The town’s size was exceptional; exceptionally small. You could go around it in a couple of hours and know every stone on the cobbled main street. Strangers pass by it in order to get to the next town or the city a few miles off it; but nobody new stayed. The permanence of the town is its people, generations settling down and barely changing surnames.
She lived in the town for as long as she lived, in a small house with her mother. Everybody knew everyone in that place. Life had been simple, and she was a simple girl, with dreams of permanence in this simple town.
She met him when she got her fourth F for maths. He was tall, serious-looking, and way older than her. She was in high school; he was close to graduating in college. He taught her afternoon by afternoon under the shade of her mother’s favorite fire tree. Algebra hated her with a vengeance, but it soon became her favorite subject under his patient guidance.
She could only dream of him falling in love with her, a silly and boisterous sophomore, who served him cookies that her mother baked and orange juice that she mixed from a foiled pack, no-brainer. She could only dream of him looking at her with affection; until one day he did, before he kissed her squarely on the lips as the tree shed pretty yellow and orange blossoms to the ground.
She floated like a cloud for days and weeks, telling everyone who would listen that she had a college boyfriend, and she aced the last Algebra test because of him.
One day he stopped coming, and as the blossoms turned brown on the ground, she saw him walking on the university grounds next to her school, hand in hand, with a tall and pretty senior. A university senior.
She swore she’ll never take up Algebra ever again.
That was how she ended up in Fine Arts, two years later. A boy beside her in painting class kept shooting her furtive glances and shy smiles; one day she finds a white rose resting on her easel. “Pure love,” she smiled secretly to herself, before blowing on it a cloud of smoke from her cigarette. Because she was still very much boisterous, though the years have taught her mischief, she embraced this pure love with sass. She pulled him back after class one day and kissed him on the cheek. The boy, startled, stammered out a confession he spent weeks to prepare but crashed and burned in his awaited moment. She laughed gaily and sashayed out of the classroom, leaving him grinning stupidly after her.
A week later, she started dating the frat leader of her university.
He was tough and scary; nobody dared touch him. In extension, nobody dared touch her, either. She was free to be indifferent to the world, or to stake her claim on it, as she pleases. She had power where she had no beauty, and those days power seemed like everything. She forgot that she was, still, a young girl.
He ended up in jail because of breaking the curfew and an altercation with the police; but she didn’t mind. His power was evident even without his presence. Besides, his beta kept giving her cigarettes, buying her food, making her coffee during late nights that she had to paint, all those days she waited for him to be released.
He did return, one day, to find them in an embrace.
She could not recall pain like she had felt in the hours since then. All she could recall was that she heard a snarl, felt a sharp pain at the back of her head, and the cold, cement floor, before everything went black.
She would wake up with angry purple bruises and bloody cuts on her face and body. Her once beautiful figure was emaciated, further highlighting the bones that bent awkwardly after the struggle. She would bring three broken ribs and a trauma of the dark for years to come. And, once she knew what happened, she morosely approached a white coffin where the beta lay peacefully in death – body reconstructed from its ugly mangled state – until the boy’s mother shoved and pushed and screamed at her to go away.
She left university with nothing, and entered back into the world with nothing. Painting couldn’t feed her; she found out the hard way.
By this time, the rumor mill had squashed out any future she might have hoped for herself. She started waiting tables and waiting at anything, just so she can live.
Nobody spoke to her. She was, in essence, only an object of others’ pity and gossip. Nobody cared enough.
So it did not surprise her when she was dragged to an empty corner of the bar one day after her work, her will too weak to protest. He left her just as weak and destroyed as he found her. She became more terrified of the dark since then.
It did not help when she discovered that he brought life to something in her. To her, it was another mouth to feed…another nuisance to take care of. Yet she did not have the heart to punish the child for her bad luck, nor was she able to feed her initial resentment once he showed himself to the world. He captured her completely.
Years passed, and the child grew. Sometimes she’d feel a little tugging of affection, but she’s experienced too much fear to follow that hopeful thread. Still, as she watched her son precociously run around the diner she now works in, she realizes that she must live. Even though she’s exhausted, and her skin clings to her bones, there is life clinging on to her, in the form of that boy.
She watched as one of the male kitchen staff handed her baby a rather squished chocolate bar that the child took with a wide smile and zero hesitation. The man caught her eye and smiled; she could only give a nod in return.
In the following days, he gave the boy more candy, then a toy, then a shirt. As he became bolder, he also began venturing to speak to her, then to make her laugh, and then to walk her home.
She could scarcely care if she would end up leaning on him and losing him like the others, because she and her child needed to live; he seemed willing to pay that price, for now.
