1989 — II

The days had passed and Rich just couldn’t get enough of the book that the man had given him. He spent the whole night reading it, often falling asleep over it. He was learning so much. He had found a note in the front, recommending that he memorize the passages and he did, any passage that he found really useful. And he prayed. He prayed for his colleagues, his country, his world — and Anita.

Anita was beginning to notice the changes in her husband. Usually lethargic in the morning he was usually awake and reading that book. She began to notice a fire in his deep hazel eyes, a burning that she couldn’t explain. He had a vigor that she didn’t think he could have, but what frightened her most of all was his talk. He talked of nothing but this book and the man called Jesus. She became afraid that he had abandoned the Party’s way and had found something more evil. Even though she didn’t love him, she didn’t want to lose him, either. There was more food to eat, more recognition, and maybe somebody to fight with when the need arose. But she had finally had enough. Rich was sitting with his back to the telescreen again reading that book.

“Rich,” she said in a serious tone. He quickly closed the book and put it on the floor.

“Yes?” he asked.

“You have to stop reading that book,” she said, impatiently tapping her foot. “You just aren’t spending enough time with the Party. It’s bad for your image and then they might take you!” Rich smiled at her anger, and suddenly became aware of a new feeling towards her that he didn’t think he’d ever had before: affection.

“Well, Anita,” he said. “If I would do that I would really loose my life.” She shuddered as she saw a warmth mingling with the fire in his eyes.

“If you don’t stop, you’ll really be killed,” she said, biting her lip.

“Why do you worry about me, Anita?” he asked.

“Well — I ....”  She didn’t know the answer to that one.

“Come take a walk with me,” he said.

“But it’s almost 21:00.”

“That doesn’t matter,” he answered, picking up his book. “Come.” For some reason she couldn’t resist his invitation and followed him out of the apartment.

• • •

Rich slowly directed their steps toward the scrubby park. There were no electric lights, only the light of the moon falling among the trees and onto a small pond a short way away.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Rich asked almost breathlessly, looking about the soft dark grove of trees. “Do you know how all this came into being.”

“Of course,” Anita replied monotonously. “It all evolved over millions of years....”

“No, I mean really. How did it happen that this lifeless clump of rock could become such a place, blooming with life even in this oppression?” Anita just looked at him, watching him to see what would happen next. He took several steps toward the pond and then turned and looked at his young wife, eyes full of fire. “It was created, by God. The only God.” He came back his face intense, full of meaning. “And so were you, and I. But do you know why this world is the way that it is?” Anita was silent. “It is because man sinned. He did what God told him not to do. But not only man sinned, woman did too. What happened when those two sinned? Death came to the world and we couldn’t be friends with God. But God wanted to be in the world with us. And for that reason he sent his Son and his Son died for us. I have learned that and accepted that and that’s why I’m different, Anita, that’s why I don’t believe in the Party and in Ingsoc anymore. Oceania is dead to me, because I have found life. Life forever.”

“You mean, you aren’t going to die?” Anita asked incredulously.

“Oh,” Rich said, smiling to himself. “I didn’t mean that. Of course this body will die, but after death I will go to be with God.” He gripped her arms. “And I want you to be able to do that, too, Anita.” He dropped his hands and turned away, suddenly realizing what he had said. “I’m changing,” he finally said after a moment. “Changing but from the inside out. With this change come new feelings I didn’t know before: compassion, friendship, hope, peace, love.” Rich paused for a moment and turned back, looking into her gray eyes, eyes full of fear. She shuddered as she saw the warmth and gentleness in his. There was a look there she had never seen before. “I have learned what love is,” he said. “It is something that the Party can never quench. And I have learned to love you, too.” She went rigid the instant the words left his mouth. “Don’t worry, girl, it’s not what happens in a bed, it’s what happens here,” he said, pointing to his chest, “in your heart of hearts. That is where you must learn what love is. And only God can teach you that.” He paused. “It’s getting late,” he finally said. “Let’s go home.”

• • •

Anita suddenly came awake, covered in sweat. Those dreams had been back again, horrible dreams of being chased by an unseen light and always being cornered, and then as it came nearer, that voice, rumbling, coming from the depth of the earth. She had never told Rich and didn’t think she ever would. She suddenly slipped out of bed and pulled her overalls on. She stood and left her room. There was Rich with his head resting on the kitchen table, the book just a bit away from his arm. She bent over the thick book and looked at the opened page. Something on it caught her eye: “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones / and flesh of my flesh; / she shall be called “woman,” / for she was taken out of man.’“ (Genesis 2:22-23) What did that mean. She turned and looked self-consciously at the humming telescreen and wondered if they were watching her. Her eyes slipped a bit higher up the page and she read: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” (Genesis 2:18) A helper? Is that what a woman is? she suddenly wondered. If that is so then why don’t we help men?

• • •

A hand shook Rich’s shoulder, waking him from his sleep. He wiped his eyes and focused on the shadowed face of his wife. He searched the usually passionless face for any difference. She stepped into the soft light, clearing away many of the shadows in her face. He read the questions written there and beckoned for her to come. They crossed the room and entered their bedroom. Anita sat on the edge of the bed.

“Tell me,” she whispered when he sat down next to her, “what are men and women like in that book of yours?”

“They are friends, enemies, lovers, and followers of God,” he answered in a hushed voice. “But most of all they are partners. That’s what a husband and wife are: partners for life, each one building the other up through their mutual love, and serving God together.”

“That sounds a bit like the Party philosophy,” she said after a moment. “Man and woman toiling side-by-side to build a better world.”

“Yes,” Rich agreed, “but God’s way works better, because you can really change the world. Man’s ways are empty, but God’s ways are full of life and light. If a man and woman are partners in Him, then they are complete, because God fills in the gaps left by man’s sin.” Anita thought about this for a moment.

“I like your God, Rich,” she said finally. “Can I know him, too?”

“Anyone can know him, Anita. You just have to tell him that and believe in his Son, Jesus.”

“Tell me about him, Rich,” she almost pleaded and he did. It ended almost an hour later with both on their knees, praying. When they finished Anita looked at Rich.

“I feel free,” she said, tears streaming down her face, “free!”

“And you are now,” Rich said, beaming. “Free from the bonds of sin and the Party.”