He walked down the dark, dank smelling hall, seeing the light coming in through cracks of the awkwardly leaning door that was ahead of him. As he reached it, he gingerly lifted his hand to caress its cold hard surface. The padlock that was always there was gone, the hasp oddly twisted. Flakes of metal paint was coming away from dents slightly marking the surface. The bending twisted dent angled up toward the hinge on the other side, exposing grey metal, looking like some strange, rusted canyon of the future. He pushed the door open hearing a kink in the movement only felt from badly fitted doors. Outside sat two of his brothers, not by blood, but by the bonds of fraternal consensus found at universities. These guys frightened him in a way. They seemed so much older, so sure of themselves, so knowing, like they could see into him, his thoughts and especially his fears. That is what he was afraid of; that people would discover his fear, and expose it, laughing as it flopped there on the dirty ground, wet with beer, dust and food particles never swept up. The fear that his heart would be exposed and it would be stomped, uncaring into the ground. Although it was more than that. It was that no one would want to see his heart; take it into themselves, cherish it and share their heart with him. He’d been so transparent all his life and never really understood those reasons. It would be something he would never see until the time that he would give God his heart, and God would share it with him. But before that happened he would have to reveal it to a family who would always be there for him and then he would truly start to trust. Truly ready to believe in a God who would never leave, unlike his father who left at the worst possible time. Is there ever a good time?
“You just about got through there,” one of his brothers said with a laugh in his voice.
“Yeah, just a couple more kicks and you would have been free. We probably would have never found you.” They looked at each other and laughed. They didn’t know how right that statement was. He had spent most of his life trying to kick down doors forever blocking his path. Why did he choose this hall, when there were so many other, much easier ways out? Although he never tried as hard as he did last night. Last night was different. He had such hopes and dreams for last night, only to be dashed to the beer drenched floor.
He had come to this fraternity only because his brother was a member. It was his first year of college and things weren’t turning out like he expected them to. He was so dishearteningly lonely, hungry, and unconcerned. So much of what this experience was turning out to be mattered so little anymore. His first quarter he had an 8 am class, then one at noon and rounding out the day one at 3 pm. It confined him, that schedule did. He started missing his 3 o’clock classes. Eventually he couldn’t work his way out of bed for the early one very much either. The consequences of missing classes weren’t showing themselves. He’ll see them eventually for sure, but not until the end of the year, when he has nothing to show for the year up here. But, he did feel it. He felt it in his loneliness, his despair at realizing what a foolish choice his major was. They were all jerks. They thought themselves so much better than they were, even before the whole environmental thing took hold in its manic way that it did in the ’90s. Perhaps that is just what he saw though. He knew he could never succeed, for he’d never been driven to. The given-up guitar lessons, the tortuous basketball games, the fear that there were better, much better baseball players than him: so why go on with… anything. Then there were the girls. Even at a young age he wanted someone exclusively to dedicate conversations and time with. But, there was always someone better, so why try.
He was in the semi-real world now. This University, this Institution of higher learning. How did he even get here. He’d proven himself unreliable in elementary and high school. But he had made it, although he was scared and lonely. His brother was the only one he knew, who was with him from the beginning. He went to him and where he was. He got in only because he was Little Mayo. Little Mayo always to his bigger sisters friends and his big brothers friends. It seemed that even his little sister had it more together than him. He felt sorry for himself. That was a trick his father always would use, his mother would always remind him. He would never realize that feeling sorry for himself would never work, until years later, when he would become a different man.
But now is where he lived. As he always did. There was past and there was future. Past bright and fun and adventurous and friends. The future: misty and grey, only echos of his father’s mismanagement of his job, his marriage, his children, his legacy. His life was like walking down a dark hall, only there is no light indicating a door, only knowing for sure that when he reached the end he would have to completely turn around and go back. Go back down paths the opposite way that he didn’t enjoy the first time.
“I don’t even remember going down the hall to the door,” he said to the brothers, unsure about whether he was being funny or not.
