2002-09-06 02:23:00 (UTC)

Trial By Fire

He was hungry. So was I. He suggested a place I used to
frequent. A place locals gather in, when the season fades.
The parking lot exposed the crowded dinning room, inside.

It is easy, our friendship. Real. True. Easy. A cozy,natural
interaction... a relationship seemingly without a begin or
an end. Some would surely refer to us as Beauty & the Beast.
Which is which, flows together, and shares the same space.

Once, the subject was fire.

Not yet a teenager, creating and nourishing an entrepre-
neurial spirit, selling his wood crafts. He was moving from
dependent to independent and moved to a corner of the three-
car-garage. It was quite comfortable, he said. There were
shelves and a workbench. A bed behind a curtain. Clothes
hanging from the overhead pipes. His own window and private
view. A door to the outside facilitating his coming and
going, freely.

It was a dark moonless night. He slept deep. If not for the
fire, licking at his skin, the smoke would have killed him.
His face is proof of the truth of his story. Confirmed by
his back and his chest and his shoulder —while wearing his
swimming shorts. His skin doesn't tan in areas of shades of
yellow and pink.

After years of surgery, hospitals, and pain... it takes a
lot to upset, offend, or anger him. He loves work. He loves
people. He loves life and living.

He opened the door, I stepped into the restaurant. All the
eyes slowly turned in our direction. We located an available
table, I sat down. He went to the counter to order, eyes
following him at every step.

He turned and signaled for me to come to the counter. What
was it I wanted to drink? He paid. We walked back to the
table. Whispering voices could be heard.... asking, "What's
she doing with him?"

One voice said, "He must have money, couldn't be anything
else?" This voice was framed by an attractive face.

I walked slowly in his direction. Approached the table, he
was surrounded by friends. Stood silently, for just a
moment, assuring I had their undivided attention. In a soft,
clear, concise tone... I said, "His heart is more beautiful
than your face and your heart can't compare with the beauty
of his scars.... that's what I'm doing with him."

The restaurant was packed. You could hear a pin drop. I
swear the room glowed pink— from the flame-red of the
stranger's face. His trial-by-fire may not have left
physical scaring? I like to believe, his cruelty was burned
out, by the piercing stares and silence of those present
that evening.