When I Return: Exile the Outcast

When I return to that place, I know what I will find. Distrust, hostility, suspicion, and fear.

Forbidden. That familiar place is forbidden to me.

My parents used to work in the country, on a campus dedicated to health and “god”. There was a health center, a print shop, a greenhouse, partly neglected bee hives, an office building, a barn, the old print shop, several buildings for lodging and seminars, a laundry house, and a woodshed. The campus was surrounded by woods on three sides. The fourth faced the road that circled around to the “village”, a quaint street lined with empty buildings.

Do you know about the towns from western movie sets? How the building fronts were substantial and beautiful, but behind the fronts, were only props and empty plots of grass?

This village was no different. Beautiful buildings line the street, flowers flourish in the planters, and the clean sidewalks made the places seem nearly picturesque. But the streets were empty, the buildings uninhabited, and the village displayed symptoms of post extinction.

What, I wonder, would this have forecasted about the people?

On the northeastern side of the campus, a strip of trees lined both sides of a babbling brook that barely separated us from the Hasidic community next door. Travel deep into the woods in the north, and there would be deer trails, bear traps, and a hunter’s blind. To the southwest, a raging river that would eventually bisect the “village”; it originated from a distance place and traversed several waterfalls before disappearing beyond the cluster of houses.

With beautiful facades, the people on this campus worked in apparent harmony. The goal? Spread religion. Glorious reform, health reform, dress reform, life reform, religious reform -a religion of reforms. A well-oiled machine of self sufficiency, the worker bees shared the news: you’re not good enough, unless you do more. Actions, always actions…

Nothing so beautiful as when this community torn itself apart from the inside. Gleefully, the three factions agreed to unite under a common goal-

Ah, I get ahead of myself.

Within every apparent paradise is a snake. In this paradise, grew the snake of greed. It began with the expectation of something for nothing, and when this impulse was denied, discontent arose. Then the seeds grew: the thought that stemmed were the same voices heard before.

Why shouldn’t “I” be in charge? Why shouldn’t “I” be given the power? Why shouldn’t “I” be given the money?

For a group of religious people, they had hearts of evil. I was a child, and in my simplicity, I saw the currents but did not understand the flow. I heard the words, but didn’t comprehend the intent. I saw the smiles, but ignored the viscous teeth within the expression.

My memories of this time, are clouded up until the end. Because the end was predictable, it was hilarious. Three factions united under the banner of greed to wrest away control. With their words, they twisted the truth and won majority control.

Such politicians! After the final vote, they barely remained long enough to shake hands and thank everyone for coming. Barely had the ink dried on the minutes before they were searching for tangible, spendable assets.

I remember vividly. I had been looking for my parents. I did not know what had taken place and was oblivious to the changed winds. I entered the office, where my parents could usually be found, and instead I found animals.

Animals with pinched eyes, and twisted features. They were on their hands and knees around the large safe in one of the offices with crowbars and other tools/implements. They were trying to wrench it open, exercising more effort in those moments than in all the years I had known them.

In that moment, I did not even recognize them. Those who usually wore facades of holiness and piety were transformed into visages of individuals possessed.

Salivating, they pried open the safe. Eagerly they leaned in-

They were angry furious.

The safe contained master cassettes for the audio tapes distributed to new converts. Not a single dollar bill resided within.

“Where is the money?!” / “Where is it?” / “…Money!!” / “…money!”   / “money”

Their voices clamored those words… I can still hear the vicious edge, tinged with a desperation I didn’t understand.

I remember feeling numb.

I look back with hilarity at how quick they were to scramble for money that wasn’t there. How they irrevocably stained themselves for no reward.

They aren’t Judas, tossing away something precious for 30 shiny silver coins. They tossed away something more valuable, their integrity. Gone, and for what?

For nothing.

Nothing.

They ended up trying to sue for access to bank accounts, accounts with little within. Frantic for pieces of nothing.

At least they still have their pride and superiority. Very slender slices on which to dine.

What did I learn from this? What lesson was to be gained by this experience?

I learned that some people wear masks to deceive others and veil intent. And behind those masks are repulsive snapshots of human nature. I learned that people who profess Christianity can be the same people who will commit atrocity for one more dollar, for one more drop of power.

I learned that actions speak louder than words. Judge not by flowery phrases and smooth words, judge not by smiles and embraces. Judge by what is done, judge the results, and judge the intent.

Judge for yourself. Study for your own edification, and do not presume to know and understand everything.

I only know what I saw. There is much I did not see or know, much perspective I do not possess. I can only know what I know and extrapolate from there.

“Judge not, so that you may not be judged”- but “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves”.

I have not been to that place for many years. My parents left as soon as the split occurred. People we had known for years ostracized us, at first. We would later bump into them at church, and they would smile and embrace us like nothing ever happened.

But regardless of the face they wear today, I saw them. I see them. I will always see them.

I went to visit a friend once, who was at the campus, and didn’t know any of the history. I was glad that this individual was able to enjoy a untainted experience. I visited by invitation. Everything was familiar, yet foreign and tainted. Upon arrival, I tried to locate my friend, “Copper”. Since we hadn’t planned a specific meeting place, and the campus was too large to go “door to door”, I figured I’d go to the office and ask where Copper might be.

The air swirled cool, washing away the summer heat that clung to my skin. Quickly I shut the door, preserving the temperature which dropped even further once the inhabitants spotted my arrival. Needless to say, they knew me, knew my parents, and were suspicious.

Like, what? I was spying on them? Pssht! Not like they were that important- but don’t tell them that.

I calmly bade them a good afternoon, smiling as they grunted back, and then inquired regarding Copper’s whereabouts. After some questions probing into my reason for visiting, they finally directed me to the most likely place Copper could be found.

I remember the women stuffing envelops, their eyes full of mistrust and suspicion. I felt the wheels of their mind turning, tainting my arrival with sinister intent.

I could have told them that I didn’t care. I just wanted to see Copper. But people don’t believe when you tell the truth sometimes. Because in the same situation, they would lie; therefore, they cannot conceive that you would act differently than they.

I may return someday. I’m not so foolish as to believe that I could swear that I would never set foot on that property ever again. I cannot see the future. But if I return to that place, I know that, in my mind’s eye, I will see them. Eyes of distrust, bordering hatred, for something imagined and not of my doing.

I would smile and say: ‘Enjoy your world, savor your victory. Death comes for us all.’

When I return to that place, I know what I will find. Distrust, hostility, suspicion, and fear.

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Published by

opalflame

I am artist, analyst, author, poet, composer, musician to name a few aspects of myself. A bit of a jack of trades, I dabble into many fields that encourage the blossom of imagination and allow me to channel my creativity. I dream vividly and view the world through the lens of optimism and opportunity while acknowledging the ink and shadows.

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