A chill breeze swept up the back of my neck, despite the cathedral behind me. I checked to see if the tram was coming. Someone was watching me, but in the city I had learned that was not unusual. I resisted the urge to turn.
Again, the breeze blew, raising the hair on my arms. I bent over the stroller to adjust my baby’s blanket. How was it that wind was blowing from the direction of the cathedral?
A sudden laugh, raccous and nasal, overcame my sense of decorum and I turned. On a bench in the shadow of the cathedral, sat a man with a dusty backpack. He talked with two friends, listening to them and laughing.
Not even the sunshine could warm the chill I felt. His friends were invisible. Yet he was clearly communicating with a being seated beside him on the right and one standing at his left. He turned quickly to the right, as that one interrupted the other. Yet his friends were invisible. And his evil laughter continued to ring out across the square.
I glanced up at the digital sign, hoping the tram would come soon. Was it worth walking to the next station? Three minutes. It normally took me five mintues to walk with the stroller between stations. As absurd as it seemed, I couldn’t ignore the uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. There was a stench that seemed to come from a different direction than the full trashcan beside me.
I knelt as if to take a new toy from my diaperbag and stole a glimpse behind me. The man was staring at me. He turned to his friend, without taking his eyes of mine and nodded, apparently at an unheard suggestion. He cradled his arms.
I was pushing the stroller even before I had stood up. I ran through a red pedestrian light, ignoring a car horn. My young son gurgled, enjoying the speed. My only thought was to get away from whatever was threatening him.
I looked over my shoulder, my hair blowing into my eyes. The man was gone. Yet I still felt like his friends were following me, their invisible steps silent.
I didn’t slow until I reached the river. I hurried down the riverwalk, letting the families, roller-bladers and bicycle riders stream past me. I felt covered, hidden in the humanity around me. The fresh almost salty air refreshed me, the buzz of bees from the orderly rows of flowerbeds assuring me all was well. I rolled my shoulders to release the built-up tension and laughed at myself.
Arriving home, I bathed the baby, made dinner, watched a film with my husband and forgot all about the fear of the afternoon. I slept peacefully, waking at 4am as usual to the hungry cries of my son. As I pushed open the door, a small shadow ran out of his room across my foot. Crazy cat. I picked up the crying baby and we snuggled onto the couch to nurse the warm orange glow of his nightlight. The cat lifted her head from a cardboard box with a sleepy meow. It wasn’t the cat that had left the baby’s room.
My mouth dry, the same feeling from the afternoon of being watched swept over me. Alone in the dark, this time there was no escape. The ferocity of a mother lion rose in me. I would fight.
I clutched my sleepy son tighter to my bosom. “Lord God, I know that we belong to You. We are Your children.” I took a deep breath through my nose, smelling baby powder and almond lotion from his bath. “I pray that You would protect us right now. Do not let anything evil into this house. Stand guard over us, Lord Almighty. I am amazed at Your Love for us and I know it is real. I pray that You would put a wall around us—the cement and barbed wire kind. I don’t know what is going on here, but You alone make me to lie down in safety.”
I continued praying even after the baby was snoring at my breast. The pink rays of sunrise were glowing on the red tiles roofs outside the window when finally I put him in bed. The peace I felt gave me no doubt of my victory. Nothing could enter here.
The next day, as I waited for the tram at the end of our street, I couldn’t help but look around. Teenagers rolled and flipped on a half-pipe in the skate park across the street, a group of soccer fans drank beer at the pub, a woman walked past, a crisp baguette and fresh leeks poking out of her basket. Everything was good.
Yet, I felt as if I had stepped out of my secure zone. I was out in the open, as vulnerable as Bambi’s mother in the meadow. The feeling dimished only slightly as I did my errands. However, I felt a rush of security and warmth as I opened my apartment door.
My happiness was short-lived. My husband was on the computer in the middle of a world-domination strategy game. The baby was asleep in bed and the dinner cold before he had conquered Europe.
I needed comfort, reenforcement. My thermometer was mounting with every second as he saved the game and turned to me. I wanted to talk about my fright of the last several days, but preferably with someone more insightful than a couch potato.
He grasped my hands, looking at me expectantly. “Do you wanna give thanks this evening?”
I gritted my teeth. My anger, my self-righteousness, my frustration, my pride and my impatience all boiled over in a deadly cocktail. I opened my mouth to say everything that I had been holding back and stopped cold.
I could see the horrible things that had been following me; they had gotten in, broken through my defences. More grotesque than any computer-generated science-fiction monster, their wild eyes were devil-black and their claws dripped with blood.
Yet they were somehow very familiar.
I recognized my own ugly sins.
And their oozing pustules were about to drip onto my husband, to whom I had vowed to be a helpmeet.
I gulped and ducked my head. “Lord, forgive me. Thank you for loving me, dying for me. Please give me grace to live a life that glorifies You. Protect my family from discord, from pride and bitterness, from thinking that we know better than You. Give me strength to fight these things that come from my own sin nature, that put my son and my marriage in danger. Make me the heart of peace and joy in this home, beating with Your love...and please bless this food.”
Please note: Unlike the previous Tram Stories which are true, this story is fiction, taken from real life (i.e. I have a baby, my husband ocassionally plays computer games and I have seen a weird man laughing at the cathedral.) Please know also, that our respectable sins are real, ugly and damaging. Jesus Christ is the only way to be free from them. Please contact me if you would like to know more.