I was late. I had to finish up some things at the office before I could leave for the day and my manager kept piling on tasks that I had to finish. It was exhausting. We had our regular meeting of the fringes that night and I was looking forward to actually doing something about all these systems of oppression that surrounded us. Seize the means of production and all that.
I hopped off the bus and quickly walked through the last couple of blocks to get to where we were all meeting. The place was packed. Sports cars and even some sort of law enforcement vehicles were out front. People were everywhere, many of whom I don’t think I’d ever seen before. Something didn’t seem quite right about all of this.
I walked inside and there was JC, at the table, surrounded by some of our regular crew: John a gay spiritual leader, Pete the sort of violent anarchist from Southeast Asia, and Mary the black, queer activist and pioneer. Yet, there were others I didn’t recognize at first. But as I looked closer, I was bewildered. An ICE agent in the corner chatting with a regular, Carlos. Then there was a crowd of Wall Street types, dressed to the nines in suits that probably cost more than I made in a month. A handful of others were scattered throughout the room that I’d never seen before, that looked somewhat uncomfortable with the crowd.
What was happening.
We were supposed to be planning a protest for this weekend against the very sorts of oppressive forces that these newcomers represented. How could we do that with them all around us? What the hell was JC thinking?
I was fuming.
My fists were clenching, unbidden. Breathe. Calm down. There’s gotta be a reason for this. I was just calming myself when one of the Wall Street bros (he looks like a Chad, he’s gotta be a Chad) came over to JC and hands him this bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet that cost more than I had made in my entire life. Combined. Hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I lost it.
I stormed over and snatched it from the dudebro’s hands, as JC was reaching for it.
“Now, look, man. I know you probably don’t realize this, but we could do so much more good with the money you spent on this bottle. Think of the poor! What are you even doing here? Do you even know what JC is about?”
He was flabbergasted. Stumbling over his words, as I clenched the bottle, a miracle that it didn’t shatter into a thousand pieces (or a testament to my scrawniness).
JC reached up, gently removing the bottle from my death grip.
He nods apologetically to Wall Street, as I turn to look at him, deflated and hurt.
“JC, what’s all this? We were on the cusp of SOMETHING. We were about to do great things. Great things! And now…” I trail off as I wave my hand at all the partying and gluttony that surrounded us, “this.”
JC looks at me, then to the bottle in his hand and turns it over, drinking in every detail of the craftsmanship. Hyperfocused.
He gestures for a couple of glasses, opens the bottle and pours two glasses.
He hands one to me, which I refuse, putting my hands up in front of me.
He shrugs and purposefully swirls the wine beneath his nose, breathing in.
He sips, letting the cabernet flow gently throughout his mouth.
“I…I…I don’t understand. I thought you stood for the marginalized, the oppressed, the sinner, but these…”
“But, how can you stand for all of them, when you’re, you’re here, eating and drinking with the enemy! The oppressor! The very thing we’re fighting against! Drinking their wine!”
“It’s a mighty fine wine.”
“JC…that’s the point. We could do so much good with that money, instead of squandering it on wine. Typical Wall Street…selfish.”
JC moves his hand to my shoulder. He reaches for the glass of wine he offered me earlier and offers it again. His eyes steady, looking directly at me. That mix of steeliness and joy that is so damn intoxicating. His lips turn up in a weary smile.
I take the glass.
“That is a mighty fine wine.”
I join him on the couch.
“Conor, are these not all sinners? All need what we preach. Even the oppressor, the sinner, the enemy.”
“But, but, how can the oppressor and the oppressed sit and eat at the same table? Doesn’t that fail to really bring about justice?”
JC sorta shrugs and looks meaningfully to the bottle of wine on the table.
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
JC looked up from the ground, where he’d been drawing in the dirt with some kids.
I looked sheepishly around.
“Can you heal this woman’s daughter? I tried and…” I sighed and lowered my head, “nothing happened.”
“Bring her here.”
I mouth, “thank you” as I go with the woman to bring her daughter to JC.
As we enter the woman’s house I’m struck once again by how little they have. There’s a beat-up laptop on the table, open to a GoFundMe page, trying to raise money for treatment for Rebecca, the woman’s daughter. Brochures for various alternative medicine are scattered throughout the house. The woman, Kristina, looks like she hasn’t slept well in months. Lines of worry crease her face.
“Sorry about the mess,” she says to me after we’ve been in the house for a few minutes, as if she just realized the disarray and disaster that surrounded us.
“Don’t worry about it. What’s going to be the best way to get your daughter to JC?”
We figured out how to get Rebecca from the house to JC (Rebecca’s wheelchair worked most of the way and then we cobbled together a ramp and some other things to make it the final stretch).
As soon as Rebecca wheeled up to JC, his face lit up.
“Your sins are forgiven you!” He shouted, arms raised to the sky, before crouching down and kneeling in front of her, clasping her hands in his, their eyes locked, whispering earnestly “your sins are forgiven you.”
Weeping, she breathed, “Thank you, brother.”
As JC straightened and turned to return to the children, she caught his shirt, “Wait.”
He stopped and turned to face her again, waiting.
He nodded and crouched again, placing his hands on her knees, and pressing his forehead to hers, “Rise, and walk.”
Kristina and Rebecca embraced, mother and child, as if for the first time, holding each other. Tears streaming down their faces.
JC grinned softly before jogging over to the kids playing, his hair flowing in the wind.