She is not me. Yet she is a part of me.
She does not define me. Yet I would not be me without her; and it was I who made her what she is.
What she is is an ageless creature. Yet she is frail and weak; her bones thin and brittle, like the dying twigs of a tree in late winter. Her joints are fat and swollen–not with strength, but with exhaustion, and she wobbles under her own weight. Her skin is wrinkled and warped, brown, like aged leather pulled around her bones. Her grizzled hair, white and dry like dead grass, sprouts in tufts in the places where she hasn’t torn it from scalp.
She is naked: bare and exposed. She is covered in blood. It is her own, though from where it comes I do not know. And she walks, at midday, through the crowded streets of the city. She screams at the top of her lungs, a sobbing that carries through the streets like the shriek of a dying god. Her scream is the only thing about her with strength.
The streets are crowded, and the people around her are faceless. They could be strangers. Or they could be everybody she has ever known or loved. It doesn’t matter who they are. It doesn’t matter where they are going, or from where they are coming. Their substance is as immaterial as they are, because as she screams, they do not hear her. She staggers in between them, weaving in and out of their crowds like the crooked needle of a blind seamstress. She howls, and though she has no words for her pain, she reaches for them. She grabs onto their coats. She throws herself at their feet, hugging their knees and letting them drag her until she falls off.
They never stop for her. They never look at her as they continue walking, their clothes tearing in her feeble grip as she tries in vain to hold onto them. Nobody hears her. Nobody sees her. Nobody wants her. She knows not what she wants from them. She wants them to take her pain from her, but she doesn’t know what her pain is. She wants them to hold her–soothe her with kisses and tender words until her wailing subsides to a dull wheeze and she falls asleep, safe in their arms. She wants her burden placed upon another, and for herself to be healed by stronger hands than her own. Yet she herself is ashamed of her own pain. She herself knows that she is covered in blood, and cannot rest in the arms of another without staining them. She knows why nobody stops for her, yet she continues down that street, screaming for somebody to save her. Screaming for the love of a stranger.
And I am those strangers. I am the passersby who hear the old woman, but don’t understand her. I am the callous commuters who don’t love the old woman because her pain gets in my way. She is messy, and she is scary, and I don’t know how to save her so I don’t even try. I continue with my day, my streets echoing with her screams, and I’d move heaven and earth just to pretend I don’t hear her. Her existence is an abomination; her blood is not the stain–she is the stain. And I am the reason she will spend eternity on these streets, bouncing between the million shards of my apathy.
He is not me–yet. But he is a part of me.
He does not define me either. She is as much a part of me as he. Yet I will make him who he is as he makes me who I will be.
He is the stranger that stops for her. He is the man in red, as faceless as the rest of them. Yet unlike their dull facelessness, which neither reflect nor refract anything, I cannot see his face because it radiates with a shining whiteness that burns my eyes in their sockets. He is like looking into the sun; an electric shock of vitality, of life, as vibrant and warm as the heart of the universe.
He walks in his red coat against the tide of the others, down the street toward the screaming woman. She does not see him coming. She was not looking for him. She was looking for those who were not looking at her. But he looks. He sees her. His white stare sees into the depths of her and recognizes, not an old woman, but a beautiful creature, made more magnificent by her suffering. He sees her, not as weak and desperate, but as brave and stronger than he can even fathom. For she has done the unthinkable. She has torn herself from the darkness and thrust her naked body into the sunlight. She has ventured into the world in all her vulnerability, crying through her pain and letting herself be seen in all her rawness. She had the strength to ask for help. She had the courage, not to beg, but to demand the helping hand that she shamelessly acknowledges she needs to heal herself.
He goes to her, and in that moment, there is no other stranger on the street. They are alone, and all the fragments of my denial to see the old woman burn away in his tremendous light. He is all the strangers. He is me, and she is me, and together, they complete me, for the first time in my life.
She cries out one last time: in agony, for all the pain she has ever lived with, and in ecstasy, for she has finally found what she is looking for. She falls into him as he embraces her. His light is warm, and it vibrates with boundless love and understanding. It seeps into her, not erasing the cracks that can’t mend, but filling them with unconditional acceptance and safety. He catches fire, his light igniting a spark that consumes the both of them. There is no pain. There is no anguish. They burn together until there is nothing left but their purified ashes. And from those ashes, a Phoenix rises. The Phoenix is both of them: the radiant stranger and the crying woman. But the Phoenix is something else entirely. It is more than they could ever be on their own: a being of might and power, a being of confidence and compassion. The Phoenix is their potential realized, and it flies, triumphant and majestic, from those cold streets towards its bright future.
The above parable represents a transformation I find myself on the verge of. It represents nothing more or less than the amalgamation of two disparate parts of myself that have always been at war: the light and the dark. The old woman represents the parts of myself I have never dealt with. The stranger in red represents, not an external force or another person who heals me, but the part of myself from where I derive the best of myself. I am neither completely the old woman nor the stranger in red: I am a person conflicted. But I have almost reached the point where those two beings finally meet–where the different parts of me come together to heal myself from the inside.
And when that moment arrives, the Phoenix will rise.