With Donnie Darko on the Gravel Road

Mattaman McKearnee
March 4, 2011
To His Eminence Carlo Maria Martini: You’re Absolutely Ridiculous
March 7, 2011

Upon the Gravel Road

Shakespeare read it with a mouth turned upward, eyes across Avon. We read it engulfed in steel- and glass-clad obelisks. And it is only a study of faces in a single hour of a single day.

Paul, I have heard, said something simple. And I cling to Paul like moss to a stone: “Faith, hope, and love.” Science shuns the dull blade that butchers will. But you love Science, Donnie. You have shirked the dust at Paul’s front door.

And beneath my feet, the coarse stones whipped up and out by order of the autumn wind.

“This morning,” I whispered, a voice couched in cough, “I turned inward at the beveled eyes of that stained Jesus. I clapped my hands around my chest and through my heart. I searched for what it meant to be belief.”

Donald culled his ravaged eyes from where they were, away from against the sun, and rustled my denim.

“Dwarfs made their hollow way inside Moria, and temples underearth were as impressive as woebegone Solomon spires. Castles in the white sand of Sandals. Brown huts of the Village, wrested from Connecticut.” He said this as a smile crept inside his lips and turned the voice of doubt into a season changing.

“But Mother Science tells us time is at our fingers’ edge. And we have given it all up to God. God is all but us admitting we are lazy assholes in a world of lazier assholes.”

I remembered what father said, that rich thing uttered by the smallest man beneath the corrugated faces of my Christ: “To do something without faith is only doing something.”

Atoms quell the stirring of our anxious hows as soon as commandments from a mountain. And I knew this then–for Donnie walked differently on that road.

“Are you walking because there’s a road, or because of where the road leads?”

“I am tired of being still,” he snapped back. No breath. And his hair, not as grave as his stillborn eyes, danced at whim between the sunshine.

“Sometimes it is enough just to walk,” he said.

There was a pause between us, heavier than the wind could carry. I ignored him, or forgot what was once said, and thought only of myself.

“I burrowed the stubborn walls of my chest, cracked the veins. They shouted back with blood as children’s faces that weep when scolded for nothing wrong. I had no ideas what does believe. I am as much a child as a child. The one who says: ‘What is faith?'” It wasn’t to him I said this, but to the air, to the fall, to the trees, and to that ill-advising road without a toll.

He laughed a moment in the open air as though I’d told a joke. Or maybe, like black holes, I had confounded him and he defused it with giggles. But his eyes smiled suddenly, and he said, “I have made love to Science in open fields and burning night skies, swelling with stars. You have made love to a man who wrecked the sad Truth of humankind with hands hung wide, clutching nails and begging the God of whom he was a part. Who is more foolish?”

There wasn’t wind when he wound his way around me. No more smiles joining either face, no more the sun shimmering happily despite us. But there was still a road. He, uncareful, callous, and confused, walked with wandering steps and slow past my crooked feet. Into droves of trees that hugged the road–until, in too many embraces, obscured forever the way that he might go.

I turned to the south and boldly practiced steps returning to my home. But as I arrived there, it was not the least the same. For what I had left was not any longer my home, but a thing I left behind for an open road. And that was all it might have been.

Even if, in truth I searched in faith, and begged in prayer, and calculated all in love. Even if there were a man named Christ still hung somewhere on a splintered wood on a gravel road sick to death of sunshine.

The day decided to answer every last prayer with clouds that afternoon, and rain spilled heavily from above. Even Avon disappeared when the storms opened their hands to our arrogance. Shakespeare, on that decrepit day, buried away the pen and spent his hours shivering in bed with an enduring pox of emptiness.

I do not read Shakespeare. But yes, I do write some in the rain.

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