A girl named Charity

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If it ever crossed your mind that the Lady in Red is the embodiment of the word 'Appealing', you're wrong…

I was young, curious about the world, a student of Psychology, a scientist by choice and a philosopher by virtue. At the time this story took place, I stayed in an apartment which was near the home of the mentally ill and those diseases with lost causes which was exactly the place I’ve been looking for my studies.

Everyday or so, I see this girl who walks by my apartment. Always wore white clothes which were spotless and starched. I thought at first that she must be a senior of some health course from a school just across mine. One time, I saw her up-close and she was wearing an impeccable white dress. ‘There goes your theory’ I thought to myself. To describe her features, this girl was pale skinned, long straight hair having the color of ebony, carmine lips, eyes that seemed to well-up with tears and has a smooth, innocent expression on her face (not a tinge of wrinkles) which was accompanied by a wide grin that would make you think she was smiling at you, everyone and no one.

The following day, I was with one of my classmate and my friend, right outside my place, enjoying an afternoon cup of coffee from the canteen downstairs. We were talking about plans of making our own marks in our profession. As usual, I saw this girl walking past again, all merry and cheerful that you’ll think she’s skipping and gliding on air. I noticed that my friend was staring at her, all googly eyed… I asked him with a low tone of voice, close to a whisper “Who is she?” and he replied “My dream girl…” “Her name, dumb ass.” I said while frowning. “Oh, her name’s Charity… if that’s what you’re asking.” After she was way past us and he was back to reality, he started telling me about her and her life which he expressed with great eagerness and heartfelt awe.

According to him, Charity is the only daughter from a well-off family. Her father works for the government in the Department of Social Works and her mother works in a large church organization. She was always passing by place, (much to the envy of my friend) since she often visits the homes of the hill people a few blocks away. He said that she goes there to take care of them, giving them handouts and helping the staff on chores all for free. “Really now?” I said with that usual sarcasm in my voice and he looked, as one looks at others when they are offended and said “Yeah, expecting nothing in return. That’s why I like her – love her even because she has the looks and the heart to match!” He said boasting “She really lives up to her name… Charity.” He said with a sigh.

As the days went on, I began to hear and eventually ask about her. Everybody seemed to adore her and she’s everyone’s friend on the internet but I have rarely really seen her with a group of friends especially when I see her going to the homes. When I inquired about this, I got “Ohs…” and “Uhms…” and those kinds of expression when you ask people something and seems like they got a surprise but failed to get the point when they saw what it was. Also, there is the occasional “It’s her that wants to be like that. I’d go with her but I do—can’t!” After which they start hurrying away. I decided to check her profile out on those social networking sites. Her profiles are always with the background of religious images and filled with a lot of links to organizations that are always requests for one’s donations. One says: “A few pesos from you can keep a child from dying in Ethiopia.” If you click on the link, an image of a child who was eating a cow’s feces would pop-up. Her comments are usually from people who tell compliments on how good she is, asking her on how to help her, donations and sometimes words of pity for those children you’d see on those links.

I always see Charity outside her campus, near booths and stalls and she was with those people who ask for donations of every kind from others. I found the ‘mystery’ lying behind that name piquing my curiosity. Right that minute, I decided to meet her…

I walked up to her booth. There was a table and on it a red box with a message in front asking for donations for people who have cancer but could not afford treatment. I was standing there for a couple of seconds and then a drawling feminine voice said to me, “Hi. Would you like to make a donation?” I looked up from the box to her face, seeing those eyes which are full of what men would call ‘pity’ and which I felt drawn into. I found myself putting my hand inside my pocket, searching for change, clutched them, took it out and dropped it in the box. The coins clattered once they hit the bottom pile. Dropped with finality and with the amount I have never seen and would never know. I saw my left hand clutched to fist, my mouth shut tight as if I’m not breathing the air she was. My other hand extended towards her direction, it was met by a pale hand and shook it. “Hi, I’m Pete.” I said “I’m Charity. You must be the one who lives down a few blocks, near the homes right? You know, I see you sometimes from the window of your room.” I was surprised by this statement because I have never seen her look up when she walks by.

I replied, flushed, “Yeah, I see you too passing down my street.” And she said in a slow drawl, “Oh, nice to meet you. Thank you for making a donation. It helps so much!” One could notice the sparkle from her eyes, like when a ray of sun has hit a puddle. Then I sat beside her on the fence while she waited for people to stop by and give contributions. We talked and talked until the day was nearing its end. She said that she was going to turn over the collections to the organization and she would go home. I offered to take her there, she obliged. While walking, I got to know more about her. I inquired about her life to which she answered with glee. She was a very open person, I gathered.

