Everything came washing over her, not in an instant, but in an ever flowing moment. Images of every secret kept and shame concealed came rushing over her in a torrent of grace. There was pain in the reliving, but also release. Her tears rolled on, and as she wept her tears became a rushing river that engulfed her seven times.
She saw herself in a new dress, a girl of eleven. Her hair was dark and long, and spilled gracefully upon her shoulders. She had a small jar of scented oil, which she dolloped behind her ears, and took a deep breath of the fragrance. It was sweet, and deep, and made her think of roses. She sang to herself, until she saw the opening of the door, and watched her father enter the room.
She felt his hand on her thigh. She saw the closing of the door. She felt the tickling of the tears streaming back upon her face and onto her earlobes, where the perfume lay, still filling the room with its scent.
She saw her father entering her room again and again, closing the door. She felt his hand upon her shoulder, holding her in place. She saw his eyes across the table as they dined with affluent friends, eyes that told her this was a secret she could never speak of. She saw the closing of the door.
She saw the first boy that looked at her the same way her father did, and the closing of another door. She saw the second, and even the third, but the rest took on just one face: her father’s.
She saw the money shining in a pile next to her bed, the first time she took charge and made them pay. It had shimmered dully in candlelight, almost pretty. But it bore a seed of shame deep within her. This is all I’m worth, she thought. It’s all that I am. Soon there were no candles; only back alleys and roach-infested corners, and the face of her father, and somehow, the closing of a door.
For years without number, and days without end, there was the closing of a door.
Until him. One day, as barren as any other, there was a new face, and he looked her in the eyes from across the street. He smiled. She did not smile back, but she held that smile he’d given her somewhere in the corner of her heart. Many men smiled at her before, but it had always cost her something. This one was free, a gift, with no expectation.
As she now recalled it, she could almost hear the rusted hinges creaking open as he spoke to her the second time she’d seen him. Through her present tears, she laughed for just a moment at the memory of his first words to her.
“Hi. Would you like to join us for lunch?”
An invitation. An open door.
She had made some excuse not to join them, but she never forgot the invitation. She saw him many times since then, and it was always the same. He asked her every time, with that wide, open smile, “Would you like to join us?” It was a doorway into something big, and it was always open. What lay on the other side of it was immense, and spacious, and completely terrifying.
Today, he had been walking past her corner again, and paused to find her.
“Hi, Helen! How are you?”
She smiled. “Not too bad. Better since you’re here.”
“We’re having dinner at my friend’s house. Do you want to come?”
“No,” she said. “I need to work.”
“Well it’s just up here, to the left. Do you know Simon?”
She wanted to laugh out loud for just how well she knew Simon, but only said, “Yeah... I think so.”
“We’re having dinner there. You’re welcome to join us.”
“Thanks. I’ll think about it.”
She watched him walk away, and waved a good-bye. Somewhere inside her, she knew that he himself was that doorway into something grand. It still scared her to death. But this day, this barren, ordinary day, she just might walk through it.
An hour later, she was knocking on Simon’s door.
“Come in!” Jesus said, before the owner of the house had a chance to speak.
The door opened, and a beautiful girl with long, dark hair stood quivering in the frame. In her hand she held a small jar of scented oil. She saw him, and he smiled, and she broke.
She ran to his feet, and wept upon them a stream of unbounded love. The spirit of humility had been slowly killing the spirit of shame for a some time now. Tonight, it had finished the deed. For the first time, she felt she could be forgiven. For the first time, she believed she could forgive.
She took the jar of perfume, and poured it on his feet, and kissed them. She tenderly dried his feet with her hair, which fell like a mantle upon them.
“Your sins have been forgiven,” he whispered.
“I know,” she said, and smiled. “Thank-you.”
“You’re worth more than you know.”
She smiled again. “I’m starting to believe that.”
“Your faith has saved you, Helen. There’s an open door. Walk on in peace.”
She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath of freedom. It was sweet, and deep, and made her think of roses.