“Come on,” he beckons to me in front of an open door. It’s pitch black inside, just the way I remember it.
“No way,” I say, “no, not again.”
“You can do it. I’ll be in there with you the whole time. We’ve done this before.”
“Switch on the lights, please. I’ll go in if you just flip the switch.”
“There is no switch, you know that.”
“But why? Couldn’t you just make one? Why’s it have to be this way every time? Stop making me do this!”
He meets my gaze with that same unwavering expression from before that seems to ask, “Don’t you trust me?” My flinching and recoiling is not new to him, and he’s well aware that it’s all part of my process. After all, we’ve done this before—several times in fact.
“Can’t we just sit here for a little bit? We don’t have to go in now, do we?”
I settle myself under an oak tree by a flowing stream, hugging my knees snugly to my chest. My back is to him, but I know fully well that he’ll come join me, as he has in the past. I wait with my eyes downcast and listen for the gentle approach of his footsteps, secretly happy to hear the thud of his sandals against the grassy earth. He sits down beside me and stares out at the stream, while I keep my head down.
We remain like this for a long time, just sitting in silence. He’s asking a lot of me, making me go through that door again. A good part of me is angry at the idea that I’ll soon be wrenched from my safe haven of this beautiful oak tree by the stream. Isn’t it so much better here? Why do we have to leave?
But then it starts to drizzle. The first raindrops dance gracefully on the surface of the stream, making pretty ripples. But as the clouds darken and the downpour intensifies, water hits water with such ferocity until I no longer see a distinction between sky and stream. I am drenched and trembling from the cold, but he appears calm and unperturbed by the storm around him.
Rain is gushing down my face and obscuring my vision, and I scream as lightning hits a part of the tree and a large oak branch falls right at our feet. “What do we do?” I cry, wondering if he can hear me above the din of the thunderstorm.
He puts away the branch, gets up and walks away.
“Wait!” I yell, “Are you leaving me like this? Where are you going?”
On he goes without a single backward glance.
“Come back!!” I am well and truly panicking and even a little indignant at his apparent lack of regard for my plight. I want to run after him but my feet are lodged deep in the mud. “Please!”
When he finally turns back and stretches out his hand to me, I see that he’s standing at the threshold of that dreaded door again. “Come on, it’s time.”
“It’s not fair to make me choose like this—in such circumstances!” I protest.
His hand remains outstretched.
“At least tell me what’s in there! It’s so dark!”
“Do you trust me?” he asks.
“I do, but—”
“Then step inside with me.”
“Why do you make it sound so simple?”
“Because it is.”
As he says this, I suddenly realize that the rain has stopped. The air is crisp with the smell of wet grass and I can hear the chirping of birds in the distance. It’s tempting to run back to that spot under the oak tree, except I now know I am likely no safer out here than past that dark doorway.
Reluctantly, I yank my feet out from my mud-covered sneakers and make my way towards him, feeling the crunch of leaves against my bare soles and the soggy dirt between my toes. Everything about this moment feels counterintuitive: if I’m about to venture into the complete unknown, I at least want to be combat-ready—not dripping wet and without shoes. But I forget about all that the minute he takes my hand in a firm and reassuring grip.
“Now go on,” he says, helping me across the threshold. “You know how it works: I won’t be saying much, but I’ll be right behind you.”
[to be continued]