The details are as important as they are unimportant– it’s a familiar story, aligned with human nature and mistrust and volatility making way for more volatility. It’s the story favored my fables and parables and allegories. And it begins when Sacha owes Yoga Lady money.
We were gathered in the Carter’s new living room, full on build-your-own spaghetti squash bowls with acorn squash and apples baking for dessert. It was the last day of the big rain, a holding pattern the most recent hurricane kept in our corner of North Carolina, leaving everything we owned damp. We meandered through usual topics of missing cigarettes and interpreting dreams, when another story unraveled from small town past. Sacha owed Yoga Lady money.
Sacha told Yoga Lady, “I owe you money.”
Yoga Lady says, “Please, don’t worry about it.”
Sacha says, “I will pay you.”
Yoga Lady says, “Please, stop bothering me with this, don’t worry about it.”
Sacha says, “I will pay you, anyway. I will pay you $60.”
These are the interactions of 3 months time. Sacha agrees that three months is a long time. I assert that in living and working in Black Mountain, an area comprised half of tourists, three months is a difficult time to conjure $60. Right out of college, this was my home, sharing rent with three to five other girls in a two bedroom house, working as many jobs as offered. When winter came, we had to let the oil run out, and dangerously made due with a lit, open oven to keep our teeth from chattering. We each began separately collecting small items– toilet paper, garbage bags, pieces of bread– from our work place. We weren’t lying to ourselves: we called it stealing. We also called it surviving. It was the recession, and our student loans hit us all faster than we could get jobs to pay them, and thus began the desperate and typical beginning of our generation. Five dollars toward a pack of cigarettes went further than five dollars of food, and curbed the appetite longer. We were poor, but we weren’t alone.
The inevitable conflict of the fable occurred when Yoga Lady lost her zen unexpectedly and reamed out Sacha in her place of work. Then again in the street. Then again in the grocery store. All snake eyes and venomous words. All no-going-backs and tables-have-turned. All Sacha hurt and wondering what happened between the words, It’s okay and Deadbeat.
The next morning, the marvel of a golden globe fell across the slowly changing October leaves around the grocery store parking lot we parked our camper in after dinner at the Carter’s. I squinted at the long gone light and grabbed my yoga mat. I would downward dog my way out of the Great Sadness that had fallen over the past week. That’s when I started thinking of the crucifixion. Classic.
It goes like this: what if the story is more simple than believing? What if this death we have built thousands of years of argument over isn’t about who gets in and who doesn’t, but a hyperbolic example of not being angry, anymore. What if Jesus wasn’t coming here to do us a favor by forgiving our sins, but doing us a different kind of favor– the favor of a good example. Even if none of this business of death and sin is true, even if Hell and Heaven do or don’t exist, the fact still stands that within this Christian narrative, Jesus died so that angry people wouldn’t be angry, anymore. Jesus paid this debt, real or imaginary, so that we could quit yammering on about holiness and owing. Less, Now you are free to live eternally and more like Listen, idiots, if I can die for your imaginary standards, you can manage to forgive a few dollars between humans.
But here is the ending of a fable: the choice. The moral. This is how I know this story is real life and not written in a book. If I were to find Yoga Lady and pay her those $60, would it be enough to stop her being angry? If I paid her Sacha’s debt double, could Yoga Lady be able to see Sacha without snarling? This is how I know that I am not the valiant hero in even my own life story: I’m not willing to part with my $60 to find out. And it seems, as stories of paying up go, for this 7 year debt, if Yoga Lady is not participating in the year of Jubilee, she may be requiring blood.
I love this so much. The words, “If your Christianity doesn’t make you a kinder, less fearful person, then what the hell is the point?” came out of my mouth the other day. But I am not ready to part with my $60 to find out either.