satan come to stare and make fun of me?” He challenged.
“You dream awake and your thoughts are bare. What guilt have you unpaid that you would sit in silence there? Is your body not enough for your mind and voice to protect? Scream at this indignity upon your spirit if not your soul. You are innocent! Guilty of nothing but caring for someone. Why do you sit there? Why did you sit there when you had that moment we all should have to proclaim our life’s value?” Maggie demanded.
“The petals fall where they may when the spring turns to fall. I have no more life to live. What price to pay for a clear conscience? I have sailed the seas and drove the land. I have seen what life can give and take: porpoise jumping in the waves and antelope gliding on air in the prairie. I was born and from that moment came a journey through a life of pain,” he responded.
“Have you not a sunset seen and then to glory a sun yet rise or daffodils unfold in bloom and young birds sing a wondrous tune? Lived a warm quiet day in June or a blizzard’s fray in mottled deepest snow cast dunes? What purpose has to life but told that we a few might be so bold? Take a life, fulfill, but give it no. I have lost my spark but yours still glows. Blow upon it and watch it grow. Do not waste it here in darkness.” She commanded.
“I have watched your spark go dim. In violent, purulent, evil a life too grim. What meaning was this to see, if not to know that life itself is dark and a perilous journey? I sit in darkness now because of the simple evil of expedience and ignorance only. Not one question of why has brought me here. I feel a coldness creeping upon my heart and yet shed not a tear.”
“Do you know no fear? I know not why I linger here but to help you conquer your deep despair. I have lived a sorted life. I complain not now nor then. I lived a lie and deep in sin and even tried my draft of gin. Where I go now I know not nor when, but this I know you cannot live it once again. Take this time it’s yours to gain but know this my momentary friend: Life is but an empty shell it is your heart and soul that fills it then. So now you must decide that true intend.”
“Will the sun warm my soul again? Will my lungs fill with a calming wind? Will light empower my eyes to light my mind? I sit inside a prison of flesh drained of all resolve. In the barest of moments I loved when I saw you there in a blink of your last absolve and could not in that moment claim a thing.”
“Why do you not understand now why I am? In that moment you did claim of that I am this once unashamed. My life was worth that moment saved.”