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Siamese souls

And then he reached the end of his quest. He hadn’t thought it was going to be this soon. Not like it had been fast, by any means. It has been years he’d trod the path before him, years of loneliness and darkness. Often the only light he had to go by was in his heart, that still small voice that urged him on when the world said it was pointless to go on – pointless, and worse. He’d been mocked by family and friends alike. But now he was here. It finally happened. He expected it on a more auspicious day than a Tuesday, but who was he to question? He was finally here. He paused before the ornate doorway, and admired the crenelations on the archway and the wrought iron fixtures on the door. Should he say the blessing now, or after he crossed the threshold? When could he say he’d truly arrived? Perhaps twice was better. He fished around in his satchel and located his notebook to find the words for the prayer. He’d been through three such journals in this journey and mailed the full ones back to himself. He felt an odd sense of otherness the first time he wrote his own name on a parcel. He wouldn’t be there to receive it. Or would he?

What would it be like to be in more than one place at a time? Ben had known all his young life that this was his destiny, to discover the space between the atoms, to transcend the limits of the merely physical. Some people were astronauts, exploring outer space. He was a psychonaut. His unexplored territory was inside himself.

It had all begun when he was four. On a return trip from Christmas in Florida with his parents, everything stopped near exit 66 on I-75. He didn’t see it coming. How could he? He was safely (or so they thought) strapped into his car seat. He could see nothing of the danger ahead. His view was filled with his favorite bear and a collection of books. He was a great reader for his age. His parents, both scientists at the university, doted on him and read to him every day. He cherish the books he’d been given as gifts as well. He equated books with love.

All he knew then was that day they were going, and then they weren’t. Suddenly he was out of his body, floating around in the car as a spirit. His body was too damaged by the crash to return. If he’d been read any faith stories he would have known where to go, but his parents had no truck with such foolishness. Religion wasn’t logical, and as scientists they couldn’t be bothered to waste their time on myths. So he did the next best thing. Like a scared puppy, he retreated to the only safe place he knew – his mother.

He’d been apart from her for four years now, but he had no other choice. She was alive. Her injuries were slight. This couldn’t be said of his father. One look in his eyes and Ben knew that ship had sailed. Sure, he still could have stepped into that body, but he didn’t know that, and time was in short supply. He had to choose soon or find himself without a choice.

So he slipped back inside his mother, returned to the first home he’d known in this dimension, this place of noise and sound and touch and bright colors and busyness.

The return was easier than the exit. A sidestep, a little bend, and there he was, back inside, but seeing the world through her eyes, hearing the world through her ears. It was odd, this other way, this borrowed way. Now he began to understand her anxiety, for she had forgotten how to see the world of spirit. Maybe that was why she’d become a scientist, forever needing to prove the unprovable instead of simply believing.

After the accident, his mother felt the usual grief for her husband‘s death, but very little for his. Grief being a new and unexpected feeling for her, she had no way to know what to experience. She chalked up her low affect to many things – his young age, her energy spent on her own recovery, the sudden reversion of all household duties to her. It was more difficult to go from a couple to a single then she had expected, and her grief for her only child got folded up within that period. Or so she thought.

Because he was there, alongside her. He was within her, part of her. He was four, and 28th at the same time. Over the years, he grew along with her, and she with him.

That was why now, 15 years later, he was walking the pilgrim’s path. She was 43 now, and remarried. He was 19, and still partnered with her, sort of a Siamese soul. He was the one who had eased her back towards the faith of her childhood, the faith she’d abandoned. He was the reason they were walking the Camino now.

To her mind, the God of her ancestors had abandoned her, but it was the other way around. She didn’t understand that faith is a lot like any other skill. You get out of it what you put in. But her anger and questions at the unfairness of the accident (and her ghost son’s persistence) edged her back over the threshold of her parents worship hall..

That first time, she simply let the familiar chants watch over her as she sobbed quietly in the back pew. She left before anyone could ask her what was wrong, because she knew the answer would take too long. So she went to the library instead, reading all she could about faith, and God, and spirituality, preferring the safety and anonymity of books over the intimacy of public worship. Over time, she learned of a pilgrimage that took a month of walking. People went on it to find answers, or release their grief, or find a new direction for life. All of that sounded ideal for her. So she left on a summer break from the university, grateful to not have to use vacation time, but more grateful to be able to leave in a way that she didn’t have to answer her coworker’s questions. “Where are you going?”  “Why?”  “A pilgrimage? I didn’t think you were religious.” She could hear the questions already, and already she knew she didn’t have the answers. Sure she knew where she was going, but why? And she didn’t think she was religious either, but here she was. All she knew was that if she had to face these questions, she might lose her nerve and that was the last thing she wanted. So a week after final exams, she was standing at the airport, a plane ticket to Bilbao and a bus map to Pamplona in her hand, kissing her new husband goodbye for a month.

And now it was almost over. They were about to walk through the door – that door, the one where countless thousands of other pilgrims had trod.

And then it happened. He felt the shift when both her feet had crossed the threshold, when she felt the sudden but soft awareness of his presence within her. Quietly, calmly, she knew she was not alone, knew who was with her. It was a gift she’d not even dared to ask for – not even known it was possible. She made her way, (they made their way), to a nearby pew and quietly begin to sob tears of relief, and joy, and hope for the future. They had a lot of catching up to do.

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