In his youth, Oliver told everybody he was good. That he cared for them, and wished for only joy to touch their lives. That he prayed and hoped he could greet them at the gates to a glorious Zion. That he loved everyone.
These were lies.
Possibly, his statements were true once, when his boyish smile shined from the joy in his soul, but his heart hardened as he aged; eventually, that grin was as hollow as the pit that had grown inside him. Yet, this was not a chasm he’d dug himself.
No, other hands had clawed that abyss into place; it’d been ripped asunder by ragged talons belonging to beasts he once knew, but barely recognized anymore. Monsters, he called them, an epithet he wished was also a lie, but one he knew was accurate; monsters were real, and soon, it was the only thing he considered true.
Why, then, was this? Why had his earlier aspirations of goodwill fallen into that cavernous hole? What orge had so thoroughly convinced Oliver of its own existence by tearing open that crater?
In part, the size of this cavity was due to it having been two monsters that had hacked away at the soft soil of his soul. Although, it must be stated: these creatures never had any intentions of digging into that ground. It was only through their incessant fighting--their forepaws raking the earth as they swiped at each other--that they had managed to ravage the land upon which they’d stood. Too late did they notice the burrow they’d created in Oliver, and by then, it seemed unlikely to refill--and the time appeared gone for him to call them anything but monsters.
Perhaps this was an unfair title to give. After all, they’d held other monikers previously, which he’d once so lovingly addressed them by: Mom and Dad. Although, it could’ve been those very names that led to his belief they were now monsters; having been told tales of bogeymen as a child, as so many children are, how else was he supposed to characterize the savage demons slowly possessing his own parents? As Oliver developed from a toddler into a young boy, he witnessed the schisms growing in their marriage; the older he grew, the more he could see them gradually transmorph from benevolent guardians into the belligerent brutes they became.
For a while, he told himself it wasn’t him to whom their anger was directed; it was each other they wished their hostility upon. But what child doesn’t also feel the wounds inflicted on their progenitors? Dad would scratch at Mom, but Oliver felt the graze; Mom would slash at Dad, and Oliver would bear the mark. This wasn’t aided by the gashes they would accidentally--but inevitably--cause upon his turf.
After shouting at Dad, Mom would snarl at Oliver to go to his room--so consumed with her wrath, she never noticed how this pained him. After insulting Mom, Dad would smirk at Oliver, as if hoping his son approved--intoxicated with false pride, he failed to see how this only drained Oliver. And on and on this went.
“Monsters,” Oliver would call them, but never aloud--never to them. “Monsters.”
Thankfully, there did come a day when the monsters realized the errors of their ways; it required a divorce, and many years apart, each stewing in their resentment and hate until finally tasting the brew they’d made together--they both found it bitter, and hastily spit it from their embarrassed maws.
They reconnected, and discussed the causes of their respective fury; after many tearful apologies and explanations, they reached a amicable, respectable conclusion: they were better divorced, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t stay close--they could still be there for each other, and more importantly, for Oliver. As they affectionately embraced, whispering assurances of their platonic love into each other’s ears, for the first time, the hide of their beasts began to molt away.
But what was Oliver to make of this? He’s much older now--a man in his prime--so what did he think of his parents’ newfound friendship--and that it was formed for his sake?
He did not take it well at first.
In his eyes, it wasn’t two friends sitting before him, sobbing as they spoke of their regret for the hurt they’d bestowed upon him. No, these were still the beasts he’d known since childhood; their amiability wouldn’t last, as it never does for feral predators in the wild, and his safest recourse was to retreat into his cave and wait for the animals to pass. He ran from their presence, and vowed to never speak to them again. They held each other and cried as they watched him go; it was the first glimpse they’d had of the trench they’d formed inside him, and they feared it was too deep to ever fill again.
But although Oliver didn’t want to admit it, fissures had begun to grow in the monstrous image he held of them, even before their attempt at reconciliation. He still called them monsters, and said to himself that was a truth--told himself that he steadfastly and adamantly adhered to it--but there was doubt hiding in his belief; somewhere, perhaps lurking in the pit, something suggested that this truth was actually a lie.
In his early twenties--that unstable edge of adulthood--Oliver’s mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. An autoimmune disorder, the disease wreaks havoc upon one’s nervous system, creating lesions on the brain and spinal cord; the affected’s mind--and body--is essentially shredded by itself. Limbs become numb, speech is slurred, and thought is impaired; life is turned into a strenuous struggle to stay alive, and to maintain one’s self and identity.
