Altruistic emotion (WARNING, although fiction, religious sensitivities may be offended)
Mother Mary Comes to Me
"Pip Larson?" asked Mother Mary.
He knelt before the statue, as close as he could get, whispering his reply so the others couldn't hear. Imagine what they'd say if they knew he conversed with the Madonna?
"I'm here, Mary." Using her first name made him uncomfortable, but she'd insisted since the first time they'd met. Clad in a white dress shirt and grey pants, the best he owned, meticulously ironed to impress her, he shook with nerves, sweat soaking his undershirt. What if I don't know what to say this time?
"You look very nice today, Pip."
"Thank you, Blessed Mother. It's not new, I've worn it before. It's all I can afford."
"Piiiip?" she dragged out his single-syllable name. "What did I ask you to call me?"
"I'm sorry your... I'm sorry, Mary, it's not easy. I'm trying. It feels wrong."
"It's ok, Pip, I forgive you. And you don't have to dress up for me, but you're adorable for doing so."
"Oh, but I do. By rights, I'm not even worthy to look upon you, much less talk to you."
"Poppycock," said the statue in a hushed tone, stone face fixed on a cross mounted outside the small alcove.
"Holy Mother, you bless me with your words and your kindness, but why reveal yourself to me?"
The church was quiet, only murmurs from the scattering of souls, deep in prayer, lighting candles.
"Pip, have you ever been in love?"
"I don't think so. I mean, I love my mother and I love God, and you, of course, but if you mean a girl?"
"Yes, Pip, a girl, have you ever loved a girl?"
Pip stared at the ground. "I thought I did, once, last year in school." He shuffled back and forth on his knees. "Her name was Rosanna, and she'd always smile at me in class. You know I'm very shy, and I tried to smile back, but I probably just looked constipated. Oh, oh, I'm so sorry, Holy Mother, please forgive me."
"Pip, constipation is a natural bodily function, it's not profane." There was a faint chuckle.
"I'm sorry. I'm very nervous."
"Relax, dear, sweet boy. Tell me what happened with Rosanna, did you become friends? Lovers?"
"Well, no. When I finally got up the nerve to talk to her, she was rude and dismissive. Then I felt like I hated her. I guess I couldn't have loved her. I guess I've never loved a girl. Not yet."
"I see. So, you are a virgin, Pip."
He could feel his face reddening, heat moving from his cheeks to his forehead. "Yes, I am, even though some of my friends are not, or so they say. My mother said the church forbids sex before marriage. But I feel the urges. I hope that's not sin. I try to concentrate on other things - more important things."
"Like what?" she whispered.
"School, my homework, chores for my dad and the church, of course."
"Have I done wrong, have I sinned?"
"Of course not, Pip, don't be silly, you're a good young man, that's why I picked you."
"Picked me? Picked me for what?"
"Pip, what do you know of my story, my history?"
Pip thought for a moment - many stories from the Bible, so many conflicting with each other. He didn't want to insult her or suggest she was anything short of praiseworthy in his eyes. "You are the mother of Jesus, the mother of our Lord and savior."
"Umm, well, when you bore our savior, it is written you were a virgin. I mean, you were pure before accepting the seed of the holy one."
"That is true, Pip, I had never known a man, and never would. You and I have that purity in common. At least for now."
Pip was confused. "But after the birth of Jesus, you and Joseph, I mean surely, Jesus' siblings?"
"Pip, after giving birth to Jesus, no man would have me. None could even look at me that way, especially Joseph. I can't blame him. Could you look at a nun with desire? No! And yes, there were more children, children that I lovingly raised, but none were of my womb."
Pip looked around. Streams of sunlight pierced the stained glass, random spotlights painting colorful patches throughout the church. The others, the people he'd seen before, had gone, or were somewhere else, somewhere he couldn't see from the alcove. He whispered just in case. "I understand. In fact, now that you say it, it makes perfect sense. Nobody would be worthy of the mother of the savior. The mother of God must stay pure, undefiled by man."
"I see you understand."
"So, you must help me, Pip, help me feel that love."
"Help you?" He was wild-eyed, his hands trembling, heart pounding in his chest.
"Yes, Pip, I was denied that love, never to know the purest act of giving oneself to another. Two souls, in love, bound together, physical melding to spiritual. Agape."
"What are you saying, Mary?" he placed his trembling hands over his ears. "I cannot be a part of this conversation. I cannot have these thoughts."
"Pip, Pip, calm yourself, breathe. I have misled you. Please hear me out."
"I think I should go. I think this is wrong." He thought about his words. "Oh, oh heavens, I'm not saying you are wrong, Holy Mother. I'm so confused, I don't know what I'm saying. Please forgive me. My mind, it races to places it shouldn't. I have accused the Mother of God."
"Pip. Stop, please. I love you. I would never hurt you, confuse you, or lead you astray. I only ask for company, for understanding through your eyes, through your experiences. I ask for a friend."
"I am not worthy, not capable."
