WHAT FORGIVENESS IS ABOUT
Set after Call Of The Wild.
Ray explains exactly what forgiveness means.
A first time story.
Written: July 2005. Word count: 1,667.
Forgiveness. It's one of the bedrocks of my religion, but one I don't think I ever truly understood.
"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned." As a kid, I used to think these words were so cool. I used to reckon they meant that I could do anything I wanted to do - crazy, illegal, immoral, or
anything. Then all I had to do was go to Confession, say the words, get a dozen or so Hail Mary's, and all was well. Not that I did do anything really illegal, or stupid - except when you're growing up and daring to step outside the box for the first time, even the simplest thing, like jerking off with Frankie behind the gym, seemed as sinful as committing murder. Come to think of it, given what Catholics believe about sex being linked with procreation, jerking off probably was up there with murder.
It was only when they told me I had to forgive my dad for beating me, and that I should pray for him, that I realized the words weren't cool at all. They were just a convenient excuse to be allowed to get away with atrocities. So I gave up the Church, but as Ma and Father Donaldson told me, ‘Raymond, you may have given up the Church; but the Church will never give up you.' I soon realized just how true that was.
What is they say? ‘You can take the boy out of the Catholic faith; but you can't take the Catholic faith out of the boy.'
And yet as I said, I don't think I ever truly understood what forgiveness was - not what true forgiveness was. It was Benny who taught me that.
I'd gone, come back, and gone again. I'd lied, pretended, and adopted a new persona - but not just to the outside world. What was worse was I did all those things to myself.
The bowling alley was doing well, better than I'd ever hoped for, better than I'd ever expected. Stella had left me, except that implies we were ever together, which we weren't, not in any real sense. Sure she came to Miami with me, but she had her reasons. I don't claim to fully understand them, but then no man can ever truly understand a woman's motivation.
It was a Sunday morning; the bells had been ringing for Church. Whether they'd actually rung, or only sounded in my head, I'm not sure. As I said you can't entirely take the Catholic faith out of the boy. I sitting at my desk and Johnnie came in. "There's a guy here to see you, boss," he
"I dunno. Some weird guy. Speaks in riddles. Leaps to open doors. Oh, and he has this animal with him. I told him that dogs weren't allowed, but he told me that was okay because it wasn't a dog. I think he called him something like Difenburger."
"Diefenbaker," I corrected automatically. Not even aware that I'd heard his final words. I'd stopped listening after ‘leaps to open doors.'
"Whatever," Johnnie shrugged. I don' t know what he read into my face, but he clearly saw something, because when he spoke again, his voice was slightly hesitant. "So do you wanna see him or not, boss? Want me to tell him you're not here?"
"No," I said, shaking my head. Benny. Benny was here. But why? What did he want? And where was Kowalski? I glanced up and looked at Johnnie, who was frowning. "Is he alone?" I asked, trying to sound casual. "Apart from the wolf, that is?"
"Wolf!" Johnnie squeaked, and glanced around frantically, as if expected Dief to trot in and devour him.
"Half," I corrected, being fair. I didn't tell him that the only thing Diefenbaker was likely to devour - unless Benny was in trouble that was - was a plate of donuts. "So is there?" I demanded.
"Huh?" Johnnie was still casting worried glances over his shoulder.
"Anyone with him, apart from Diefenbaker." This time I said his name, hoping to pull Johnnie's attention back to me.
"Er. No." Johnnie said, finally fixing his attention back on me. "Just the wolf. Is it really a wolf, boss?"
"Half," I repeated. But it didn't seem to impinge on Johnnie's brain. Well, I'd never employed him for that anyway.
"So do you want to see him or not?"
And that was the sixty-four thousand dollar question. Did I want to see Benny? Could I bear to see Benny? Could I bear not to see him? It had been two years. But not a day had gone by when I hadn't thought about him. Not a night had passed when he hadn't haunted my dreams.
But it was no good. I couldn't see him. The past was the past. That part of my life was over. I wouldn't see him. "Sure. Show him in," I heard myself say.
