IN THE LIGHT OF DAY
Night. Brian walked briskly across the street. His hands were in his coat pockets and his head was down. When he reached the other side of the street he glimpsed in the light of the street lamp a tall guy wrapped in a black cloak, with a hood, also black, on his head. To Brian, that guy was a complete stranger, although he had just seen him fleetingly in his face.
Brian was in a hurry to go home but after a few steps, he stopped and turned back. The stranger, still standing under the lamppost, was turning his head towards him. When Brian saw that the stranger wrapped in the black cloak was moving toward him, he started again walking his way at a brisk pace. When he was nearing his house he heard footsteps behind him. He turned back again. It seemed that the completely unknown guy was following him. He was walking with long strides, he had almost caught up with him. Brian thought of entering the house and closing the door before the stranger reached him. But his curiosity was strong. It seemed the stranger wanted something from him…Maybe he had to tell him something, maybe he was carrying an urgent message in the middle of the night. So he stopped and waited for the stranger to reach him. “ Oh, I knew it was impossible…” the stranger said when he was in front of him.
“ WHAT is impossible?” Brian asked.
“ That you were my friend George…It seemed so to me…I hoped so since you really look like him” the stranger said.
“ Does this friend of yours live in this city?” Brian asked.
“ Oh no,” the guy said, shaking his head. “ My friend George is dead” he added after a moment of silence.
“ It’s hard when a friend dies,” Brian said, in a sad tone.
“ All the more if it is a tragic death. My friend George committed suicide” The cloaked stranger said. “ Oh, I’m sorry” Brian muttered, not knowing what to say, what to do. He would have needed to go to bed, yet something kept him there in front of that stranger.
“ But how could you believe I was your friend if he died?” Brian asked.
“ Oh, I really hope to be able to see him again,” said the stranger.
“ But it is an absurd hope”
“ Not for us believers in the resurrection,” the man said gravely.
“ Oh, but that will only happen at the end of time,” Brian said.
“ No, we of the Archconfraternity of the Merciful Devotees believe it is possible in this world too. We believe that it is possible that those who died will return among us” said the stranger.
“ The Archconfraternity of the Merciful Devotees did you say? Was your friend George a part of it too?” Brian asked.
“ Yes…he was part of our Archconfraternity,” the stranger said with a tremor in his voice as if he were upset or afraid. “ He was one of our most appreciated confreres for his commitment, for his dedication to our mission” he added after a moment.
“ And WHY did he kill himself then?” It was natural to ask for Brian.
“ Ah…it’s a mystery. We are not able to explain it” The stranger muttered, in a voice as if he were embarrassed. “ Did he suffer from depression?” Brian asked.
“ Ah, yes, maybe…but none of us knew about it…He had confided in anyone” the cloaked stranger said. “ Do you know our Archconfraternity?” He asked.
“ Yes, I’ve heard of it, always in positive terms,” Brian said, not entirely sincere.
“ Would you like to be part of it too?” the foreign asked, in a sure, authoritative tone. “ Ah, my name is Michel, and what is your name?”
“ Brian, my name is Brian” He was taken by surprise at the foreigner’s sudden request made there, in the middle of the night, under those strange circumstances. “ Oh, I can’t just decide on the spur of the moment. I should think about it” Brian said hesitantly.
“ But sure, I understand. You need some information. We can talk about them” Michel said.
Should he have invited Michel to enter the house? Brian wondered, who said: “ Now it doesn’t seem the right time and place to talk about it…We can talk about it tomorrow”
“ Oh, I won’t be here tomorrow. If you want to know something about our Archconfraternity from me we have to talk about it tonight” Michel said, waving his arms as if they were wings.
“ I understand…tomorrow you have to leave. Okay then, let’s talk about it” Brian said, getting ready to open the front door. “ No, we don’t need to go inside the house. The night is so serene that we can walk in peace. And while we go for a walk under the stars we’ll talk. I’ll give you all the information you want about our Archconfraternity” Michel said, taking his arm.
Now Brian, moved by curiosity, was no longer sleepy and was preparing to listen with a certain impatience to all that Michel would have declaimed of the centuries-old Archconfraternity of the Merciful Devotees. He knew that the much renowned Archconfraternity had been founded many centuries ago and that at its origin it had been created to accompany those sentenced to death, and in particular the heretics to the stake to induce them to abjure and repent to save their souls, even if they would have died anyway. Thinking about its origin disturbed him, even if in the present time the Archconfraternity took care of helping the needy, the sick, and the wounded. And, yes, it was also in charge of burying the dead. Now, Michel’s friend, who had been a member of the much-vaunted Archconfraternity, had killed himself. The friend who looked so much to him, Michel had said.
“You know, our Archconfraternity takes care of the handicapped a lot…Think that we organize dance classes for those who can’t walk and we prepare audiobooks for the blind…” Michel was saying. “ Ah, very good” Brian commented distractively since he kept thinking about that friend of Michel who had killed himself. “ That friend of yours who killed himself, how did he kill himself?” He asked impulsively. “ He hanged himself,” Michel said. That way of killing (himself) reminded Brian so much of the gallows of those sentenced to death.
“ But aren’t you interested in our Archconfraternity? About what we do? Oh, you’ll see, when you become part of it you will discover a world of solidarity and brotherhood, you will be enthusiastic about”
Brian kept thinking: “ Your friend must not have found so much solidarity and brotherhood”
“Our Archconfraternity is a community where brotherhood and harmony reign among all. We are all for one and one for all. Among us, there are never quarrels and bad words, we live in perfect peace and we dedicate ourselves to helping our neighbor most in need in all humility.
We are all brothers, all equal, all devoted to our Lord Jesus Christ who taught us SACRIFICE…beatification, even sanctification through sacrifice. We live in a society based on materialism and selfishness that doesn’t even want to hear about SACRIFICE. Instead, our lives are all marked by SACRIFICE towards our neediest neighbor….” Michel was saying. SACRIFICE….
Brian couldn’t help but think that even the suicide is a sacrifice, a sacrifice of oneself. Not to mention that a person can also be induced to commit suicide. “ I really think your Archconfraternity is magnificent. But…once one enters, is he free to leave?” Brian asked.
“ Oh, why leave such a perfect community? No one has ever felt the need to leave! Anyone who joins our Archconfraternity is part of it forever, our community becomes his life that would no longer make ( have) sense if he left” Michel said.
“ But are the brothers however free to leave?” Brian insisted.
“ WHAT IS FREEDOM? Without our community not even freedom can exist for those who belong to it. It is only our community that guarantees each of us all possible freedom” said Michel who, as it began to dawn, seemed to become more ethereal and faded.
Brian thought that he finally could understand ….why Michel’s friend had killed himself.
“ And did your friend George commit suicide in order to leave your wonderful Archconfraternity of Merciful Devotees? Didn’t he?” He asked as it began to get light.
Michel not only didn’t answer but disappeared in the first light of day, as if he dissolved into air.