She rolled the window down and dangled her arm into the still shimmering heat. Her eyes drifted out of focus, the red light allowing her a moment of stillness in the sweltering late summer night. The air conditioned quiet of her car, without the children, had only amplified her loneliness, and she welcomed the noise, diesel fumes and unmuffled exhaust of the teenagers cruising in their muscle cars. Somehow the chaos banked the echoing canyon of her heart.
She had been doing this for so long alone, that she barely noticed it anymore. Or at least that’s what she thought. Isolation had been a part of her life for what felt like decades- isolation from her family, distance from her friends, geographical isolation when her marriage crumbled, emotional isolation as she picked up the shattered pieces and cobbled back together something of a life. “I am a rock, I am an island…” Paul Simon’s words meander through her brain as the light changes to bright green and she pushes the car into gear.
Moving off the main drag and turning down a backroad, her path is inky black and the humid night hair whips her hair in an untamed halo, catching on her earrings and spilling out the window into the night. She is living on borrowed everything right now- borrowed loans for college, borrowed house until graduation, borrowed light for her soul.
The loneliness inside permeates the layers of her spirit, and reaches towards heaven to her God. Living on memories. Is that borrowed light? She doesn’t know. She only knows she doesn’t know anything now, and she misses feeling close to God, feeling like she was heard and loved. Now, the silence echoes through the same canyon of her heart. Is it borrowed light if you are using your own stockpile? she wonders idly, downshifting at a a deserted crossroads.
How much can one person handle? Her thoughts wander. Platitudes roll through her mind- you get what you can deal with, put your shoulder to the wheel, you must be so strong, God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, I don’t know how you do it, count your blessings name them one by one, you chose this in the preexistence, and on and on the useless words roll. People mean well, she knows, and they don’t realize what they are saying. And the loneliness grows.
How much can she absorb, take in, buffer for those she loves, before she breaks? She is afraid to really ask that question, afraid the answer will terrify her and God will take it as a dare. Rationally, she knows this is crazy, but emotionally, her shoulders shake and she worries her knees are going to buckle any day now. How many times do you get knocked down? How bad can it hurt? How deeply can your heart be cut and have it still go on beating? Why does loving someone, anyone, everyone, hurt so much?
She laughs at herself. What kind of question is that? Silly girl. The smile lingers on her lips.
The night whips by, and the lights of home crest on the hill. Home, at least for now. Even if it is borrowed home, borrowed light, it’s still light, it still glows. It holds her children, and her lifelines, feeble though they may be, and it holds, despite the oppressive heat of the late summer night, hope. There are no answers. But there is that… a gossamer thread of hope.