IT'S A LONELY WALK DOWN THE CORRIDOR. I asked to wear my black suit. That’s the one thing they allow me, the men in white. I wear my black shirt, my black tie. The only thing not black is the stitching on my black boots. And my cufflinks, the ones she gave me, bright silver crosses inset with tiny diamonds.
“This way you’ll always be reminded of the Good Lord’s sacrifice,” she told me, and I thanked her and kissed her and told her she was a good wife—too good for a rascal like me.
It’s cold in the corridor, on that long lonely walk. I can see my breath. I watch it evaporate in the chill, still air, dissipating in pale gray puffs.
The preacher man asked me, “Why do you wear black all the time?”
I answered him at first with a wry grin, then said, “Why do you?”
“It is a symbol that I die everyday, and that I immerse myself in eternity with the Lord.”
“I reckon it’s about the same for me, then.”
“Do you consider yourself a priest?”
“No, Father. I’m not so wise as all that.”
What should I do? Explain to him how I chose black years ago to represent the hopeless and the hungry? For the sick, the lonely, the unenlightened. For the prisoners and the soldiers who have died, and for much better people than I’ve ever been. For things that just need plain changing.
Most people out there in the world think I wear black because I’m a demon in the form of a man, a black devil with a black soul. But black is cleansing. It absorbs all the world’s evils, soaks it all in and traps it, engulfs it, never lets it go.
I peer down the last few steps of the corridor and rub a callused thumb across one of the crosses on my cuff. A man in white opens the door from the inside. He’s dressed all in white and has a grim look about him, dark circles around his bloodshot eyes, hollow cheeks, and a slash of a mouth—almost lipless, I’d say.
The long, lonely walk, they tell, makes your senses come alive. I hear every sound, every breath, the sweep and click of our boot heels. I cross the room and sit where they tell me. The wood of the chair is hard and cold. They wrap canvas around me, they belt it around my waist, my wrists, and ankles, and cinch it tight. I smell something strong, and I hear the drip of water in the bucket.
They put a sponge on top of my head. As the water courses down the sides of my face something black catches my eye, and I look to the side. The preacher man is behind the glass, clutching the Holy Bible to his chest, and then my eyes wander to other folks sitting and watching me. I look for Rose, but she ain’t there. I’ll see her as soon as this is all over, where Jesus waits, too. Strange, but through all the pictures and imaginings of men, I never once pictured Him wearing anything but black.
I can’t quite see the preacher anymore. They have my head fixed forward so I can’t turn my neck now, but my eyes strain to the side.
“He wants to talk to the priest,” one of the men in white say.
“Yes, my son? Is there something you want to tell us before you meet the Lord?”
“You asked me a question earlier. I thought of my answer.”
“Well…I just kind of like the color, I guess.”
(Inspired by the one and only Johnny Cash.)