The old grandfather’s clock chimed 1:00 A.M. A cool gust of air flowed through the small crevice at the base of the rotting window. The silhouette of a candle’s flame danced across my face while the small room glimmered within its dreary orange glow. I exhaled deeply to soothe the erratic palpitations of my heart. A solitary bead of sweat tumbled down my forehead and conjoined with the coolness in the air as it descended to the tip of my nose. The darkness of the twilight sky swallowed the surrounding landscape as if my small cabin were suspended within an ocean of nothingness. I closed my eyes and whispered, “Dear God, please guide my actions and lead me into thy righteousness.” These words trickled from my tongue like holy-water washing away the evils that contaminated my soul.
A muffled scream interrupted my prayers. I could feel my fists tightening and the sting of anger coursing through my arms as I turned to face the woman that I had once loved so dearly. Rage blinded my inhibitions and the thin veil of civility that I once wore began to dissipate as anger invaded my every thought.
“Stop that damn noise!” I yelled. The echoes of my voice cut through the silence of the night. My sudden outburst startled Josie. The pigment drained from her skin highlighting the spatters of dried blood which tarnished her youthful face. A river of tears coursed down her cheeks and dissolved into the blood-stained handkerchief tied neatly around her mouth. She attempted to scream a second time, but the handkerchief only lodged itself deeper into her throat. Saliva oozed down her chin as she gagged on the soiled cloth.
“I’d stop screaming if I were you,” I warned. “You’re only gonna’ make things worse.”
I inched over to the wooden chair in which she sat. She quivered with fear as my shadow slowly engulfed her body within a shroud of darkness. Her arms were stretched behind her back and bound to the chair’s solid frame. I was certain that she was in extreme pain from being trapped in an unnatural position for so many hours. I had purposely made it this way. Her thin legs were tightly bound by a thick black nylon rope that had begun to burrow into her soft skin. Her anemic feet rested on the wooden floor as they had become powerless to quench their thirst for proper circulation. She wore a large white t-shirt that clung to her thin figure. It had become soiled with dark patches of blood that served as a reminder of the penalty for sin. I brushed away strands of brown hair that had fallen onto her face. A combination of perspiration and blood left a sticky residue on my hands as I gazed into her tearful brown eyes. She turned away and continued to weep.
“Lord, please guide me through these times of darkness.” I whispered.
I leaned forward so that our faces would be at the same level. My scraggly gray beard brushed against her nose as we lost ourselves in a shared moment of intimacy. Even though she refused to look into my eyes, I was certain that she could see me. I could sense the rhythmic vibrations of her heart pounding within her chest. Her rapid exhalations brought rays of warmth into my soul. I wanted to kiss her, but I couldn’t bring myself to forgive.
“You did this to yourself Josie.” I calmly reminded her.
She began to whimper. Her tears sparked memories of what had initially brought about this night’s unlikely turn of events. I could feel the anger within me growing as I replayed the afternoon’s proceedings repeatedly within my mind. I stood up and moved away from her. I hated her now more than I had ever hated anyone before. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t move myself to forgive what she had done.
“Why are you the one crying?!” I yelled.
“I’m the one who caught my wife in bed with another man -- in my own house!”
She sobbed louder. Mucus and tears mixed with the dried blood and streamed down her once beautiful face. She couldn’t wipe it, so she sat there drowning in her own filth. She was filthy inside and now she had become filthy on the outside as well. She wasn’t able to muster up the courage to look me in the eyes because I knew that she was ashamed of what she had done. But it was much too late for that.
“You know what that feels like Josie?!” I cried. She did not respond. “You know what it feels like to be betrayed by someone you love?!”
My hand started to move as the muscles within my palm caused my fist to clench. I watched it rise into the air and fall down upon Josie’s face with a forceful, thud! The sting of moistened skin against my bare knuckles sent a surge of adrenaline through my arm. I watched her head snap backwards from the force of my fist. She moaned loudly as a rush of breath escaped her lungs at the moment of impact. Fresh blood spattered onto the wooden walls behind her and the candle flickered from the sudden displacement of air.
“That’s what it feels like!!” I yelled as I leaned into her ear. I wanted to make sure that she heard me. I wanted to be sure that she knew exactly why I was doing these things to her. Most of all, I wanted her to know exactly how much I had loved her.
A reddened bruise quickly swelled at the point where my fist had connected with her jaw. I could tell that she had been weakened, but she continued to wiggle in the chair as an act of desperation. With each movement the ropes dug deeper into her wrists and legs. Her body heaved in despair but she could not free herself from the knots that I had tied.
“Lord, I need your guidance!” I shouted. I was also beginning to get desperate. What was I supposed to do? Without God’s guidance, I had spiraled into a pit of rage and I knew that He held His followers to a higher standard.
I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. I could feel a warm puddle of tears forming beneath my eyelids.
“Lord, please grant me thy guidance for I am lost in sin.”