"Oh, but you are, Pip. Although what I ask requires great sacrifice. So, if you agree, I must know your decision was made willingly, freely, uncoerced by me. If you say yes, I must know you want this for yourself, not for me."
"What is it you want from me, Mary?"
"I need you to stay. Never leave this town, stay here, with me, be my friend, and tell me everything. As you grow, let me live through you, feel through you. The love you will give another is a love I must experience."
"No, no," he shook his head, "friendship requires equality. I am not your equal, far from it. I have no right to call you friend. You are the Holy Mother of God, you are a saint. One cannot worship a friend. I cannot look upon you as an equal."
"You are a smart boy, Pip. You were brought up well, with understanding far beyond your sixteen years. That's why I picked you. That's why you can hear me."
"Then you understand why I can't be your friend. I serve you. I live for you."
There was silence. A distant cough. A motorbike sped past the church, making a buzzing, whining sound as it faded into the ubiquitous drone of traffic.
"There's more you need to know, Pip. You see, I not only hear you, communicate with you, but I can feel you too, feel your emotions - like they were my own."
He blushed. "My embarrassment is acute. I don't know what to say."
"That's just it, Pip. You don't really need to say anything. All I ask is that you visit, every day. Talk if you wish, but allow me the joy of your emotions, the joy of your growth. I want to feel everything. Your highs and lows, your fear and your anger. But most of all, I seek those emotions denied me during my lifetime, during my joyous role in the life of our savior."
"I am shy. This, you already know. When my life is ultimately blessed with those feelings, this love you speak of, I am too simple to convey them in words. I remain a poor scholar, an even worse orator. I will not be able to explain."
"Explain as you did just now, so well? You are a lovely boy, Pip, a lovely man. Your confidence will grow. I will help you. But rest assured, I need not your budding vocabulary, only your thoughts. Only your feelings."
"As a friend?"
"As a friend, indeed." She paused. "Pip, I was born of human womb. I am a woman, chosen for a role, myself unworthy. I assure you, we are most certainly deserving of friendship, quite equal in thought and value."
"May I consider it? May we talk tomorrow?"
"Of course. As I said, free will. You must come willingly."
"And if it's too much for me? Too overwhelming?"
"Then we will remain friends. Although I suspect you'll forget me over time and travel."
"That is not possible. I love you." A tear formed in the corner of his eye.
"And I you. You have broken my loneliness. You visit me, not with requests, but with interest, as a friend would. You opened your mind and let me inside. You trusted me. Without you, I'd be left standing, stone-cold, waiting in my loneliness for another to try."
"I do not want you to be lonely. I want you to be happy."
"I know, Pip."
He slowly shook his head and stood. "I will sleep on this. I will pray to God for wisdom and strength. Strength to befriend you, to honor you. To be everything you need me to be - for your happiness. I will return tomorrow with an answer." He smiled. A smile of understanding, warmth and a little pity. "I don't want you to be lonely anymore." Warmth radiated from the statue, filling him, embracing him.
After a moment in silence, he crossed himself and moved to the main entrance and the huge grey steps - mind bursting with uncountable thoughts. Overjoyed at being chosen, yet fearing the obligation, one that would last a lifetime. Happy to have found a friend, a real friend, but saddened they would never meet in the flesh. He felt love, true love, for an angel, a saint, a sister. But there was also dread. What if he couldn't live up to her expectations, never provide the love she seeks, never live the life she needs in order to feel whole?
But he already knew the answer. He would tell her he'd try. Not because she was the Mother Mary, but because she was a woman, worthy of friendship, entitled to a complete life, full of every experience and emotion. Even if she could only live it through someone else. He would give that to her. And he would not leave her lonely.
He stood at the bottom of a hundred stone steps - mind clear, decision firm. Should I go back and tell her, or go home and pray and sleep and rest, then return in the morning?
Pip looked about for inspiration, drinking in God's creation, the scurrying people, busy street vendors, buses and trolleys, all noisy with purpose. It is only right to tell God of my decision. Look at his world, his design, who am I to make such a decision without his knowledge. I must get home, I must find seclusion, a place where we can talk, a place where I can tell him of my choice. I will explain that Mary, his mother, our Saint, will finally be complete, a gift she deserves, a reward I can provide. Through my sacrifice, she will experience what she was denied so long ago. She will live through me, she will feel it all, she will never be lonely and wish for nothing. This is my sacrifice, my life to give, the purest act of altruism. Me, a mere mortal, chosen, just as she was, yet giving of myself willingly. I will be a martyr for the Saint.
His chest swelled, mind bursting with pride. I must get home, home to tell God of my mission. Blessed be the Holy Mother, for I, Pip Lawson, hold the earthly rewards she was once denied. They are mine to offer, and I will give them to Mary. I must speak with God.
With broad smile and eyes gleaming, Pip Larson stepped from the curb toward the 52nd street subway. The hurtling delivery van braked heavily, to no avail.