Who Are You? (#Prompted Story)

This is my submission for the weekly prompt (#Prompted) over at Tipsy Lit. One of these days, I’ll have to write my story while actually tipsy. ;)

Enjoy, and if you like it, click the link at the end to vote for my submission at Tipsy Lit!

You are who you are...
You are who you are…

 

The nave was dark except for the light bleeding through the glistening stained glass windows sitting above polished aluminum paneling. The podium at the front stood before a white grand piano, bleachers for the singers, and a giant marble display of what everyone thought Jesus looked like when the Romans crucified him. Only a few people sat in the wooden pews, which wasn’t uncommon for a late Wednesday afternoon.

My mother and I sat in the same spot as usual. I got there before her, so there was time for someone else to sit between us. He was young, probably close to my age. He wasn’t as groomed I was, however. For a cold fall day, he was surprisingly sweaty. His matted hair stuck to his forehead, and his clothes had mud caked on them.

My mother always taught me to appreciate and respect those around me not matter how unfortunate, so I didn’t regard his appearance in any way. I simply said, “Hi.”

He looked at me, but didn’t respond. I thought it was unusual, but probably it was because the preacher joined us at the podium.

As the pastor proceeded to teach the congregation how God strengthens us when we are at our worst, I looked down and noticed the man next to me had especially dirty hands. They looked a little too pink, and there were red globs smashed underneath his nails. I think the thing that alarmed me the most was the blood soaking through his right sleeve.

I asked, “Are you okay?”

He didn’t answer.

“Are you hurt?”

He nodded his head no.

I felt goose bumps skitter along my skin. “Did you… did you hurt someone?”

The man finally nodded at me to confirm my fear. I closed my eyes, hoping he might go away. Maybe he was just my imagination, but no, he was still there. This time, he flashed an evil grin as he pulled his sleeve up. Cut into his flesh were twenty-three tally marks. The last two were still fresh and bleeding.

On the other side of him, my mother leaned forward, looked right at me, and said, “James, what are you doing?”

I stared back at her past the man, unable to speak as if she’d caught me guilty.

She said with a hushed, accusatory voice. “Haven’t you learned yet that having pride in the way you look is a sin?”

“Sorry, mother,” I said, and I looked away from the mirror-like finish of the aluminum-paneled wall. My eyes drifted down to my clean hand as my fingers probed the puffy scars on my forearm. I returned my attention to the pastor, and picked at the scabs.

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