“Father, forgive me, for I have sinned.”
Whispering through the decrepit warehouse, the words shivered with a mood that matched their environment. Dusty. Creaking. Like dirt and rust combined, cemented one to the other by sour engine oil. The smell of old straw lingered behind the stiff mechanic shop scent. Here and there, half-moon light slid in through windows and vacant roof panels like missing teeth. A breeze creaked faintly against the metal siding, inviting itself in but not assertive enough to brave entry.
Against the north wall, a staircase leaned toward the second level loft. It whined as badly as my heart, but endured my weight this once. Two rooms sat at the back of an open loft that was once appropriated as a workspace but now stood witness to the decay rate of office furniture.
I found him in one of the back rooms, sitting in the corner, hugging his knees like the child he was thirty years before. At first, he recoiled away, but his need for comfort was obvious to us both and soon he allowed me to stay without a fuss.
“You know we’re both over it,” I told him finally.
“I’m not.” His words were harsh, bitter, crusted with tears. Rage slipped through and he sensed it. He doubled over. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
I reached and put a hand on his shoulder. “Why won’t you know that I need you just the way you are? I didn’t pick you by accident, I promise.”
He looked at me then, hopeful at first, but so quickly clouded back over with doubt, then anguish. “Why don’t you care about me?” he whispered past quivering lip and tears.
I left my hand on his shoulder, waiting.
“Sorry,” he mumbled at last.
“I’m not mad,” I said.
“You should be. I suck.”
“Am I a liar?” I asked him, feeling anger of my own. Obstinate, stubborn child. Why won’t he see?
That cut him. “No, of course not. I need you.”
“Then believe me.”
He shrank again. “Oh, I just can’t.”
I chided, “Whose are you? Who paid for you?”
“You…” he whispered.
“Then who determines your value?”
“You…” Barely audible.
“Are you worth my life?”
He didn’t say anything but I knew what he was thinking. It can’t be argued.
We sat there quietly for awhile. He wept on and off, struggling to come back to himself. Every time he cried, I reminded him how much he meant to me. When he was so huddled in his own tears that he forgot I was there, I cried too. But he remembered, time and again, coming back to the truth, strong soldier.
Too many tears this time. He caught that one. Oh how close we are, if he could only see. If he would just look, he would see.
The sky was pink with sunrise when he finally stood, straightening stiff knees, wincing at the kink in his back. He looked so tired, completely weary from the night, but his eyes were shining. He was going to try again.
“You can do it,” I told him, absolutely positive I was right.