Minutes or a lifetime passed.
Then he was standing in front of my desk, gazing down at me with the look that only Benny can produce. Dief was whining and bouncing up and down like a young puppy from where he'd been told to sit and stay. "Hello, Ray," he, Benny that is, not Dief, said. "How are you?"
I stood up, slowly, still keeping the desk between us. Hello, Ray? How was I? Christ it had been
two years, two fucking years and he walks in here, looking as calm, cool, collected, and gorgeous as ever, acting as though he only saw me two days ago. "I'm fine, Benny. And you?" See I could do cool, calm, and collected too. I could match his distant demeanor and raise him. "How's Kowalski?"
Benny blinked, tilted his head slightly, and smiled. The faint knowing smile; the one that always made me either want to thump or kiss it away.
"I believe that Stanley is quite well, Ray. Or at least he was when I last saw him."
He said something else, but it didn't encroach on my brain. All I was thinking was, Stanley. When the hell did he become Stanley?
"Ray. Ray. Ray."
I glanced at him. "Huh?" Oh, brilliant, Vecchio. Brilliant.
The knowing smile once more twitched the lips I longed to kiss. "I merely informed you that the last I time I saw Stanley Raymond Kowalski was twenty months ago, when I escorted him to the airplane that would return him to civilization."
"Oh, yes, Ray. New York. I believe that is where he chose to go. The trip we took was a mistake. Poor Stanley. The busy, dirty, dangerous city streets are where he belongs. Not an empty, clean, dangerous ice field."
I blinked. Twenty months ago? The little twerp had been gone twenty months? Except he wasn't a twerp. It wasn't his fault that he'd got to become me. That he spent time with Benny, time that should have been mine. It wasn't his fault that Benny took him as his partner. It wasn't his fault that I hated him. It wasn't even him. It would have been anyone.
So why had Benny waited twenty months before he came to find me?
"I was giving you time to forgive, Ray," Benny said, with his uncanny ability to mind read.
I gaped at him. Forgive? "I didn't have anything to forgive you for, Benny," I said, suddenly realizing that the words I spoke were the truth.
"No, Ray. I was waiting for you to forgive yourself." The blue eyes held me captive, as they'd always done. They bore into me, cutting through the wall that I had erected, burrowing under the layers I had thrown around myself.
My throat hurt. My eyes burned. I was torn between hatred and so much love that I thought it would destroy me. He just stood there, unmoving, still, silent. The perfect Mountie. Even Dief had quietened.
I strode around the desk, my fists clenched in fury, moving towards him, stepping into his personal space and glaring at him. "How dare you?" I spat. Then, "Oh, Benny." And I was in his arms, being held by him, being comforted like no one since Ma had ever comforted or held me. "Oh, Benny," I repeated. "Oh, Benny." I couldn't stop saying it. "Oh, Benny."
And then they came.
The tears that I'd held back since the day I'd made that phone call to him. When I'd tried to say everything, and said nothing.
The tears that I'd held at bay during my life as Armando.
The tears that I'd kept locked inside when I saw him with Kowalski.
The tears that I'd shut up, when I gave him permission - because that is what it had been - to walk out of my life; to go with Kowalski to ‘get his man'.
The tears that had died within me when I'd heard that not only had he and Kowalski ‘got their man,' but that he and Kowalski had gone off to get something else.
The tears I was certain I no longer knew how to shed.
I don't know how long I stood there, held in that secure, loving, freeing, embrace. I do know that by the time I lifted my head from his shoulder, the leather around where my face had rested was sodden. "How did you know?" I whispered.
"Oh, Ray," was all he said. Then he lowered his head and kissed me.
That was six months ago, and we haven't been apart since. Three months ago we made a commitment to one another and exchanged rings. Nothing now will ever part us again.
Now I'm watching him sleep - I do that a lot. And Dief is watching me watching Benny - he does that a lot too.
So now you can see that I didn't truly understand what forgiveness was until Benny taught me, can't you?
Forgiveness isn't about forgiving someone else.
Forgiveness is about forgiving yourself.
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