31 December 2007, 4:40 pm New Year’s Eve. The day of parties. The day of people having *fun.* As I was driving here, it seemed like just another day. Too many cars on the road. People filling their gas tanks, people going into stores, banks, fast-food drive-thrus. People *living.* The routine of life. Let’s be honest: the routine of wasted life. No feeling of *holiday* at all. Of course, it’s early for the parties to begin. The celebration is yet to start. The orgies of liquor and (hoped for) sex. But how many people will even bother with that, anyway? The days of the mass feasts, festivals, rituals, bacchanals are over. The calendar is irrelevant. All days, weeks, months, years are now the same. In one sense, at least in our Western world, everyday is a feast whereupon one can stuff themselves with food and intoxicants and pornography. In the electronic consumer society, everything is ordinary. Even a street bum can panhandle liquor money, dumpster dive a fine meal and then walk into a public library and log onto the internet and view whatever sex ritual he desires. So what is New Year’s Eve? Just another day. At least, that’s what I think as I sit here in my Honda Civic in this little park not far from where I live. I have about a half-hour or so before I am supposed to be home. I worked on New Year’s Eve in a nearly-deserted office building, pondering my easy-but-deadening life. I left work early and drove here to this feeble piece of nature cut from the surrounding urban blight. I sit in my car in the parking lot, heater running, classical music on the radio, and watch the snow fall on the pond. Wet, heavy flakes of snow disappearing into the pond. A Schubert piano sonata from the radio. The heater quietly blowing warm air. It’s a soothing environment. Peaceful. Why, I haven’t been this close to the womb in 44 years. 44 years? Gee, that went by fast. Think about that: 44 years gone. A life wasted, just like all those people I scorned on the drive here. I came to this spot to have a quiet place to think about Danni. I was going to say I miss her, but that is just something people always say. I don’t really miss her, I miss a moment in time. . . I miss a possibility. . . I have a copy of a letter I sent her. I kept a copy in a drawer in my desk at work. I will have to remember not to be careless with it when I’m at home. Dear Danni,
Over the years, I have often thought about you. . .at the time I knew you, you seemed such a sweet, sad, delicate little thing. . .you were nineteen years old. . .I wondered if you made it safely through this hard world.
There were was one particular afternoon—perhaps you remember? We were caught in a thunderstorm. . .we stood under a storefront as the rain poured down. . .I can still picture your face as it was that day. The impression remains: yours was the face of innocence and purity. . .a blue-eyed, golden-haired angel.
I remember touching your hair as I stared into your blue eyes. Maybe it was the lightning that had charged the atmosphere, but the intensity of feeling has never been matched. We barely spoke any words—that always helped, no?
The storm lasted ten minutes, maybe, and then the counterfeiting of life resumed. . .
But whenever the lightning strikes out of the east and shines toward the west, I remember those brief moments with you. . .
Six hundred seconds of real feeling. . .
A couple weeks later, maybe a month, I can’t remember exactly, and you wouldn’t see me anymore. I never knew your reason, though I always suspected it was because you knew I was not an honest person. At heart, I was relieved, really. To truly be one flesh with you, I would have had to give up a certain way of thinking. . .which has always been just a little bit beyond me.
But I have missed you over the years. . .or, more precisely, I have missed those ten minutes in the rain.
But God would not let me hold you in the past. . .and a past way of thinking.
A couple of days ago I ran into an old friend. . .I hadn’t seen him in many years. . .this fellow told me he was living in . That was the little town where you lived those many years ago. Were you still there? I told him your name and asked him if, by chance, he knew you or knew of you.
A kind of embarrassed and slightly tense look crossed his face. This old friend, the father of two children of certain somewhat innocent ages, knew your name. . .and this old friend told me the circumstances of how he came to know it.
Well, I had to see for myself, and there it was:
Your name, address, picture, etc. on the internet. . .you surely know where.
If I go back to that rainy afternoon, I could not have imagined that future for you—I wonder if you could have?
