Turning the Other Cheek

by Kathryn Silver-Hajo

For the first time in his life, Jay finds himself questioning the wisdom of insisting—as his long-time girlfriend Maria would say—on always seeing the best in everyone. He wonders how it might feel to be rude and judgmental for once. But just the thought of hurting someone’s feelings causes his reflux to rise, his heart to hurt.

Yet, even on this most terrible of nights he hesitates. Even after Maria said she’d had enough of his fire walking, flame swallowing and other crazy stunts, not to mention how he was far too forgiving when that jerk at the pub put his hand on her arse earlier this eve. What she’d really needed from Jay was for him set down his chalice of craft IPA and smite that yahoo on his ugly visage, but he just lectured him about decency and respect instead.

“Look, babe, your kindness is part of what I love about you,” she’d said on the way home, tugging at a charmingly wayward coil from his ‘fro, “but sometimes you seem to care more about the feelings of others than about mine.”

Though it grieves him, he isn’t sure he can honestly promise her that he’ll change, be that man she covets. Just moments ago, he watched her walk out the door and stride straight-backed down the street, captured in the vivid light of Polaris and the full moon, her linen-cloaked body casting a dramatic shadow— and something in him broke. Now he lies paralyzed on the splintery floor, weeping into the warm, wooly coat of his Jack Russell, Muttonchop, until she shakes herself free of him with an irritated bleat.

Startled, he rises to his sore, calloused feet—toughened from his daily, contemplative, barefoot walks through the dusty alleyways and lanes of town. O Hellfire! he exclaims with uncharacteristic force, causing Muttonchop to jump and stare at him as if there’s something she wishes she could say. It’s now or never. Without bothering to change out of his muslin robe, he strikes out into the night on the same path his beloved recently trode upon, but then veers toward the village where that miserable rogue with his roving hands resides. Guided by the same bold light that graced Maria moments before, Jay clenches and unclenches his fists, resolves to do the one thing that might bring her back to him. Humility be damned.