To say he was a stranger wasn’t entirely true. To say he was welcome wasn’t entirely false.
He had been encouraged in my discouragement, buoyed by my sinking suffering soul, and had only grown stronger by my weakness—as I had not turned to the light.
We spoke of self-pity and blame. And before the ashes of a burned-out fire, we sat, and I always asked the same questions: Why are you here? Why don’t you go?
His answer never came with words. It came with long bony fingers that wrapped around my throat. It came with the precision of an ice pick to the gut and in his raucous applause for my doubts, fears, and failures, feasting on my emptiness.
A man can have many friends, but not all friends are able to be friends with the others.
One friend takes the hatred and the faithlessness and turns it inward into darkness: the invitation of hopelessness.
I was familiar with this attempt to cauterize my tenderness, to callous over my empathy in the name of healing that never came. This is the friend who feasts on my weakness said getting even would set me free. There were times I had believed this—before I knew the truth.
The good friend came to feed me when I was hungry, offering drink when I thirsted and sustenance to my spirit. The good friend didn’t celebrate my brokenness or the pain and emptiness of my depletion but understood that those were the coals that burned the darkness out. Stores of sunlight from billions of years released by the holy flames.
Now it was by embracing my weakness I was made strong. And it was then I saw my friends for who they were and why they came. One to help and one to harm.
One to laugh at me and the other to cry for me—with me. Healing and nudging and refueling my dry and rusty engine. Now it glowed again and how it gleamed.
The good friend knew the stranger would return when I turned away, but he had never turned from me—never would.
The stranger was always an insincere friend. A bedazzling buzzard scavenger, a liar, and a curse.
The good friend never left and patiently waited for my heart to warm and my eyes to open.
My suffering made me care and understand, my weakness made me strong. Every time this light shined the stranger knew it could no longer stay. Its grip had weakened.
Now I marveled so at how the fire had returned to my soul. The fire of a hundred billion lives and two billion trillion stars.