I found about a dozen drafts of this remembrance in my journals and ephemera from the mid-1980s. Since I belabored it so, seems only right to share, now that we live in a world where sharing the written word is push-button fast. (For the record, I’m amazed and a little embarrassed to note how frequently Jesus pops into my story.)
Signs & Promises
I was thinking about signs and promises when I saw him approaching my car. It was 9:00 pm, Friday night. The gas station was in his neighborhood, not mine. He walked with a limp, his face half hidden by the hood from a jacket underneath his windbreaker. His skin glistened from the florescent lights. Slanted eyes peered close. He rested his arms on my window.
“I don’t have any money.” This wasn’t a lie but I didn’t expect him to believe me.
“‘is ok. I do it anyway. Hate to think ’bout anything happen to you cause a dirty windshield.”
I laughed. “Where you from?”
“I stay in New York fore I come here. Can’t take no cold no more. Thought I’d fine me a job but there jus ain’t none. Thas why I be doin this – lease it’s workin.”
He washed a small portion of the glass between us while he talked. “But I know Lord Jesus, he be heppin me. I used to be into drugs an all other kind of mess. I try to kill myself once and Lord Jesus, he save me from 12,000 volts lectricity. Looket my leg.”
He pulled up the thin corduroy to show me his leg. It had obviously sustained a very severe burn. Wide white scars snarled over and around his shin. Calf muscle bulged and knotted under skin so shiny and stretched I feared it would burst from my gaze. But I couldn’t help staring, first at his leg, then at his radiant face. I think I mumbled something about the miracle. He agreed.
My windshield had received all the washing it was going to get. “What did it feel like?” I had to ask. I quizzed anyone who had a glimpse of the beyond. They usually returned with elasticized views of reality, views that tracked with my own hypotheses. These people were secret messengers. I attracted them like a magnet.
“It felt like, … well, you know how big is the ocean? Thas what Jesus is. He as big and wide as the ocean.” He had straightened up and extended each arm. His smile was nearly fingertip to fingertip.
“Peace in Jesus, sister,” he waved as I drove away. I watched him hobble to a pickup truck, shrug, and bump off into the night. Overhead, the palm trees swayed and a soft breeze tingled across my arms. I remembered a challenge I made just days before: “Jesus, if you’re really up there, send me a sign. Let me see you.”