There was always a sadness hanging over you. I don’t think you ever expected much out of this world. But to be made the victimizer? I don’t believe you could have foreseen that, either.
I looked at great length at your photograph on the internet. . .time and experience had eroded the appearance of innocence and frailty. Of course, that picture had to have been taken under difficult conditions. . .
So what is the point of writing all this, anyway? I don’t know, really. As I said, I have thought about you many many times over the years. . .always with regret.
I must have been a disappointment to you.
No tragedy, of course. We get over these things quickly. We move on. . .
But each disappointment pushes us further and further away from the person we intended to be. So I can say, completely without vanity, I had a small part in your downfall. Just as you have had a small part in what I have become. . .
So you did something that caused the government to drag you from obscurity, where most of us live our failed lives, and place you on their *world wide web,* for all to shake their fingers at. . .
They can put you there, in their electronic chains, with their brand on you, as if you were somehow less than other people. . .I see past all that. I see all the way back to that rainy afternoon. . .that is who you are, to me. Maybe that helps? To know, at the very least, I still see you as innocent and pure, a blue-eyed, golden-haired angel.
At the time, that juvenile way of thinking wasn’t helpful. . .but maybe today it is of some small comfort?
As for the burden you must now carry, I tell you to run to Christ. He is the One who truly understands you. . .I offer you a shopworn compliment from the past, but Christ will open the door to Eternity:
Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Peace and grace to you, Danni. . . I wrote that letter not quite two years ago. . .I included no return address, no email, no phone number, no way for *Dear Danni* to contact me—if she were so inclined. Considering my circumstances, I thought no good would have come of it. . .I would periodically check that internet site. . .that internet site where people were shamed forever after getting caught doing the things Danni apparently did. I would visit and look at her picture, that unflattering picture, out of a morbid nostalgia, I suppose. And I would wonder: What did Danni think when she read my letter? I would go to that pitiless page and see her at her worst. . . I would imagine her moved to tears by my stupid letter. . . Now that I think of it, though, there may have been a touch of cruelty in sending that letter to Dear Danni. . .as she read it, she would have had to turn back the clock, back to a time before she had become a public spectacle. . .she would read of herself as some long-forgotten old boyfriend’s fairy tale angel, which her Department of Corrections status mocks. . . Worse yet, in revisiting those past days, she would encounter herself as the person she has always believed herself to be. . .even after the state had baptized her in shame, she would have continued to believe in herself. . .but she would have been all alone in that belief. Reading my letter, discarding my nonsense, alone with her memories of her youth, she would have been born again. . .resurrected to a past time and place free of the current condemnation. But she would die again, as soon as she put the letter down. . .returning again to the open shame of her present judgment. Or, she may have read my letter, and yawned. . . But I would visit that internet site and look at her picture, out of that morbid nostalgia. . . Today, bored at work, mind wandering, I thought of Dear Danni. I went to visit her in her cyber cell. . .but she was gone. Odd. I thought once you were put on display, you remained there forever. Curious, I did a web search on Danni. . .and found a death notice at a funeral home link. She has been dead for five months, now. . . Look at that snow, falling on the pond. The Schubert sonata ended. Something I don’t recognize is playing, now. Violins. Still very soothing, though. Too warm in the car. I turn off the heater. But I miss the sound of the fan. I turn on the air conditioner. Already dead five months. . . At least the state has the decency to free the dead from their e-pillory. . . She died at age thirty-nine. Not even forty times around the sun. Out of the custom when someone dies relatively young, I think: It doesn’t seem fair. . . But then reflecting on what I was able to piece together from the death notice and the few guest comments left, and my own memories of her, thirty-nine years may have been more than enough for Danni. The obituary mentioned her surviving children, who had different last names—so Danni must have had at least two broken marriages. And some of the comments seemed to suggest she had been stricken with a terminal illness. . .cancer, most likely. And, of course, there was her ever-visible violation of the law. And