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Every Place Where You Set Your Foot

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As the bright, golden dawn sifts through the window and into your vision, tinted a glowing orange by the blood-raw pink of the backs of your eyelids, your dreams melt away before they can implant themselves on your conscious mind. You open your eyes, feeling not so much renewed as invigorated. You are not just awake; you are awake for a reason. You blink a couple of times, rapidly adjusting to the sunlight that pours in through the unfamiliar window in this stranger’s house. The floating specks of dust sparkle in the bright beams that wash through the room as they dance before you, never drifting towards the ground. You want to be like them, you think, somewhat irrationally, in your newly awakened, semi-coherent mind. You are filled with the desire to keep running, to keep searching, to tear down these walls that now hold you inside. You have no idea where you are, but that doesn’t matter. You don’t want to hide in here; you want to keep searching for him. You have to.

“Are you awake, child?” A voice calls from another room, soft but strong enough to carry clearly through the door. It's difficult to determine from the sound of the voice alone whether your host is a man or a woman. They sound somewhat aged, though. You would have thought so even if they had not addressed you as “child,” despite the fact that you are fully grown and had a son of your own. No, you correct yourself, you have a son of your own. Somewhere.

“Yes,” you call back in answer. You do not know whether you can trust this person yet or not, but they appear to have set you up in a comfortable bed in a nicely furnished, if somewhat minimalistic, room. Perhaps a guest room; it is fairly small, but very clean. The huge window covers almost all of the East wall, and the off-white colour scheme enhances the brightness of the room. Supposing that you should probably thank them for their hospitality regardless of their intentions, you call out, “Thank you,…?”

A few seconds pass wherein your companion refrains from providing their name as you were intending they would, and you wonder if perhaps they’ve left, before you hear them respond, “You’re welcome, child.”

You consider saying something like, “You’re very kind, Mr. …?” or “I really appreciate it, Ms. …?” but you don’t know which address to use and don’t want to risk offending them. So finally, you simply ask, “What is your name?”

“Yucca,” is the reply.

Great. What kind of name is that? That really doesn’t help. You climb out of the bed, slightly dismayed to find yourself still in yesterday’s dirty clothes instead of having changed into underwear or even perhaps a set of this stranger’s pyjamas, and open the door. Yucca, as you had correctly assumed, appears to be well into her seventies, if not her eighties. She is clearly a woman. Her silver hair cascades over her frail shoulders, and her warm smile is formed by what were most likely once well-shaped lips that have thinned and creased with age. The crows’ feet at the corners of her cerulean eyes are endearing and somewhat reassuring in an odd and unfounded way. Despite her advanced age and her tiny frame, however, she is not that much shorter than you. She stands very straight in the doorway as she continues to smile warmly at you. You don’t so much relax as feel slightly less negative. The urgent energy and need to keep running still thrums through your veins as if your body is bracing for a sprint. You clear your throat, which feels surprisingly less unpleasant than you had anticipated. You recall feeling rather parched yesterday. “Yucca. It’s – It’s nice to meet you.” You actually are tempted to stay, but you need that sunlight back on your face as you continue to traverse the country in the pursuit of all that matters to you. You don’t know how long it’s been by now. Time melted away as the days all moulded together what feels like a long time ago, but you refuse to acknowledge that he is gone. Your travels may have roughened and weakened your body, maybe even your mind, but not your motivation. Your love for your son still burns strong. No amount of time could ever rust that. So, you say, “I must leave.”

Yucca reaches out and places a warm, bony hand on your shoulder as she looks up slightly to meet your eyes. She says in a gentle voice, “Child, you do not have to leave.”

“No, no, I think you misunderstand me. I must leave,” you say in a voice that is slightly harder than you had intended.

She surprises you when she responds, “No,” with a firmness and finality to rival your own. “You were passed out on the outskirts of the desert when I found you, child. So, I pulled over and brought you here after checking that you were alive. The fact that I was able to lift you with barely any strain is not so much a testament to my strength as to your malnourishment. I was on my way home anyway. I stayed with you in here and waited on the side of the bed with a glass of water. Your eyes fluttered a few times, which I took to mean that you were awake enough to drink. I sat you up and held the glass to your lips. You were so disoriented. You held your eyes open but just stared down at the rim of the glass. When I prompted you to drink, you ignored me, even after I tried shaking your shoulder. So, finally I pulled your jaw open and tilted your head back as I fed you the water. Luckily, your body seemed to know enough to swallow it on reflex. But your mind… I gave you several more glasses after that. I expected the water to wake you up a bit more, but you just fell back asleep shortly after. Although, I am glad to see that it seems to have done you at least some good. Well, getting out of that desert heat is probably a part of it, too. But nonetheless, child, you are in no condition to leave, let alone on your own.”

