The other day as conservatives chanted “USA!” and “Lock her up!” as if they were interchangeable sentiments, I found myself in a very dark place wishing very bad things to happen to all of them. I pulled myself out of that place as best I could by writing this:
Jesus walked into Planned Parenthood. He paused at the desk. The receptionist, tired and counting the minutes until she could get out of the tiny, antiseptic-smelling room with its buzz of computers mixing with the sniffles and throat-clearings of the waiting room, looked up, her expression guarded out of habit. “Can I help you?”
“No.” Jesus smiled at her and she thought about the scent of dandelions. She’d loved dandelions when she was a child. She remembered the clump of golden dandelions she’d spotted by the bus stop that morning. Tonight, when she left, she would stop and smell them. Maybe she’d pick one and take it on the bus with her. The thought made her happy because dandelions smelled like hope and she very seldom felt hope anymore.
Jesus reached through the small opening in the glass window—the one she used to pass clipboards back and forth to patients—and touched her hand. “I’m just looking for a friend,” He said before turning to the waiting room.
Jesus found her in the waiting room. It was late, and she was the last one there. A middle-aged woman holding her purse on her lap and staring into the distance as if she could imagine herself somewhere else for some other purpose. Jesus sat next to her and took her hand. “She’s all right.”
As if she had come back from somewhere very far away, the woman looked at Him. She heaved a breath, raspy, sounding like she hadn’t breathed in a long time. “Is she?”
Jesus thought of the woman’s daughter undergoing a procedure in one of the back rooms that would take away the baby conceived in an ill-timed relationship. He thought of the frightened boy who’d refused to take responsibility, whose parents had taken him away instead of facing what had happened. He knew the young girl had agonized about it. He’d heard her prayers. He’d heard her father’s anger, felt the words fall like blows on the girl’s heart. If you have an abortion don’t ever come back to my house.
But in the end, full of fear instead of hope, she’d gone to the clinic. And her mother had taken her, in spite of her own convictions, too worried about losing her daughter to obey her husband. Both of them had spent the past few hours imploring Him for forgiveness.
“My husband says it’s an unforgivable sin. That she’ll be locked out of heaven forever.” The woman’s voice quavered, imploring a contradiction.
Jesus stood, and the woman’s eyes filled with wonder. For a moment, when He smiled at her, she heard again her daughter’s bell-like laughter tinkling through spring air while she ran and played in the golden sunshine. Jesus bent and kissed her forehead. “There is no sin I will not forgive if I am asked in time.”
He left the clinic and paused outside. He saw the man standing on the other side of the road. He was a man who prayed daily, almost hourly, but Jesus could no longer hear him, though from this distance He could see the man’s lips moving. Jesus knew what He’d said to the woman in the waiting room was true. But He wondered—if this man ever asked His pardon—would He hear the prayer?
His heart heavy, He walked away from the clinic as the man entered it. He heard the explosion, and as those He passed turned to see what had happened, He spotted a clump of dandelions growing between the cracks of the sidewalk.