“You doing anything?”
Cindy looked up. The bartender stared at her, smiling.
“You wanna catch a late, late dinner?” The bartender asked.
Cindy looked over her shoulder to see who he was talking to.
“You,” he said, looking right at her.
Cindy looked at him bewildered. “Why?” she asked.
The bartender grew self-conscious. “Can’t a guy ask a pretty girl out anymore?”
“That’d be a miracle,” she said.
“Well,” he said, “call me Jesus Christ.”
“You’re far from the Messiah,” she said, but she smiled.
“Maybe I can still save you,” he said.
“A miracle,” she said to herself, the word still resounding in her head. She laughed. “This-this,” she waved her hands over herself, “this is a miracle.” She laughed again, and then she started to cry.
The man called “Jesus” left without her and the cycle continued.
She wandered through the night. When the sun rose she found herself in a park. For nearly three hours she sat on a bench and stared at a pebble, willing herself not to feel, not to hurt, not to dream. Finally she stood stiff-legged and walked toward a small clearing where a crowd had gathered around a juggler. With a pang of guilt, or something like it, she realized it was Sunday.
Across the way a young man with a guitar sang out an old spiritual, “‘Zekiel saw de wheel of time.” Then he hummed the next line, then sang, “Ev’ry spoke was human kind” then hummed some more, “Way up yonder on de mountain top” and “My Lord an’ de chariot stop.” Cindy walked past the juggler and filtered into the crowd watching the man. He belted out in a smooth baritone, “‘Zekiel saw de wheel, way in de middle of de air, de big wheel run by faith, Little wheel run by de grace of God, wheel in a wheel, way in de middle of de air.”
On the other side of the park wall, out of view, an old tinker’s cart ambled its way down the street till he came to a place where he could watch the crowd gathered around the guitarist.
While Cindy listened to the guitarist, an old woman, as withered and cracked as the driver, hobbled up to her. Without warning the old woman grabbed Cindy’s face and kissed her full on the lips. The old woman let go; then before surprise could turn into anything else the woman wrapped Cindy in an embrace that burned away fear, outrage, and pain. Cindy closed her eyes and allowed the hug to wash over her.
When Cindy opened her eyes the old woman was gone. And there, amidst strangers in a public place, with all her problems pressing in, she found peace, a wheel spinning within a wheel, her heart swirling in grace. And suddenly those lessons from her childhood came back through the hug and the rhythms of the guitar player. They comforted her like a man left for dead, being picked up by a man others called unclean and healed and paid for and loved. She had no hope, nowhere to go, no plan for the future, but she felt forgiven and she felt free.
It was a miracle.
The driver smiled. And that old cart horse just plodded on, steady as he goes.