I stepped out of the courthouse. Am I, I asked myself, in lockstep with August stepping out of the calendar?
Already rain had begun falling when I walked toward the taxi. The drops had the size of coins, those that popped on my arms and spattered on the ground, wide gaps between themselves as yet. I dismissed it, despite its likely heaviness, as just a five-minute downpour — a momentary routine, the earth letting off steam after an extremely hot day.
The taxi did not move even though I had ensconced myself in the back seat. The glass of his side window rolled down, the driver thrust his left arm outside, gesturing, and finding this insufficient, calling out to a woman, the passenger before me, who had left without paying the fare, and who, upon hearing the driver’s shout, quickly mixed with the crowd milling around at the entrance of the courthouse.
In exasperation, the driver decided to just write off the woman’s debt since he already had me. The rain stopped at this point, proving me right in thinking that it would not last for more than five minutes. Instead of laughing quietly, I should have looked up to the sky and the helpless clouds about to burst with their pointed load. As it turned out — more later — the rain had the last laugh.
Then came the driver’s story, a narrative not quite unfamiliar to a judge’s ears, which, like those of the priest, have daily to listen to wickedness.
In payment of her fare, the woman had presented a big bill to him. It looked thin and bleached, and smelled worse than the real, and so, whiffing a rat, the driver took her to a police station. But the officer on duty, giving the paper money a desultory look, declared it legal tender. On their arrival at the courthouse, after the woman let on that she had no other money — the driver holding fast to what his eyes, fingers and nose had told him about it contrary to the policeman’s opinion — allowed her to disembark to have her big banknote changed upon her undertaking to return with the fare. You know the rest of the story.
When we reached my destination — a little chapel, really just a prayer room — the weather’s clemency kept up. Accordingly, I removed and left my shoes outside the door, in reverence to the consecrated host, the Blessed Sacrament, displayed in a monstrance on the altar. Others would take their footwear inside, a sign of its high price, or else of the low value their owners put on the honesty of, for them, the shadowy, outside world. (In a non-Christian temple in an Asian country, one left one’s shoes with a porter at the entrance and paid a fee for it or forever lose one’s boots.)
I gave myself one hour in silent prayer inside the chapel. St. John Vianney said, “When we are before the Blessed Sacrament, instead of looking about us, let us shut our eyes and open our hearts, and the good God will open his.” I did this — shut my eyes — and before long fell asleep.
It had begun to rain again while I was sleeping, and this time it pounded on the roofs like wild horses with heavy hooves. But this I must concede, the fierceness of the rain only helped my sleep.
A head-splitting crash woke me up and I came to with a start. The world had darkened in the storm. Lightning, each time a near miss, set off such a thunderclap as would send the body in shudders.
I told myself that perhaps the Lord wanted to rouse me up so I would know that he had opened his heart to me. And then I remembered that, as the angelic doctor St. Thomas Aquinas said, “the entire Christ is in this sacrament.”
Well then, I kept my promise and stayed in the chapel for one full hour, give or take the forty winks, unlike in most other times when I did the “Holy Hour” for only a few minutes. Luckily for me, although after a long wait, a taxi came around. On the ride back to base, I found the streets flooded and the world far from going swimmingly — traffic snarled, people uncertain of getting home in the next few hours. But the sky had cleared and seemed luminous even though the night had fallen.
Soon, give or take a few days, it would be September.
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