They were late. Not that I was expecting them to be on time, they weren’t before everything happened. But I had secretly hoped that almost 100 years of separation would have created some kind of excitement or urgency in them.
I reached into my vest pocket and pulled out my watch. I’d only been waiting a half hour; and what was half an hour when you were immortal?
I slipped the watch back into it’s pocket, letting the chain jangle as it fell. It was an odd thing to wear in this day and age. No one had worn a pocket watch for almost the entirely of my immortality. But it seemed appropriate to wear something reflective of time in this moment. Something that distinguished me from the crowd, but still shared who I was. I didn’t want my friends to miss me because I looked so different. If they were still the friends I remembered, though friends was a poor choice of words, they shouldn’t have had a problem with me in this attire.
I knew that I had changed, immortality will cause you to truly shift your priorities. But I wasn’t sure that the same could be said for my friends. While I was now a more enlightened, mature person, I feared that the benevolent gift that our spirit doctor had given us was being abused in their hands.
They weren’t the wisest or the most astute of men in our village. In fact, the three of us were the biggest trouble makers that the Lakota people had ever seen. Almost every story, every parable was based on something we had done and how the next generation should avoid following our example. Years of stealing other tribes’ food, painting their horses in our colours, toppling their homes, finally came to a head when the other chiefs came to see our chief. It wasn’t uncommon for them to gather, but never before had they come dressed for war.
Something had to be done, or the entire Lakota people would be exterminated for our misdeeds. Our chief would not have that, but did not know how to discipline the three of us. It is a difficult thing for a father to do.
He did the best that he could, and handed us over to the wisdom and discipline of the Lakota’s spirit doctor. That’s what she is called by modern archeologists. In truth, we called her the village ghost. We never knew when she was there, until she was there. We never understood how she got around. She had no horse. No one brought her in or took her out. She simply was there, and then gone. A mystery, clad in the hide of a great white buffalo; she would decide our fate.
Someone bumped the table. The jot startled me, bringing me back from my memories. The clumsy waitress apologized, and continued on her way. My spilt cappuccino stared up at me, asking why I had abandoned it to such a cruel fate. As I wiped the mess with my napkin, I wondered, again, if we three had been left to a cruel fate as well.
The spirit doctor had not been seen for months, so when my father, the tribe chief announced that she would be delivering the discipline upon us three, we weren’t sure what to think. Was our father being foolish? There was no consistency within her. Was he being kind to his only children? If the spirit doctor never showed up, we would be in a limbo state of discipline, not held responsible for our actions, and not guilty of them at the same time. Or was he tired of our foolishness and giving us over to our misdeeds?
I had pondering these things for decades. Some days, I would linger in the sunlight, doing nothing else but wondering what my father thought that day. He had long since passed, but the power of his actions still reverberated in my life.
The spirit doctor did come. Unannounced and unaccompanied, she flow in and hovered above me and my brothers as we spelt. It was the smell of her smoking sweet grass that altered us to her presence. When we asked what she was here for, why she had violated our space, she remained silent. Her lips only moved to let the smoke trickle out like a babbling brook. Her silence provoked us, and we asked more questions, made demands, but none of this upset or disturbed her. She only continued to smoke.
After a time, we realized that our words and threats were not getting anywhere. We decided to sit silently before her. Clearly she had heard our father’s announcement; she was here to judge us.
“For your foolishness, for your lack of understanding of the way the Spirit calls us to act, I am going to bestow upon you few have ever had.”
My two brothers began to smile and congratulate each other, while I sat in stillness. Evil deeds did not bring rewards. What our own foolishness was bringing us was not a good thing, though my brothers may misconstrued it as such. This was judgment. This was a bad thing, something we shouldn’t have wanted.
“Well, how has immortality treated you, dear brother?”
I looked up from my sad cappuccino into the faces of two men I knew well, only to be reminded that I didn’t know them at all. While I had spend my 100 years largely in solitude, grieving and repenting what I had done, it was clear my brothers, these childhood friends, had not.
“What tasteless dress my brother, tell me, are you “the poor” I hear about?”
A brother plopped down on either side of me, the eldest calling for the clumsy waitress. They were dressed in the finest suits I had ever seen. Designer labels, one of kind pieces that would cost fortunes.
“Now, brother, did you really just spend the last 100 years in lament and not treating your immortality as a great gift? You could be living like a king rather than the street urchin, you know.”
My heart began to grieve. They missed the point. Then she caught my eye. Not the clumsy waitress; the spirit doctor was sitting one table away.