She talked about helping so many different people with various problems and how it never seems to end. She talked at length about how it is the duty of the well-off, the healthy and the able to help those who are in need. “Need comes first.” She was saying in a tone that would convey a didactic passion of a well memorized lesson. “It is our duty,” she was saying, “to cater to who those who are unable to lift their bodies. We should carry them on our shoulder if need be, without asking and expecting anything in return. This is what God has taught us, to give the excesses of our wealth to those who cannot make it on their own.”

When we got to Charity’s house, she looked at me and asked what I felt. I told her that she was really passionate about all of those but she said “It’s not passion. This is sacrifice. Isn’t love all about sacrifice?” she waited, I didn’t answer. “Mom and dad always tell me that we should never be greedy and distribute our money back to society.” “Dad works for the government who gives me checks to deliver to different organizations. He always says that those who have stable jobs don’t really need the money that the government collects from taxes. It’s better for everybody to be cut down to size when they’re too big and be stretched some more when their not – in terms of wealth of course.”

I did not know at that time what exactly happened in the period while she was talking but I suddenly felt nauseated and weakened. She was asking “Don’t you think so? Don’t you?” It was if a baby who was extending its arms to be carried by me were implied by her tone and her words. I merely said, the last word dropping off “I do not know… yet.”

A year has passed by and I was understood more about the field of Psychology. I was doing my practicum at the Home for the mentally ill. Sure enough, Charity went there more often than I did. One afternoon, she was entertaining the patients with a mini-program where they got to dance and have ‘fun’. Charity danced to the tune of a novelty song while the psychotics clapped their hands, mimicking what the other non-psychotic patients were doing. Their faces were blank with schizophrenic stupor. I looked at Charity; she was all smiles and seems to be having a genuinely good time.

After the program was done, I asked for a pass to get out of the building for a smoke. I didn’t notice Charity was right behind me. I can still hear her panting and I noticed when she came close that something sweet – like jam who has been left open for days and what beginning to decompose – was coming from her when she asked “Did you see their faces? Did you?” I said, “Yeah, did you have fun?” I couldn’t point out what I said but she had this sudden severe, confused look as if you caught a wild animal with a cage. Involuntarily she shrieked, “I told you it’s not about getting anything! It’s their happiness that matters not yours or mine we’re just here to serve them!” Then, her voice suddenly calmed down “I was asking you if you saw the look on their faces not inquire about mine. Don’t you see them suffering? Can’t you feel their pain?” “No.” I said, and then asked, “What are you getting out of this Charity?” She smiled; with that wide toothy grin she answered “Nothing… nothing at all. I just love to see them smiling, just there, sitting on their chairs and lying on their beds, unable to lift a finger… helpless.”

I remembered a patient’s face. Clapping and screaming, drool coming out of his mouth and tears from his eyes. I felt revulsion.

Then she coughed without covering her face. That time, I smelled that ester-like smell, only stronger now. Then I knew what it odor, it was the funk, like rotting smell of pus coming from her… from her sweat, her breath. She coughed once more, this time, she had her head down. When she faced me again, I saw her lower lip – it cracked and is now bleeding. She didn’t wipe off the blood… she did not seem to mind it at all.

At that moment, I realized the full meaning of her words and the horror that came with it. Surprised and sickened, I replied: “You’re awful Charity. You live through the suffering of others while begging for alms from those who are not -- to support your cause!” “You’re like a leech with a man's body.”

She lowered her head, as if to cry. Her shoulders shuddered but instead of the sound of sobs, what I heard from her was a boisterous laugh like an imp who was caught red-handed on its mischief. When her laughter trailed off, she said “Well then, I guess I won’t have to worry about running out of food. Besides, it's better to have friends than enemies, I guess you can call me 'everybody's whore'."

She went on to say: “It’s people Pete, who has made it all possible what I am today. They were handing away their wealth with such vigor. We just made them guilty of the fact that they have wealth by showing them people who are terminally ill. By showing that those who are able to think sanely, should be the one to carry the burden of the insane and make them pay for it. They may be the cause of all good but look at what have they have achieved when they put their money into those donation boxes, thinking it will be for their own good. Saving souls? No, never because we have taught them all that by nature, we are sinful! They flock to us so blindly; they put in their money so eagerly. Hastily turning away their backs, not inquiring what has happened to their wealth.” She chuckled, “It went down the drain! The fools! It is too late to stop us now. Like my father, whom they chose to represent them, has taken measures to loot them more efficiently! Like my mother, who they adore just extends her offertory basket and it becomes instant cash!” She snapped her fingers. “Those people had the power to produce but we turned it against them through guilt. They fulfilled our wishes, without us having to lift a finger. Just by showing them some distraught and dying figures… They’re all pathetic. I did tell you that my father says that extremes should be snipped off right? It was us who planned this since time immemorial. We never liked achievement. We despise it as a burglar who hates the shine of a flashlight on his face. We looked forward to the day when man, will lower his guards and open his heart – thereby opening up his pocket and wallets too and then we take over their souls!” The maniacal laugh started again

