Well Met at the Crossroads
I’m lost again.
OK, maybe not lost. I know where I am. I’m here. What I don’t know is where I am going.
(It’s interesting that that’s what lost means to me: ignorance about something that hasn’t happened yet. How could I know the end at the beginning? But I really, really want to know the end, before I begin. How else am I supposed to know which beginning to choose?)
The more I look around, the more I realize I am not lost at all. I know this place well. I come here a lot.
Come to think of it, why am I here so often? I don’t like it here. This isn’t a comfortable place to be. But it seems, as often as I leave here, I return. It’s like I just keep going around in circles…
“Spirals,” She says.
Has She been here all along? Probably. It’s dark here. There are lots of shadows to hide in. She doesn’t look like someone who hides, though. Maybe She’s just been waiting, instead.
“Neither,” She says. “I live here.”
But I’m here all the time, and I’ve never seen you, I think.
She smiles. “How nice, then, that we’ve finally met.”
And of course, there it is, Her house… well, Her door, anyway. Flanked by flickering lanterns. How could I ever have missed it? Once inside, I don’t wonder how I got here. Or worry that I don’t remember.
On the table is a bowl full of the fruit of all four seasons. “Pick one,” She offers. “Take a bite, and I’ll tell you why it grows.”
I roll a fig between my fingers. “For luxury,” She says. I suck on half a strawberry. “For desire,” She says. I roll a pomegranate between my palms. “Be careful with that one!” A Clementine bursts like snowy sunshine in my mouth. “For memory,” She smiles.
Has She always lived here, I wonder?
“There is nowhere else,” She says.
But of course that’s not right. Outside again, in front of Her door, I point at the road passing by, at the road crossing it. This is a particular place, I want to tell Her. This place where the two roads meet.
She sighs. And takes up the lanterns from beside Her door. Holding one in each hand She lifts them high and suddenly we are in darkness. Her house is gone. The crossroads, gone. The ground beneath my feet is as flat and black and endless as the sky above my head. The only light is in between the dancing shadows of the flames She holds. Shadows that bewitch my sight. Make Her look, in their slippery shifting, like a horse, or like a snake, or like a dog, or like them all together.
“Take a step, in any direction,” She says, the harmonics of three voices weaving together give strange weight to her words. Then, when I am slow, “Do it!”
I take one step forward into the nothing all around me.
“Take a step, in any direction,” She says again. “You just chose a road. And shunned at least three others. Just because they are not straight and paved does not mean they are not pathways. Just because you cannot see them does not mean that they don’t cross beneath your feet.”
So every step, every moment… I wonder
“Is a crossroads,” She nods. “You make a choice with every breath. Sometimes you notice that you are choosing. That’s all.”
We are back where we started. I don’t see Her house anymore. She stands with Her back to me, Her lanterns illuminating both paths equally. Which one should I choose?
“Every path is a life,” She says. “As valid as any other. Every path leads to death, in the end.”
So it doesn’t matter what I do, I think.
“It doesn’t matter what you choose,” She corrects me. “It matters that you choose.”
Even if every end is a beginning. Even if every beginning winds its way back to the same end. Even if it seems like I’m walking in circles…
“Spirals,” She says. “The same place is never the same place. But that’s a mystery for another visit.”
She tosses the flames She holds into the sky, where they shatter and sparkle into the starlight by which I walk the path. And She is gone.
This post was written by Laurie Dietrich