Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Thief in the Night

Nyesha was in deep sleep when her ears detected a sound like someone sliding her bedroom window open. The sound did not wake her.

She lived on the second floor of a flat, square-cornered, two-story brick apartment building. The tattered sign out front advertised “luxury apartments.” In the current real estate market, that meant anything better than a public housing project. It didn’t look any different than a project. All the plumbing and electricity worked, and there weren’t any rats to speak of. Naturally, there were iron bars outside every window. There were security lights on the parking lot all night, and the brick walls of the building offered no good way to climb up to the windows where her family lived.

A faint slithering sound, like something soft sliding past metal bars, did not wake her either.

The sound of breathing in the room, a few feet from her bed, did wake her up. The sight of a full-grown man standing in her room woke her up all the way. But she did not scream.

He was just standing there. She could see him clearly, a little more clearly than she should have in the dim light that came through her windows from the parking lot. He was kind of medium dark, with long curly hair loosely combed back. He was covered by a loose robe. She wouldn’t have said he glowed in the dark or anything, but she could see him.

“How did you get into my room?” she whispered.

“Through the window” he answered, in a surprisingly gentle voice. “Didn’t you ever read that I would return like a thief in the night?”

Nyesha’s mother sometimes took her to church, and sometimes didn’t. Nyesha remembered something like those words was in the Bible. Now who was it who said that anyway?

“Mother K says when Jesus comes back he’s going to crack the sky and appear in glory, surrounded by angels, with a great light around him...”

“I could do that. Well, not ‘crack the sky,’ because there is nothing solid about the sky. It’s an optical effect I arranged at the Beginning, putting the right mix of gases into your atmosphere, so that the blue light would be scattered evenly. It turned out to be a beautiful arrangement. Haven’t they taught you that in school? I thought your scientists had figured out the mechanics by now.”

“Yes, but they teach us different in church. Pastor says the scientists are teaching evolution and not to believe it, because I was wonderfully made.”

“So you were my dear. From bacteria, to a body fit to receive a living soul, in 3.5 billion years! It is truly wonderful. First the eukaryotes, then the prokaryotes... Yes, the hardest work was putting the first cell together. Everything after that was like rearranging a set of Legos. Still, there is none like you, even among your own species. You are unique. And then, the flesh did not totally accept the soul. Not a total rejection, but tweaking that relationship has been an endless piece of work.”

“Wait a minute” Nyesha said, waking up beyond waking up. “You telling me you are Jesus? I don’t see any throne glowing in the dark behind you, and no angels neither.”

“I didn’t call for any. My dear disciple John always wanted to see me that way. I even gave him a vision of it to comfort his last months, and like the faithful man he is, he wrote it all down. But those brilliant trappings don’t mean anything to me. It’s not like I’m a candidate for Emperor of Rome or anything. I don’t need to prove how powerful I am. I said I would come back like a thief in the night. I said you never know the day or the hour. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. I’m not trying to make a big impression right now. I just want to hang out here a while and see what’s up.”

“Down here in the ‘hood? In southeast? Everybody here so ignant you can’t learn nothing.” Hearing a man in her bedroom hinting that he was Jesus come back, and hanging out in the ‘hood, brought out her best street talk. Nyesha had her heart set on going to Harvard and becoming a neurosurgeon. She had the brains for it, and the study habits, and she knew five dialects of English. One of them was essential to daily survival. Another was just the natural way to talk in her family. Two more would be essential to her career. She could also speak Late Modified Middle English, with a syntax reminiscent of the King James Bible. She learned it from her grandmother.

“I can learn what I need to know anywhere. But this is where I feel at home. People with money and authority mostly ask me a lot of stupid questions, and then don’t understand the answers anyway. I could have been born in a palace the first time. I chose to be born in a manger, remember? I could sit right here in your bedroom and shut down the engines of all those planes taking off from the air force base. Which I may do after I sort out what they are up to.”

“If you be Jesus, why you need to come back here to find out what they up to?”

“The perspective be totally different, girl. I know what it look like to me. I need to find out what it look like to you... You and, at last count I think it was 6 billion of you? Man, that is not what we had in mind when the command “Let there be light” was issued. It was all calibrated so carefully, the plasma, the hydrogen clouds, the rapid production of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen... This world was intended for about one to two billion souls max. Not a very intelligent design, was it?”

“Aren’t you going to crash planes and lift people into the sky and leave cars with no drivers plowing into each other?”

“What kind of gross science fiction have you been reading? I’m the Prince of Peace, the Lamb who was slain. I came not to judge the world but to save the world. And from the way it looks here, you-all have a lot to be saved from right now. Me, crash planes and take drivers out of cars? People might get hurt!”

“So what you want me to tell mama when she come in to wake me up for school, and there be this strange man in my bedroom?”

“Well, let’s see. You can tell her that Jesus has come back, and you were blessed to be the first person on earth to see him... Or you can tell her that a thief climbed in the window without breaking those bars that are spaced four inches apart, and you didn’t scream... Or you can go back to sleep, and I’ll make myself scarce.”

“You mean you just got here and you going away?”

“I always just got here, I’m always going away, and I’m always coming back. But don’t worry, you can count on one thing: I will always be with you. Just, I won’t let your mama see a strange man in your room. Hey, you go to a public school, right? Someone is passing rumors around on the internet that I am not allowed in school. I’ll be hanging out there today. Your brother got a ’do rag I can borrow? Just tell him ‘the Lord has need of it.’”

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