“They were too blinded by the goods they have created, that they thought it was safe to share it with us… the incompetent, the ill, the indolent. They thought that somehow, it could change us and it could, in fact… but they have overlooked the fact that there will be people like us, who never wants to change and instead, continue living on their blood -- the blood of the wealthy. We told them that each of our existence depends on each other while we posed like the sad little sin they have failed to see. In fact, in their mind, in their very soul – they abhorred it. But because they had hearts, we knew that it would creep up sooner or later. They eagerly dropped their tool for survival which was their mind and we were free to pick it up, to use and when those men passed away, we handed those back, worn out… we wrapped it in second-hand lead and cleverly named it Faith. We preached that they should be content with their lot but still give it away to those who need it more and the cycle repeats itself. It might be poison but who cares? It’s the need of the need of moment that matters. We knew that we we’re going to hell but we’re making sure that we drag everything down with us. We found the magic formula...” The last two words sounded like it came from a pervert who stole someone’s undergarments and displaying it proudly in a busy street for everyone to see.

“They should have known better than to avoid looking into our activities and it’s the one thing we fear too… people like you… people who has the arrogance to question us and point out our schemes. However, we also found the greatest defense against it.” I asked calmly, “What is it?” She laughed “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

A chill ran down my spine when I heard it. It seemed like my question has suddenly become impotent. As if it stopped all train of thought and order in this world. It felt again like when I dropped my coins into that donation box. Feeling contempt, I took one step back and turned to walk away. I realized now something more chilling. It was me as well. I’m the guilty one. I made it possible for them to have this world, my money and consequently my life as an extension to theirs. It was people like me who tolerated their system. ‘She’s living on my life like a parasite. She doesn’t have her own life. They don’t.’ I thought. ‘What if I decide not to permit this any longer?’ I took one step in the other direction and she screamed “Pete! Where are you going? Face me right now, goddammit! I demand it!” I responded, my back still turned to her, “No.” I heard a “Huh?” uttered from her direction and then the sound of sobs came through. I turned back, she smiled like the devil and spoke with an accent of a sweet child “Please, Pete, don’t go… I didn’t mean anything I said… I … I was only… oh it’s nothing! It was just a joke!” I stared in her eyes, and then said, indifferently. “No, I do not care to see what will become of you.” And I walked away. “Please! I can’t live without you! I’ll kill myself! Oh… I’m going through hell… Please… I need you…” There’s true pain and misery from her voice now.

I never saw Charity since that day. Some said that her father became an ambassador of some sort and her family traveled to places like Iraq, Ethiopia, Nigeria and other countries that you’ll hear in the news where there’s war, plague, hunger and death. I made conclusions out of my encounter with Charity. That wherever there is suffering, there she’ll always be. Along with her looting father and her mooching mother, they defraud, cheat and rob other people out of their hard-earned money and eventually their lives.

Edited by David Lee
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That was chilling. The writing was a cross between Ayn Rand and Stephen King. Did you write it? If not, who did. And who is Pete?

Semper cogitans fidele,

Peter Taylor

I did. Yes, it's murky. I know. At first I was afraid of what came out. I wrote this back in my college days. Which was a couple of years ago when I was beginning to -and still trying to- understand Rand or her philosophy. It shocked me to learn where I am and to what I'm being constantly presented by my society. It's also a popular saying here especially in politics to: Choose between lesser evils. I had the notion of it being genuinely rotten but after reading Rand who gave me the words to what I've been practicing but not fully knowing... I said something of the sort (after reading my work):

"How disgusting the 'values' that this society hold!" I've always felt disdain for this place and its people and now I can confidently state one of my convictions: If these are the choices you give me, I choose none -- except my own.

At that time, as you can see, it's close to my profile, I was Pete. An allusion to Keating from The Fountainhead. At least, to the extent that he was primarily confused but as you can also infer, Pete was saved and overcame or won the struggle in this story - through sound reasoning I might add. That's what happened.

Edited by David Lee
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