“You want to know how I survived the testing?” Nemel asks me.
The late afternoon sun casts shadows from both of us across the dusty ground. Each one of the shadows features elongated limbs, a simple lithe form for our bodies and a head that’s out of proportion to what it’s attached to. Without knowing the identity of the one casting, the shadow itself is unidentifiable, featureless and even … genderless.
Instead of waiting for me to respond, Nemel continues, “It didn’t matter to me whether I lived or perished. I just wanted to have the opportunity to try, to experience what the ritual was all about. That, at least was what I started out thinking and telling myself. I was so tired of who I was, how I was living and yet had no idea how to break the cycle and move away from it. I needed something dramatic to push me through to the next phase. I even told Mayta that I wasn’t sure she existed. I only knew if I did survive, I’d leave all that happened to me before out there and start all over here.”
From my previous encounters with Nemel I knew he could talk at length about a topic; that he had a need to unleash all these words and comments to a listening ear without many remarks in return. Exchanges with him were extremely different than those with Elder which were more back and forth between us. Due to Nemel’s isolation and relatively little connection with others, he had limited access to a listening ear. For me the exchange was actually beneficial, as Nemel often unknowingly shared a vast array of knowledge from observation and experiences. In some ways he was another scout, sharing all that he had gathered … with me.
“I’m this way for a reason,“ Nemel states without bitterness or sadness. “It doesn’t have to be curse. It can be something that can be a help to us all. Who I am depends on what happens … now, not back then. I may be stunted in growth but the others are stunted in their way of thinking and customs. Out there I finally accepted myself for who I am.”
Nemel’s eyes shine with a light that was missing when I first met him. In fact, there is a glow radiating about him now that is more than just the sun’s fading rays exploding off of his back.
(Contact me for the last chapter.)