One day, caught in the weariness of her day, and especially her life, she changed out of her apron and stepped out for a break outside the diner. She was attracting stares like usual, and it annoyed her to no end. She couldn’t complain, though; their job was to serve every soul in that room regardless if they had to wait on them hand-and-foot, now, wasn’t it? She needed the money, desperately. So to cool her her head, she stepped out ironically in the heat of the midday.
She was then surprised to find a man sitting on the old battered bench outside the diner. He looked too well-dressed to come to a tiny, dingy place like this; yet as he fanned his face and caught her eye, his eyes pierced her own as he opened his mouth;
“Give me a drink.”
“How is it that you ask a drink from here? Our menu might not be to your taste, sir.”
He answered her, “If you knew who my father was and what he can give you, you would have asked him instead; and he would have given you something for your thirst.”
It was a baffling statement. Why would she ask this man for anything, much more, a drink? These rich people sure are something, she thought. She almost scoffed, but remembered where she was.
“What is your name, sir? What does your father do?” And deciding to humor him, she continued with masked sarcasm, “And where do you get this drink that will end my thirst? Are you perhaps the CEO of a soft drinks company? Do you sell juice? Purified water?”
He chuckled. “You could say that. I could be a retailer of purified water. But if you drink the water I offer you, not only will you be filled; the water is so pure that it will give life back to your soul, and in turn you will give life to others with you.”
She was curious now, not only of his way of speaking, but also with how he seemed to change right before her very eyes. She stepped forward, fully giving him attention. “Then, sir, please give me this water, so I don’t have to repeatedly come and fill myself.” She was almost surprised at her own boldness.
If he was offended, he didn’t show it. He nodded, then said, “Alright, then go; call your husband.”
Her face fell, and wondered how to respond. Suddenly she felt shy before him, not wishing to reveal her sordid origins yet not wanting to lie.
“I have no husband.”
He stared at her for a good moment, before breaking out in a good-natured chuckle. “You’re right! You have no husband. You have had five men in your life; the man you are with now, playing with your child, is not your husband. What you said is true.”
Her eyes widened in apprehension. “Who are you? How did you know so much about me? Are you one of those gossips, or are you from the next town?”
She wasn’t surprised if he knew the rumors surrounding her. It was, after all, not a difficult thing to know of her. She was an outcast everywhere in this town; obviously, he must have heard of her. But how did he know even the details of her failed relationships?
And more so, if he did know all these, why speak to her at all? Why is he not like the other people in this town, who cruelly ignored her and talked about her venomously?
He smiled kindly. “I am neither; I know many things about you – everything, in fact. It is the privilege of one who has seen you since the beginning of your life, since the creation of your form and in giving you your breath.” He seemed able to read her thoughts, because he added, “I also know of all your pain, even the ones you kept from showing. It’s not a mystery to me; though I am surely a mystery to you.”
She swallowed hard as she stared at the man. He was blinding under the sun; but his voice and face and tone was gentle. She felt like every secret, every scar was exposed to him; but instead of feeling shamed, she was enveloped in a tender warmth like his smile.
She teared up. Trying hard to compose herself, she stammered. “Then, perhaps, are you an angel? Or…or – are you, who they say is…God?”
He smiled the gentlest of smiles. “I who speak to you am He.”
The woman let out a shocked cry, ran back into the diner, leaving him sitting on the bench. She stumbled her way to the backroom, where the man she lived with play-carried her boy.
He saw her half-laughing, half-crying face, and immediately put the boy down gently.
“What’s wrong? Why are you crying? What happened?”
She could not find her words for a minute as she looked up at his face, surprise and joy igniting her features. “C-come with me,” she started. “Outside. There is a man…a man like the sun; he told me everything I ever did. Could he be God?”
“What are you talking about? What man? What God?”
“There is a man like an angel outside; he knew everything about me, past, present. He even knew about you! Come and see!”
It sounded suspicious; he might only have come to hurt her again. But as the man searched her face for a hint of a joke, or a spell; all he could see was years of pain and shame lifted off her face and hope blossoming in her cheeks.
He took her son by the hand, and nodded tersely; her whole demeanor convincing him. “Where? Let’s go. Let’s see him.”
She then led them by the hand back to the stranger waiting on the bench.
If you thought this is a familiar story, that’s because it is a creative re-imagining of the famous Bible story, the Samaritan Woman or otherwise known as The Woman at the Well. It’s one of my favorite stories of Jesus, because for me it captures the insane love He has for people. It’s one of my favorite love stories, as well; because it stirs deeper than romantic love.
In essence, we’re like her. Thirsty for life and love, she found that Jesus willing to give her that in spite of knowing everything she went through. Do you believe that?
Side note, before anyone throws me anything: I’m no Bible scholar, and though this is based on the story, it’s obviously a modern take. So for solid theology, please do check out the origin: The Bible. 🙂
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