(a short story by Timothy J. Verret)

I checked into a hotel with my dog and cat as an evacuee from an oncoming hurricane. I chose to leave my home. “Leaving” is something I know all too well. I’ve not so much been “living” as I’ve been “leaving.”

“Leaving” started young. Doesn’t it always? Left at the church, left with the priest, and left to his own devices. I think you know the rest. I was left because it was assumed I would be safe. But “safe” don’t ever happen when you are in a room with a priest as a child and he dims the lights and gives you the option of confessing with him face-to-face or with his back to you. I chose his back because I thought that was the safer choice. Boy, was I ever wrong. Hands find their way to you, especially with your back turned.

I left my parents’ home when I was in my early 20s, because I needed to leave the confines of my own external and internal confinement. I was gay and I knew I had to get away. I left and never planned to ever, ever, ever come back. But when you leave something (or someone) unfinished, you must go back to finish things (or ones). “Maybe I left too soon?” Not a question. I left because I had no other choice.

And I just kept “leaving” here and there and everywhere. I left places, I left people, and I left things. I left all of this because I had no other choice. No one leaves anything or anyone unless they have to, right? I was left to leave because I had no other choice.

And if I told you how many times I “left” me, you wouldn’t believe it. But I have the rope burns, the scarred wrists, the smelly gas still in my nostrils, and the many, many, many pumped stomachs and hospital charts to prove it. I wanted to “leave” so bad, but I wasn’t ready to go. I sure thought I was. But one never does really “leave,” does one?

I wonder if love ever leaves? If one is born out of love and even if one never loves again, can love ever leave? Something has to be gone before it can be left. If I go, have I left? I didn’t leave yet. I might but not yet….not now. So, where is love?

Remember when I was talking about “leave?” What about “lead?” “He leadeth me beside the still waters?” Can there be any “still waters” in the face of a hurricane? If He leadeth me, will he ever leaveth me? Why would He leadeth me if He never planned to leaveth me? Is He about abandonment? “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Doesn’t He know how much forsaken hurts? And was He ever really forsaken by Thou? Maybe He was never leaveth but only leadeth? Maybe He had to be abandoned to find His Own Way. Without God. Can anyone really be leadeth without God? Something or someone leadeth me to this hotel. Was It or He Love?

Do I plan to leave this hotel after the hurricane and return home? I don’t know. I could ask my dog and I know he would want to go back. I could ask my cat who when I got him here, he went straight under the bed and has not been out since. I know without a shadow of a doubt that he wants to go back. But do I want to go back?

What if there is no home to go back to? What if my home is demolished in the hurricane? Will I be homeless with my dog and cat? Would I be forced to stay in this hotel? You see, I work here and I’m sure if I needed to move in here, my manager would allow that. If I had no other choice, that would be my choice. I can’t go back to my parents’ home because I “left” that a long time ago. And they wouldn’t welcome my dog and cat, so that is a no-brainer. I go nowhere without my dog and cat. Them, I will only lead but never leave. Maybe it’s because they would never leave me. It works that way. You don’t leave me, and I won’t leave you. My parents left me with the priest. I’m not sure I ever forgave them for that.

Post hurricane, I and my dog and my cat are safe. Got word my home is safe. But what I am left with, others have not been so fortunate. Many, because of this hurricane, have been left with nothing. People are being led to shelters. Animals, too. But some have been left behind. Some people and some animals. Who will lead them to safety? Are we talking about He again? “He leadeth me beside the still waters.” Don’t lead me, lead them! The hurting, the homeless, the ones left behind. People and animals. There are always “still waters” after a hurricane.

Maybe “leaveth” and “leadeth” are about how He “restoreth?” “He restoreth my soul.” Restoreth their souls. He restoreth all their souls. He restoreth me like that.

To be left or be led to restoreth? Once again, no question.

All will be left and led and restoreth by Him.

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