The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta. Zero Mile is a series of sometimes fictionalized and sometimes real stories based on life in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
On my knees, I pray. God can hear me whispering. God can hear my silent words. I am on my knees because I’m begging. I am not boastful. I am not proud. I am weak and sobbing. I don’t pray standing up.
I kneel down. How can I respectfully ask you to hear me? Tell me and I will do it. But you say nothing.
I watch those on bended knee.
He proposed to her on bended knee. He humbled himself before her, not as a servant, but as a gesture of humility. He would not lord over her with his size or power, but offer to care for her and be her friend in life and death. If she said yes, she would lift him up.
I crawled across the floor when I was in labor. I could not stand. I was in too much pain. The nurse saw me kneeling in front of the toilet in the hospital room. I was too weak to retch. I was wretched. I knelt down and cried.
The nurse said, “The baby’s coming.”
I knelt for so long. I took long breaths through spasms of pain. I wanted to get up, but I couldn’t.
She was born crumpled and curled and unable to stand.
I have knelt down to tie her shoes long after she knew how. The laces loosened and untangled and then tangled around her feet. I bend down to greet her so our eyes meet. She has seen me on my knees.
As a child, my knees were scabbed and bruised. I liked to get close to the earth. The dirt and worms were worthy of my interest and care. I cared for blades of grass. Trees towered above me. If I knelt down, the trees grew taller. The world grew bigger and away from me. I would kneel. I would make myself feel small. I imagined I was a fairy. I could kneel down and disappear.
I knelt and slid and ran and fell and bled. When I stood up it was only to do it all over again.
A woman begged on the street corner. There was no food at home. She kneeled on a cardboard mat as other people pass her by. Passerby. Pass her by. She kneels.
She mumbled, “What would Jesus do?”
Jesus would kneel next to the sick and poor. He would wash the feet of his friends. If you struck him, he would turn the other cheek. I am trying to be like Jesus. It is impossible to be that good, that kind, that forgiving. I try. We have all tried for so long.
What about those who cannot stand? Are they not proud? Is it disrespectful to be different? To want change?
On my knees, I beg. I pray. I hope for something other than what is.
It was a crime to sit in the front of the bus.
It was a crime to eat at the lunch counter.
It was a crime to drink from the water fountain.
Have our entire lives been a crime?
It is disrespectful to kneel. It is disrespectful to ask for a voice.
You don’t like it when they kneel. You won’t like it when they stand.
I fall to my knees.
I pray. I kneel and pray.
I stand for the National Anthem. I salute my flag. I stand when you tell me to sit. I walk when you try to hold me back. I raise my hand and my voice. You don’t want me to kneel, but you try to push me down. I stand. I wipe blood off my knees. There are new scars.
Will you link arms with me so I don’t sink to the ground or because you want to help me stand? Will you link arms with me when I say I need your help and your voice.
I am asking.
I am waiting.
I watch you stand.
You’ve never had to kneel. I pray you’ll never have to.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. Zero Mile stories appear on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.