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Aberrant: 2011 - Pity, Charity, and What Comes Next


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It was too late in the season for the monsoon rains, but this late afternoon storm was doing its best to impress her fellow passengers with its ferocity. Rain pelted the windows, lighting lit up the darkened sky, and thunder tried to match the train’s rickety age in creating noises of dread. Thayra wasn’t afraid though. Quite the opposite; she was thrilled by the static charges passing through the air, the magic of the storm clouds dancing about, and the symphony of the pressure systems and rain coming together to make their own concert of rain and air.

Aesira had closed up her computer – not all that surprising considering there was no Yi-Fi here in this part of Sumatra – and listened to the elements come together around her. Were as everyone else seem to lose their courage when faced with all these variables, they were like old friends to the lone girl. The weather was alive and comforting to her. It spoke to her with the promise of greater understanding … if she could just journey out to them. They held her up without judgment and without prejudice. The storms wanted to be alive and to share that life with creation. Beyond that, they had no cares. Thayra wanted to be alive just like them; free of care and concern – living in the moment.

Another thunderclap brought a whimper from a boy just across from her. She tried to smile to the young man, but she got it wrong and he cringed tighter to his mother and that woman shot Thayra a dirty look. Aesira tried a different tact. She closed her eyes and leaned back ever so slightly in her seat. She let the comforting calm she and nothing more. She didn’t try to let the edges out to the people around her. Instead, she let those people that would observer her calm and draw their own strength from it. A few caught on to this. Not many, but enough to make Thayra feel better about her.

‘Why does it matter, how they feel,’ she asked herself. There was no answer. No voices, no matter how comforting, but insane, answered her. Only the storm spoke to her. Only the rain gave her conversation and only the thunder told her to ‘Shut Up!’. She liked that and drew from the storms strength and determination. She was strong, but isolated and the train trip was ending.

People swarmed out of the southbound to Jakarta ferry while the evening crowd pushed aboard for the upcountry trip back home. Thayra slipped against a rail and clung to position for dear life. She was not swept back onboard and for that she felt blessed. Instead, she moved away from the tracks and into this new city. One or two people eyed her as a victim, but she started them off. She was ‘off’ and she could communicate that clearly enough. Since this was a new place, Thayra made her way to the high ground as was her policy. She liked being able to look around her … when the rain let up, and seeing what looked like the cheapest and most affordable places to live here. She would spot the easiest electricity to tap into, places were it was simplest to steal or borrow an online connection, and then food. She could scavenge out of trashcans around upwardly mobile places like the financial centers or universities.

Strangely enough, she was safest when she was acting like the street person she was. When she acted like something else, like when she answered the ringing in her ears when rain called, or when Thunder asked her out to play, she was at risk. She felt differently and acted differently and she wasn’t ready for that … whatever that lifestyle was, yet.

Her stomach was rumpling when she arrived at the campus. She beat off a troop of monkeys and a less determined old man. She gorged on the old-ish fruit and the fried – what she hoped was dog or pig. She moved around. Sometimes she found nothing. Other times she finds items to trade, use, or eat.

Thayra spotted the man approaching before he said anything. She sensed his hesitation. She must smell bad and look worse, all plastered in the filth and the rain. The rain was letting off, but the windbreaker she used was far from the cleanest. She kept her laptop and rucksack of possessions between her feet and edged them away from the intruder.

“You don’t have to do that,” he finally begun.

Aesira gave what could best be described as a half-shrug/half-nod and meant less.

The man puzzled over the response and took in the woman before him in the growing light of the post storm breezes. It appeared being nice to the homeless had its benefits.

“Why don’t you come with me to the temple school? They will feed you there; give you a bath and a warm bed. It will be safe.”

He offered her a hand away from the trashcan and away from her current life.

Thayra recoiled, not so much from the touch, but from the offer; to accept someone else’s offer of safety … to touch it and make it real … and to be worthy of being safe?

“No”, she said more strongly than she initially intended.

The man left his arm hanging in mid-approach.

The words of that other man hung in her head, you have to extend a small amount of trust in order to understand anything about it. Unbeknownst to that kind man, she faced her fear and grabbed that offered hand like a snake handler grabbing the throat of the serpent just below the head.

The grab was more a nuisance than painful. Her hands were so delicate and weak. She did cling to her other possessions like they were sacred texts, but that was common amongst the mentally challenged. The man did find it unusual that from time to time the girl would shake like a leaf. They would be uncapable of movement for nearly a minute at a time because of her reactions. The only time he had attempted to comfort her, she had squeaked and turned in on herself. Still, the man’s dedication to this good act persisted and he brought the heaven-touched to the house of healing for what ministrations they could offer. The poor girl was touched by God and worthy of pity, or so he thought.

That night, Aesira got a warm meal (nice) and a warmer shower (divine) before settling into a nice clean bed to sleep into. Before morning prayers, she was gone, leaving the equivalent of five thousand dollars behind to pay for her hosts’ act of charity. This counter-charity made no logical sense to her, but it felt right. She had money (taken from thieves) – other people needed it more – and she had given it. Something was missing in this, but she didn’t know what it was. Finding out would be an experience indeed.

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