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The Pilgrimage: A Short Story of a Long 200 mile Journey // June 12 and 13

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Roads comfort me.  I often find myself on bright days and dark nights between strips of white and yellow paint.  When I meet him, I often wonder who he is and what he has done with my self.  The confusion lets me know that I am still alive and perhaps growing in my humanity.  There is something comforting about being reminded that we are still alive.  This is a story about roads and life.

My heart was full.  My heart is always full when I travel to Livingston.  From rainy drives to sunny drives, I always feel the same on the way down…full.  I had my first visit of the trip right when I pulled into town.  There were tears and love in that place.  Regardless of the crime, I knew I had just encountered a child of God.  I didn’t want to leave.  I never want to leave.  It always hurts to feel like you are leaving someone in such desperate need of love.

I pulled up to the hotel and took a few pieces of clothing out of the care.  I nearly forgot my medicine, but I know that my physiology can’t handle the fullness of the next few days without the right amount of medicine in my system.  I get up to the room and start to pray.  “God make me an instrument of your peace…and if I die…let it be for you.”  I was scared.  I had never walked this far in my life and there were so many unknown variables.  Prayerfully, I pressed on to morning.

The door slammed behind me.  The Polunsky Unit is good at making everyone who enters feel like a monster.  I sat down across from a man I have been visiting for some time.  We chatted about love and courage.  I never grow tired of these topics…especially in a place so devoid of hope.  I told him that I was about to do a 200 mile pilgrimage and he told me to walk for him…and I did.

The door slammed behind me.  I jumped out of the car in my robe and stole to begin my walk.  I said a brief prayer and turned the corner to start walking away from the Polunsky Unit.  I made it five minutes before one of the guards from the residence of the warden drove up in a van and rolled down the window with his hand on a shotgun.  “What are you doing out here?”  “Walking.”  “Where are you going?”  “To Austin.”  “That is a long walk.  Why are you walking?”  “I love Jesus and oppose the death penalty.”  “You need to hurry up and get out of here.”  I walked faster.

There was a beautiful shade tree that invited me to stop next to the road.  It was hot and I paused to briefly collect myself.  There was sweat dripping off both my glasses and face.  There was a truck that slung into the driveway next to the tree and an angry young man jumped out to scream at me.  “This is private property!”  “Where does the right of way begin and I will move.”  “Right there where that ditch is and if I see you so much as take a step over that line…you will regret it.”  I held the line.

The gas stations and restaurants were unique experiences.  Everyone stared and many commented.  “What in the fuck are you wearing?”  “Are you gay?”  “That is an amazing costume.”  A blue minivan swerved to the side of the road.  “Do you need a ride?”  “No, I am on a pilgrimage to abolish the death penalty.”  “I am for the death penalty.  Why are you against it?”  “Because I am a Christian.”  “I am a Christian too and I am still for the death penalty.  Why do you think being a Christian has anything to do with opposing the death penalty?”  “Because I don’t believe you can love your neighbor as your self and execute them.”  “Damn that makes sense.  I am going to have to think about that some more.”  She said goodbye and drove away.

The sun was going down as I crossed the bridge over Lake Livingston and the Trinity River.  I wept at the beauty of the moment or I wept out of exhaustion…I am still not sure which.  I journeyed over to the side of the road to prepare a place to go to sleep.  As I nodded off, I couldn’t believe that this was only just the first day and prayed that God would somehow give me the strength to finish.

 

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