One year. 100 articles. So we're having a Reader's Party. Come along to Upsidecrown.
1 March 2001
Redemption is a funny old thing. Or, more precisely, "redemption" is a funny old thing. It's one of those words that only ever occur in highly specialised context. Christians, of course, talk about redemption, by which they mean the sacrifice whereby Christ took upon himself the burden of original sin and thus gave mankind the possibility of heaven.
Elsewhere, for example at Oswego's popular Harborfest and for a limited period beyond at certain participating outlets, redemption is something that happens to coupons in exchange for food, goods or services, or a discount to the aforementioned. For a limited period only, though, and certain conditions do apply.
Two possibilities more than London transport gives me sat on New Cross Gate platform, eyes closed against the freezing wind. I can feel clumps of snow - not just flakes, but fucking clumps, beautiful white rabbit punches catching on my lashes, melting on the thin skin covering my eyes. I open up for a moment and see great waves, sheets, bomb blasts of snow covering the tracks. Driving itself almost horizontally into landing patterns, landlocking.
That's part of a covenant, too. That when a certain set of conditions pertain, London becomes briefly silent, and still, and clean. Breathe out mist, breathe in crystal. Breathe out mist, breathe in crystal.
But redemption. Interesting thing about the word "redemption". It means, literally, to buy back. re - back. emo, emere, emi, emptus I buy, to buy, I bought, having been bought. The principle is that somebody gives you something - a token, a coupon - and then buys it back from you by offering something else. Seems a little strange to me, but there you go. I didn't invent capital exchange.
I'm the only person here, pressing myself into the perforated red steel of the bench until it bends under the force of my legs, pushing against the concrete pillar and trying to straighten out. I'm feeling oddly weightless, despite the growing mass of white six-pointed stars in my lungs - and weren't they supposed to be melting, incidentally? Strange stuff. And it's nearly March.
Anyway, redemption. Jesus on the cross. What's he offering, and who's buying it back? Forget for a moment the linguistic sleight of hand that inflicts secondary meaning. Who's selling, and who's buying? Horse-trading the body your father gave you to the Devil? Not likely. Besides, people aren't going to Sheol because the devil drags them under by the sharp lapel of their checkered coat. It's just that God isn't opening the doors, and where else can you get a drink at this time of night?
So that's not it. It feels like I'm being kissed, every exposed centimetre of flesh singing with cold, the blood gasping inside me at every touch. There's the ghost of pressure on my left hand, as if somebody was squeezing it. But everybody else is huddled underneath the roofed section with the pervasive stench of piss, keeping out of the blizzard.
Fine by me. Not long till the train comes anyway, which is lucky because the snow has half-covered my taut calves in surprisingly double-quick time.
Anyway, all of this becomes irrelevant because it becomes clear with a degree of suddenness what the trade-off was. His God-given body. His God-given freedom from the consciousness of having let God down from day one, which every other human being had been labouring under. Most of all, his God-given luck. Born without taint, always first with the answers, the powers and the wisdom of Dr. Strange, without even the history of alcoholism or the nerve damage.
No matter how proud a father may be, no matter how hard he worked to give his son the breaks, imagine the temptation just to tear it all down.
If you could.
If you were omnipotent.
If that were the deal.
How hard would it be to resist when your perfect child looks up at you with those big Jesus-had-blue-eyes blue eyes and says, "Daddy, you do this one thing, you could fuck me. You could fuck me up so badly"?
Unfortunately, since I'm not the son of God, it takes me so far. And no further.
If redemption is to come, it means waiting. Sticking it out. Playing the long game. Give and take. Speech and silence. When to do and when forbear. Kind of thing.
Speaking of forbearance, though, there's been quite enough of it for one evening. Time to make a move. I feel, rather than hear, the train vibrating through the tracks, become as I am something of a human snow sculpture, inside and out.
But it all shakes off or flakes off when I pitch myself dreamingly to the sound of Star Trek door openings, and nobody seems terribly surprised when, eyes still closed, I vomit slush puppies and snow cones before taking my seat.
Nearly March. It isn't natural.
You could fuck me up so badly.