I am Lavinnia. Somehow I found myself near the front of the crowd as all of us moving through the streets made way for the soldiers coming down the street. I saw the captive they dragged with them in irons. In a moment, I loved her. She was a fellow human being, and I saw and felt that in my heart, and loved her. It would not have mattered of what she was accused. I loved her. It would not have even mattered whether the accusations were true or not. I loved her.
I freed myself from the arms of the crowd, just behind the troop of soldiers, and followed them down the street. I saw the hole into which they threw the woman, and I crept away. A few hours later, I came back with water and food.
When I gave the water and food to the woman, I don’t think she knew who I was. I don’t think she knew that I didn’t work at the prison and that it wasn’t my job to give the prisoners food and water. I looked into her eyes and smiled as I passed my gifts through the bars. I told her my name and asked for hers. She told me what it was: Nomira.
I had to do everything I could for Nomira. I had to find out when her trial would be. I had to find out what would be done with her afterwards and where she would be kept. It was unendurable to me the thought of what might be done to her – what probably would be done to her! I loved her. No human being deserved to be kept in a dark, cold, and dirty cell, or to be tortured, or otherwise abused. No human being! No matter what the person had done! But I’m not even sure I cared about this so much as the fact that I loved her. She was a person.
I came early the following morning to bring Nomira food and water. Apparently, I was not early enough. I had just passed the food and water through the bars when I heard the sounds of hard boots on the ground. I had my hand through the bar and Nomira’s in mine, and I felt her hand shake. I tried to squeeze her hand gently and reassuringly and I smiled at her. “I love you, Nomira.”
It finally occurred to her who I was. “Then you don’t work here? You aren’t supposed to be here? This isn’t part of your job?”
“No,” I said. “Or maybe it is. I love you.”
“You could get in trouble for this, Lavinnia, couldn’t you?” she asked as they came closer.
“Y-yes, I g-guess so,” I began, stammering a little and nervous. Somehow it felt wrong. Not what I was doing. The question felt wrong. “I don’t know,” I began, as the sound of their boots and voices grew steadily louder and their lights fell on the corridor.
“Then leave me,” said Nomira in a hushed voice. “Maybe you will escape notice. You’ll be able to do no more for me by staying right now – but if you go down the passage and hide!”
I shook my head. “No. I love you. I want to be with you.”
The soldiers were very near now. Nomira did not know what to say in response.
The soldiers saw me. The leader came right up to me and asked me, “Show me the paper authorizing and limiting your presence here.”
“I don’t have one,” said I.
“Well, I will have mercy on you this one time. I do not know what you are doing here. Leave at once and never come back.”
I looked around me. “May I follow you and Nomira?” I asked.
“Just go!” Nomira whispered at me, motioning. “If you do this, you’ll be –!” Simultaneously, he said, “No, you may not.” Another said, “That is treason. Aiding and abetting traitors…”
I started speaking, rather rapidly. The soldier’s words made the whole situation very clear to me. Treason? She would most certainly be tortured to death. Maybe she had come to this in a way not very different from the way I was coming to it.
My first words I directed mostly to Nomira. “Killed? Tortured?” I asked. “Well, what is life without love? And what is torture with love?”
I could see the thought on her face. Isn’t there someone else you love? “If I don’t love one whom I love, it doesn’t matter how many others I love, love dies, or begins to die, in my heart! I love. I am going to love and obey love no matter what.”
It ceased to be clear to whom I was speaking. “Love is our consolation. If there is a human being who hates so much that he will torture us, then at least we will know that there is one who loves us enough to be tortured just to be with us. Even if you kill one of us before the other, we will still love, and so be loved, consoled, and not alone! No human being should be tortured. All should be loved. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done, however evil, however horrible.” I turned and pointed right at the soldier who wanted to have me charged with treason as ‘an aider and abetter of traitors.’ “Even you. Even the torturer should never be tortured, but loved. And I will love. To love is consolation enough to face your horrors. Not to love is an even greater horror. I choose love!”
I looked at Nomira. “Don’t be distressed at what I will suffer. It’s not your fault. You’re not guilty. And it’s not so very much, or at least so very horrible, either. Not with love. Love makes light of all things. To love is joy, and I will love. Don’t be sorry for me. We will suffer together in the sufferings of the other. Perhaps to love is to suffer more. But if to love more is to suffer more, then to suffer by love is to love the more. With every suffering, I will only love you more, for knowing it I will accept it for love and my love will grow! I want to love. Our love will be our consolation. No. I will not leave Nomira! You’ll have to drag me from her, and even then you won’t succeed. Even if you tear us both apart, throwing us into cells by ourselves, and torture us separately, we will be together by love.”
Copyright 2019 Raina Nightingale