All of this would be hard for anyone to deal with, especially when diagnosed in the early stages of the disease; sadly, for Mom’s case, the doctors informed her that she’d had the disorder for years.
This meant it hadn’t been a monster that raised Oliver; no, it’d been his mother--still Mom--but it was she who’d been in the unyielding clutch of a frothing beast. The creature he’d witnessed scratching into his soul had been ravaging into hers, as well; it was that animal he’d seen drape its fur over her, disguising her as it clawed into him, fooling him as to its real identity. The monster was real--but so was Mom.
Was it this same demon that had masked his father, too? That’s less uncertain, but Oliver couldn’t help but try to imagine what Dad had seen. To Dad, Mom had slowly turned into a hulking, irrational being, incapable of aiming her disdain--unknowingly summoned by the unseen disease--at anywhere but him. Perhaps a cooler head could’ve prevailed against her--soothing words that may have guided Mom towards learning of the secret festering within--but Dad had unfortunately reacted to the beast as viciously as he was attacked.
Oliver wanted to blame him for this, but as he became older and surpassed the age at which Dad had him, he learned something about his father: when Oliver was born, Dad was but a kid himself. He had thought of him then as a man, but Oliver knew now when Dad had helped bring him into this world, he was but a boy on the cusp of manhood. He wasn’t sure if that fully excused Dad’s behaviour--or the childish irrationality he’d fired back at Mom--but Oliver felt he could forgive him, if only a little.
And it was with tossing in those few grains of forgiveness that the fissure in the monstrous image began to expand; those same granules fell into the chasm, and slowly began to refill it.
It didn’t happen immediately, and took several years of careful cultivation, but eventually something grew in that fresh, loosened soil; life and love bloomed once again in Oliver. With every inch it grew--with every leaf that reached towards the warmth, and every vine that yearned for the sky--so, too, did the truths Oliver once felt grow anew. The kindness he’d once shown strangers returned, as did his wishes for their everlasting peace. He smiled more and more, and soon as often as he could, and hoped to share his joy with everyone he met. His faith was slowly restored, and he relearned how to pray, and prayed for others to have their hearts held in the gentle arms of whatever spirituality they believed.
He started to believe he could be good again.
But were these still lies? Had he not devolved into a being as monstrous as the bogeymen he’d once thought he’d seen?
Maybe; but to slay a beast, one must face it with sword in hand, and an unwavering eye--for all these to be truths again, Oliver must first destroy the lies.
So here he stands, his fist poised to knock upon the door to his mother’s house, where both his parents nervously sit inside, called there at Oliver’s insistence. They are hopeful he’s asked them there to accept their apologies; Oliver hopes he will, as well. His answer is still uncertain to him, as are the futures begat with either a yes or no.
But the earth he now stands upon--though still new--is strong; a small plant, almost imperceptible in the shadows, blooms into a glowing light that brightens his eyes: a blossom of hope. On its petals shines the strength he needs, and its scent is an invigorating perfume; he breathes it in, and detects its truth.
There is no longer a monster, nor a hollow pit, inside him; there is now only the holy fragrance of tilled dirt and saccharine flowers: the blessed fragrance of the magnanimous truth--and goodness--he’d known before. And so he smiles, and lets his closed hand rap against the door, and happily waits to forgive the monsters inside.
Although, he must confess that still holds dishonesty. These aren’t rapid beasts anxiously awaiting his presence; no, these are just his parents, whom he still loves dearly, and can now admit to himself. Yes, they had hurt him--had scratched and bitten him--but it’d been unintentional; he can’t hold onto that pain forever, and he can no longer fling it back at them. He needs to remind himself they are simply people; imperfect people, of course, but people nonetheless, and it’s his charge now to provide them the forgiveness for which they so desperately wish. Perhaps he’s deluding himself that it’ll be easy, but he’s more confident than ever that it can be done; he just has to remember his love for them.
Inside, his parents near the door, and Oliver smiles again. In his cheery grin is a truth he’d once known but had forgotten, and was just now coming back to him as he thinks of his love for Mom and Dad: there are no monsters here.
That would be a lie.
The door opens, and the truth is received.