At one point, Prabaker’s father reached out from his place at my left side to rest his hand on my shoulder. It was a simple gesture of kindness and comfort, but its effect on me was profound. A moment before, I’d been drifting toward sleep. Suddenly I was hard awake. I plunged into memories and thoughts of my daughter, my parents, my brother; of the crimes I’d committed, and the loves I’d betrayed and lost forever. It may seem strange, and it may in fact be impossible for anyone else to understand, but until that very moment I’d had no real comprehension of the wrong I’d done, and the life I’d lost. While I’d committed the armed robberies, I was on drugs, addicted to heroin. An opiate fog had settled over everything that I thought and did and even remembered about that time. Afterwards, during the trial and the three years in prison, I was sober and clear-headed, and I should’ve known then what the crimes and punishments meant, for myself and my family and the people I’d robbed at the point of a gun. But I didn’t know or feel anything of it then. I was too busy being punished, and feeling punished, to put my heart around it. Even with the escape from prison, and the flight, running and hiding as a wanted man, a hunted man with a price on my head—even then, there was no final, clear, encompassing grasp of the acts and the consequences that made up the new, bitter story of my life. It was only there, in the village in India, on that first night, adrift on the raft of murmuring voices, and my eyes filled with stars; only then, when another man’s father reached out to comfort me, and placed a poor farmer’s rough and calloused hand on my shoulder; only there and then did I see and feel the torment of what I’d done, and what I’d become—the pain and the fear and the waste; the stupid, unforgivable waste of it all. My heart broke on its shame and sorrow. I suddenly knew how much crying there was in me, and how little love. I knew, at last, how lonely I was. But I couldn’t respond. My culture had taught me all the wrong things well. So I lay completely still, and gave no reaction at all. But the soul has no culture. The soul has no nations. The soul has no colour or accent or way of life. The soul is forever. The soul is one. And when the heart has its moment of truth and sorrow, the soul can’t be stilled. I clenched my teeth against the stars. I closed my eyes. I surrendered to sleep. One of the reasons why we crave love, and seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, and shame, and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about yourself are so painful that only shame can help you live with them. And some things are just so sad that only your soul can do the crying for you.

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A quote saved on Nov. 5, 2015.


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