I recall Danni at age nineteen. The sadness and low expectations. So, yes, thirty-nine years may have been more than enough, more than enough. For the first time, now, I wonder who was Danni, really? She was nineteen, I was twenty-four. We considered ourselves adults. Twenty years later, I recognize the error in estimation. Only after twenty additional years of missteps do I realize I have only been looking through a glass, darkly. Only now do I have some small sense of how wrong I have been. What would it have been like to meet her again, after twenty more grinding years in the world? Am I any more honest now than I was then? Probably not. Even now, here, in these words I write on the back of the copy of the letter, I objectify her. . . It really is hopeless. . . Still, I will try to put it/her into words. . .for me, there is nothing else left to do, now, except try to sort out the mess of my life. . .pick out a few moments and study them. . . A paleontologist picks out a few fossils, studies them, and then says he knows what life used to be like. . . But I can barely remember anything Danni ever said. I tuned her out most of the time—her words did not go with the picture I had of her. Of course, I remember how she looked. Even with my eyes open, I can see her. I can see her right there. . .like a hologram from twenty years ago. . .five foot three, one hundred pounds. Flawless skin. The blue eyes and golden hair. An angel. Too cold, now. I switch from AC to heat. I do remember her mood, her personality. An uncomplaining pessimist. She didn’t expect much, and she was fine with no hope. I really have no idea what lay behind her calm dejection. I realize now I don’t know any details of her early life, her family life, etc. I would never have asked. And if she ever told me, I didn’t hear. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. I had no interest in who she really was. I don’t believe I am unusual, in that regard. Now she is dead, and I am curious. . . Wouldn’t it be nice to sit here in the car with her, and watch the snow fall on the pond? We sat in her car many times. I didn’t have one of my own. Hers was some big old Plymouth, I think. Little Danni in that big old wreck. She never wanted to do anything—not even go to a movie. Looking back, I realize she was depressed. But for what reason? I have no idea. She never wanted to go anywhere. I just thought she was a little odd, that’s all. We would sit in her car and not say much. At least, I don’t remember either of us ever saying much. Tiny Danni in that huge Plymouth, looking like a kid pretending to drive. . . I guess I would usually just end up staring at her, and then touching her. . . There is a well-known story in the Bible. . .the story of Sodom. Like the people in our towns, the people of Sodom were well-fed and wicked. God sent two angels to witness the works of these reprobates: And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house. But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes. . . This story has been generally misinterpreted by *Christian scholars* as a crime of homosexual passion. Yet we are told all the men of Sodom, from the young to the old, descended upon Lot’s house in a frenzy to molest the angels. It seems hard to believe every single male in Sodom was a homosexual. And if they were all homosexuals, surely Lot would have known this, and why then would he have offered his virgin daughters to a mob of rampaging gays? It is more likely the men of Sodom are the same as the men of our time: most of them heterosexual, some few of them bisexual, some few of them homosexual. It’s likely these angels had a beauty, physical and/or mystical, that far surpassed that of the human male or female. They were other-worldly. . . It’s kind of a pretty picture out there. The browns and greens of this humble park. The heavy white snow flakes falling on the black water. . . I look at my watch. I’ll have to leave this place. I have to go home. That’s not an easy place to be, right now. Our world is not a particularly attractive place. . .and maybe we seek the angels of our better nature in those who catch our eye. Maybe that is why it so hard to see the real other. . .because we do not want the real. . .we seek escape from our world. . .the shabby grind of our world. The men of Sodom sought a brief holiday from the ugliness of their world. . .angels of distraction. Perhaps I wanted Danni to be an angel who would offer escape? So I ignored her quiet despair, offered her nothing for the escape she sought, offered no hand to her true self, and she moved on? I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. . . That is what we seek. . .well, that’s a little grand of me, to say that is what *we* seek, isn’t it? I speak for myself: that is what I seek. . .to be caught up into paradise. Poor Danni. . .I hope you are there. . .who knows? I owe you a debt. . .those ten minutes in the rain were as close as I have come to the third heaven. . .