“No, NO,” you protest, a hint of panic bleeding into your tone. You must find him. You try to fit past Yucca and the doorframe without actually pushing her, but she keeps moving to block your path. “Damnit!” You finally bark out as you turn to face her head-on. You know that some of the wildness that you’re feeling must be showing now, whether it’s in your eyes or your voice or just the way you’re now behaving altogether, because Yucca startles for a moment when she catches your determined stare.

She recovers quickly, however, and places both hands firmly on your shoulders, grounding you, trying to steady you. “Stop. Please.” She manages to sound both commanding and imploring. “What is so important?” she asks sincerely.

“My – My son.” Your voice breaks a little, and so do you.

Her eyes soften in compassion at the pain reflected back in yours. “I see,” she says softly. She guides you back into the room and over to the bed and gently presses your shoulders down until you’re seated on the edge. You barely even register that you’re being maneuvered to sit for how naturally it comes to you to comply to her guiding hands.

Yucca brings a chair over from the corner of the room and pulls it before the side of the bed to face you. As she sits to meet your eye level, she takes your calloused hands into her fragile ones, and smiles slightly at you when you meet her eyes at the touch. Her smile seems wistful, as though she is trying to see through your eyes and into the life behind them.

You feel a bitter resentment arise in you as you take in her compassion. You do not deserve compassion, and this stranger has no right to be assailing you with it. Not after letting him disappear. The thought that he left because of you continues to quietly torment you. You try to assure yourself, you always try to assure yourself, that it was not because of you. That you had always been a kind and loving parent, that you would have given your life for him and had always tried to make no secret of the fact. When you cried out to whatever higher presence may have been listening to please return your son, and their answer, if any, came only in the form of his continued absence, you couldn’t help but feel like some punching bag for that power, whether it be God or the Universe or Fate or whatever else was out there tossing you about in the wind, raining blow upon blow down on you and beating your soul into capitulation. At times. But at times when you prayed for him with your mind clear of doubt and guilt, his continued absence didn’t feel permanent. The lack of an immediate answer to your entreaty didn’t feel like a taunt then. Without the terrifying doubts over whether or not you even deserved him, his continued absence was an encouragement to only continue searching, to only search harder. But right now, your mind is not clear. You cannot bear this. You cannot bear this kind stranger’s compassion and apparent need to protect and nurse you back to health. You yank your hands out of hers but make no move to stand. You are surprised at how exhausted you feel. “Let me leave, now.” Your voice comes out as determined as you had intended, if a bit too low and menacing.

“No,” Yucca answers back almost as fiercely. She places a hand on your knee in what is commonly a comforting gesture, but her fingers dig into your jeans and her palm is snug against the bone in a gesture that can only be interpreted as commanding. Stay. The command is wordless and you hear it loud and clear. In a much softer tone she continues, “Tell me about your son. Where is he?”

You sigh in defeat. There is no way that this woman is letting you leave, and the fact that you just know that you would be too weak to fight back, even if you were to put effort into doing so despite the fact that she is a kind, elderly woman, is testament to the fact that she is probably right to insist you stay, at least for now. “The streets he wanders are nameless,” you mutter.

Yucca’s brow creases in confusion and she asks tentatively, “You mean… you lost him?”

You nod, staring at your hands that rest in your lap.

“I’m sorry,” she says softly. A few seconds pass before she asks, almost more tentatively than before, “Why… What is so urgent, then, if I may?”

You snap your head up to look disbelievingly at her. “He’s lost, not dead.”

“Oh,” Yucca says with unconcealed surprise, her kind eyes wide. “I misunderstood you, then. I’m sorry. When you said that the streets are nameless, I thought – well, never mind.”

You nod in understanding. “You thought of the nameless streets of Heaven.”

“Yes. I am sorry. Will you… Will you tell me about your son?”

You sigh once more in resignation. “Fine.” After all, it’s not like you can continue your search at the moment, and, well, he is the only thing on your mind. You wax poetic about how great he is until you run out of words.

Yucca listens attentively. When you finish speaking, she asks, “Tell me about your search for him?”

You are grateful that she doesn’t ask you about his disappearance directly. “There’s not much to tell,” you lie.

“Child,” she says sternly, as if you actually are a child whom she is calling out on a lie.

You huff an exasperated breath. “Yeah, yeah, alright,” you finally concede. After all, you know you’re just going to be reliving your journey over and over again in your mind while you’re holed up here. You might as well bring Yucca along for the ride. It’s all you can do, really.