“Well, you’re going to have to pay for that door.” Uncomfortable tightness worked it’s way through his stomach as one of his “brothers” eyed him with anger and maybe a bit of disappointment. This is all wrong, he thought. Yesterday was supposed to be his time. It was planned long ago. He had even picked out the song they were going to dance to. “Prove My Love” by the Violent Femmes: it was perfect! Great beat, good message, especially for what they were going to do, and they could all mouth the words. Then they’d wind it all up with R.E.M.s “White Tornado”. He had to prepare to do this though. He was going to be no slouch when it came to getting up the courage to get on that stage. He started drinking in the early afternoon. All afternoon he would walk up and down the halls, excitedly chatting up the brothers, for what could… no would happen! An hour or so before the show, he walked by one guy’s door and glanced in. What exactly was going on here? he wondered. The brother was bending over something, looked up sideways at him and gleefully asked, “Wanna try some?” “Sure,” he said, and walked in the room and closed the door.
Later, their dance was awesome, although he couldn’t see a thing because he had to take his glasses off, because they were all wearing Ray-Ban style sunglasses, and he was basically blind. But he could feel people and see faces cheering. Oh this was going so swimmingly!
Then the clean-up. Had to clear the floor for the real party. He was wearing his good ole stand-by moccasin type slipper shoes, and the floor was a bit wet. He never really got his footing out on the floor. He kept falling down, flat on his face. Frustration began building inside of him and anger on top of that. A monster was about to be released he never knew existed. Although not green and never twice the size of his true form, it was just as fearsome and unholy as any monster born through sin, rage and unmet expectations. He was looking up, glasses never put back on, and saw only blurry, laughing faces. Holding to themselves the cups of unbridled liquid courage so cursing him now in his combined illicitness and ineffectiveness, they were curling it around their arm protectively as if they could ward off the demon slowly changing form on the floor at their feet.
GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE! he raged within himself, dealing blow after blow of furiously aimed kicks to an innocent heavy metal door. He finally felt four men tear him away from the door and drag him down the hall to his bed, and proceeded to sit on him. Oh the seething explosive force he was using against his prison guards, that captured him as he almost made his escape. Okay! okay! it was getting hard to breathe for him, “I’m fine! I’m calm, I’ve calmed down.”
There was doubt and hesitation in their eyes as they slowly released him. Free! He lashed out at the window above him and heard and felt the satisfying crash of glass as it rained down on him, his bed, everyone. They grabbed him again. Held him surely until they knew it was over, but it was gone. Once the window shattered the spell was broken the monster was gone, and he broke down and cried. Wailed his sorrow, his fear, his angst and anguish. Until there was one left in the room with him. This one shared his own doubts, fears,… suicide attempts, foolish as they were. This here was a brother! A com padre. Oh if only Little Mayo knew. People just don’t open up and let you in the let you in to their true self. No. This discussion was too much for the one left with him, and leave he did. Perhaps he saw the folly of his ways in this young newbie. Maybe he turned around and dedicated his last years there to studies, seeing how near he came to giving himself to someone. That may have been unacceptable. He never talked to the younger one, the little Mayo again that year. Just for that night. He fixed it just for that night.
But, like one trained to know that there is someone out there to give your heart to, he kept to travelling the sad and lonely, the fearful and dark paths of this world, trusting that there was someone who never gave up, even after all the let downs. The embarrassment of knowing you’ve given so much and that the other wasn’t real, wasn’t true. He would though, wear his glasses a little bit tighter to his face from now on, hoping to see a little more clearly than before. For that day would come and he wanted to be full witness to it. That night when demons were released in more than one way, he would hold to his heart, until the time of release, so that he could realize that what he had hoped for all His life was there all along. The Creator was there all along, knowing that these things would have to be gone through in the proper time. Knowing that even though he wasn’t His at the time, he was still securely in His hand. Somehow he knew the Savior was there. He could never put it to words, but how else was he to explain that he still went on, of failure after failure after failure. God knew he would need to remember so he can give hope, that he can see it in other’s eyes when all but a glimmer was gone. Like a light at the end of a dark hall, the door someday for someone will be pushed open easily, because of the experience he had that day. He would also never receive someone’s heart and turn his back, no never. For the world had turned it’s back on His Son in the darkest time. People will always hurt him. But as far as he was concerned and as far as God would allow and remind him, he would never… betray a trust… given to him.