“Well, honestly? You’re an Angel. You’re sitting here with me right now. I didn’t even know Angels could do that, Necia. Your presence shocks me, your light silences me and your…your, well I don’t know. I mean, since you’ve arrived I’m not the same,” he shared as openly as he could.
Joe noticed the dirt on his dry, cold and chapped hands. He reached into his right pocket and pulled out his goat skin gloves. He put them on, instantly comforted in knowing he had hidden his soiled hands.
“Joe, I didn’t come to you because I had to, I came to you in spite of my calling. Would you want to be defined by what you do for a living? Aren’t you more than that? I know you are, I’ve watched you. It isn’t just what I am, but it’s also who I am, I agree. I’m also, Necia. I’ve come to you as Necia, I didn’t come to you with my badge first. You understand, right?”
“I don’t even know what to say to that.”
“Try, I need to hear that you’ll try.”
“I can’t even look at you, Necia. How do I speak from such an unfamiliar place?” he asked as he focused on their tree.
“There’s time, I have time for your words, Joe.”
“Speaking isn’t what I know well, you see? I can’t say anyone has pushed back at me in such a way. I work, I maintain these grounds. I’m just a caretaker of sorts, this place is all I know. People confuse me, I haven’t taken the time to invest in this world. You must understand that speaking to you, in this way, is asking a lot of me.”
“Joe, you need to try and trust me. Please know that you are safe with me. Remember the first day…?” she offered to him as she followed his gaze to the tree.
He noticed how just looking at the tree softened her face. He wondered how it was even possible, she was made of such untroubled symmetry. The idea of her beauty going one step further seemed divinely generated.
Going back to their first encounter seemed much safer for Joe. He recalled what she had already told him, but there were still parts he couldn’t get past. In her narration of the first moment, she explained to him that she had seen him working. He had been cleaning stones like a father would tend to his child. Those were her words, not his. He was simply doing his job.
It took him back a few steps to learn that she had first seen him in early August, here at the cemetery and after work. He’d discovered a stone, something the ground had nearly over taken. A bush had been hiding the grave marker, but they’d lost the bush in the freeze last winter. It was August before he’d gotten around to digging it up.
The maps to the cemetery were long gone. Joe had memorized the newer graves and their markers long ago, it came easily to him. He’d figured that most of the really old stones were in obvious places, since there was no way of knowing how to locate each one. It had been some time since anyone had needed his services on that side. The space was left unattended to some degree. He did what he could, but he was only one man.
He was clearing the rubbish away when he saw the corner piece of the stone peeking through the ground. He started pulling at the overgrowth of grass, which surrounded the quarry, and it revealed a stone.
The piece had engravings on it and his interest was sparked. Joe ran to his truck and grabbed his bag. There was a time when all Joe wanted out of life was to be an archeologist, the idea of uncovering lost treasures, bones and identification from long ago thrilled him. It was probably simple of him to get so excited over something so meager in comparison, pathetic really. After work, he often times found himself with his paper and lead. There was nothing better than being lost in a story he’d created, while being cautious of not abrading the limestone slab.
“You saw me at the Davis stone that evening,” he said watching her settle herself on to the tree trunk. “I wasn’t aware I was being watched and especially not by you.” Joe took his left glove off and slapped the side of his leg. He rubbed his hand down his worn out blue jeans. He allowed for a bit of friction between his hand and the jeans, unaware that this nervous tic of his was noticed by Necia.
“It was the first time I’d allowed you to notice me watching you.” she admitted.
“I don’t know what made me look up and over towards the brush. I’d heard a rustle in the leaves. I thought it was a deer looking for food. I was curious, I guess.”
“You were so busy. I enjoyed watching your face, as your thoughts had you transported somewhere else. I wanted to know where you were, and if by chance it was somewhere we could go together.” Necia admitted easily.
He was envious of her calm assurance when speaking to him. He couldn’t make his eyes meet hers. “Necia, you let me look at you. I couldn’t turn away. I worried that the slightest move would make you disappear.” Joe was well aware that she knew he’d be caught off guard, he didn’t need to remind her.
“I waited a few minutes, so you could relax in hopes that you’d remember me when I returned another day.”
“I may never forget that moment, Necia. When I saw you it was like seeing a ghost.” Joe mentioned while watching a feather being caressed by the wind, as it floated to the ground. He fought the urge to grab it, the sudden start and stop of bending down he hoped went unnoticed, as he tried to focus on her.
“I knew the first time would be the hardest to comprehend, so I came to you venerable, Joe.” Necia said as if understanding where his mind was then. She bent down and lightly picked up the feather and placed it into his left hand.
“I appreciate that. Resplendently venerable, I’d say,” he whispered remembering the sight of her wings. He was taken off guard by his hands, they were shaking. Joe looked up quickly just sure that she’d vanished.
(Winter’s Gift Parts One and Two)
Grave Stone (Photo credit: patrick.ward04)