They burn so bright, a wall of joyous, flame – within each flickering bud is a precious memory. I light a candle for every lost, forgotten, and hopeless soul; the first for Martha, who so courageously sacrificed her life so her son could escape the locked car as it sunk deeper into the Hudson. Now ten years later her son commemorates her memory by fucking bitches in the back of a hookah bar downtown.

The second: a waitress, Barbara, who convinced herself that maybe her coworkers were right to call her a “fat, fugly pig that deserved to eat shit and die.” After months of torment, she slit her wrists in the rest stop bathroom stall off I-10.

I light one for Kaleb, the rising star of Minton Heights High School football team. In a twisted scheme, his teammates convinced him he needed to lose his virginity to be a part of the team. Weeks later, he contracted AIDS from a street whore. For the rest of his life he was treated by his peers as a sick freak; his parents told him he was going to hell, that his sin was unforgivable despite the fact that his father was a drug pusher and his mom earned thousands from credit fraud.

And lastly, I light one for myself and the rest of humanity. If we’re not the ones experiencing or performing the torture, we sit idly by while it occurs. We never give that homeless man down Main Street a second thought. “Failure is a choice. He’s homeless because he wants to be,” we bark. When really the man was a notable business man recently laid off from work; he’d lost everything in a grisly divorce from his husband. Instead of high rise living with his spouse and son to which he was accustomed, he fished rats for dinner out of garbage cans under the bypass.

The final candle burns brighter than the rest, the flame accompanying the potential of every soul on the planet. It portrays a fantastic future of peace and love. A new generation where tranquility and charity are as common as hamburgers and churches waits behind the very door we choose to lock when we pass that hungry mother with her child begging for money at the intersection.

Perhaps heaven does exist, but its elite residents are so disgusted with us that they, too, keep their doors and windows locked.

I don’t blame them.

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