to set you free

by Antonia Terrazas

set free

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It’s right after she finally tells me the truth.

The tall fan sweeps around the room: from the couch, where I’ve dropped my keys and purse in a hurry, to the window cracked enough to let in the Texas-mid-July humidity, passing over the abandoned skillet of burning brisket and chile, and us–sweating, crying, hugging–mouth pressed to temple, nose smashed in cheek, unsure of where one starts and another begins, very, very still. It’s taken years for her to remember, and months for her to remember to tell me.

The blrrr of the fan and the hiss from the stove are deafening over the media-res silence.

It’s not a lie we crush between us, but we fill a void to the brim, as is bound to happen with heart pressed to heart.

Is it a lie to wait to say anything?

***

Christians must be people who are willing to tell the truth, Stanley Hauerwas seems to say everywhere and nowhere, since I’ve heard it quoted a hundred times at the school he walks, never cited.

I wonder about this. Is the ‘t’ capitalized? the inner Thomist asks.

Is this about handing out tracts? about ‘taking a stand?’ the quasi-lapsed Evangelical wonders.

I know only enough to make me dangerous, enough to know that he probably doesn’t mean either of these things.

Always tell the truth.

Is this just about not-cheating in a card game?

Or is being a truth-teller about making something new?

***

It’s right after I’ve finally told her the truth.

My smeared-lipstick mouth is stilled again, pursed, legs hurting from dancing all night and from years of running away from moments exactly like this one. The car is still on, still in Drive, but she’s not getting out. She shifts, turning to look right at me.

She’s not getting out of the car. She waits.

I realize my drive-by fact-reporting isn’t the same as telling a story, it might not be telling the truth after all. And her honesty is in refusing to pretend that all I’ve given is all there is. She waits. She watches me.

I raise my eyebrows, put the car in Park, take a deep breath, and begin again, unwinding.

Is it a lie to not tell the whole thing?

***

“Fools,” said I, “You do not know –
Silence like a cancer grows.” 
– Paul Simon

***

It’s right after I’ve finally told the truth.

(To him. To myself.)

My little balcony sets me almost in the trees, sometimes I pretend I’ve build my house up here. Branches glow orange through the rain from the porch light, reaching up like desperate arms against the icy grey December sky. I breathe out warmth, and it feels wasteful. Will there be enough for next time? The clutching, creeping cloud almost entirely muffles what he says next–

“You are so very brave.”

It’s a sob before I know it, teeth clenched against what feels most like fiction.

“I am not.”

“You are.”

We usually fight like siblings that missed out on a shared childhood, but I don’t push it this time. I know on this he won’t back down. I squeeze my eyes against the now-swimming branches, pinching the bridge of my nose with my fingers.

“Okay.”

The haze is still there, but pushed back a bit to the corners. I breathe out again, this time sending out a bit of that cloud.

How long have I been pretending?

***

You came up to me. We didn’t know each other that well. You pulled me aside, and you said, “Aren’t you tired yet?” And I was tired. You made me realize what I’d been missing by not being myself. And I’m thankful for that. – Will Truman, Will & Grace

***

It’s right before you finally tell me the truth.

It hasn’t happened yet, but I think I’ll know when it’s coming. I think I’ll be putting a pink box of cookies into the cart at the supermarket, and you’ll interrupt me as I say, “They’re my favorite.” Or maybe a small red flag from you will appear on a bright morning in early March when I open my Facebook page, and I’ll know–this is it. Perhaps someone else will mention it in front of both of us, unthinking, and you’ll look over at me, but I will already be raising my glass to you. Cheers. Maybe I will be picking you up from the airport and you’ll be so excited to see me after so long that you’ll just come out with it and forget to say “hello I love you” first.

Sometimes I think it will only happen after we’re all dead and we find our seats next to one another at the end and beginning of it all. You’ll look over at me, I’ll roll my eyes and smile. And you’ll know I know.

I hope it doesn’t take that long, though,

for the truth shall set you free. 

7 Responses to “to set you free”

  1. Annie Barnett January 29, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    So happy, always, to read your words, Antonia. Those last lines… “I hope it doesn’t take that long, though, for the truth shall set you free.” Right there with you.

  2. Diana January 30, 2014 at 1:08 am #

    Getting to the truth is sometimes deeply painful. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for us. Lovely reflection, Antonia. Thank you.

    • Antonia Terrazas January 31, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

      you’re so right, Diana. the combination of “the truth shall set you free” plus the very real pain that can come with truth-telling is a deep tension, I think. thanks for reading :-)

  3. Leigh Kramer January 30, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    Those last few lines gave me goosebumps, Antonia. Such good stuff.

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  1. to set you free [at Deeper Story]. | stuff antonia says. - January 29, 2014

    […] I’m over at A Deeper Story with some reflections on what it means to be a Christian truth-teller, to start […]

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