When the diamond fell into Brother Matthias’s hands, he worried it might burn. But there was no fire, no pain. All was well. He looked at the steaming diamond, held it to the sun, turned it, and stared through. Cloudy at first, it became clear. Another world on another side in another time looked back. Or at least her face did, and that was enough for him to smile and shed a tear. She summed up that other place: Beautiful.
He understood then that we are all outcasts here. We are all alone. Glimpsing her face renewed faith, reminded him there was more to our larger existence than hot asphalt and hazy air, than the buzz of fluorescent lighting, and sleeping on a bed of litter beneath the overpass. There was something and someplace better, and he had been there before. He would return.
The woman inside the diamond smiled at him, and then she grew smaller. She lifted away, carried by wings of glass. He heard the ethereal tinkle of her feathers and closed his eyes. It was the most beautiful song he knew.
He missed her already.
He opened his crying eyes, and the diamond was gone. In its place was a Steel Reserve tallboy. He looked at his palms. They were blistered and red and black. Bits of skin peeled away and blisters burst as he dropped the can from his tight-fisted hand. His hands smelled like the barbecue rib joint down the block. He looked up to the hot August sun. He fumbled with swollen fingers, gasped as he reached into his tattered jeans’ pocket for a crumpled pack of USA Golds, lit a cigarette, and inhaled the bitter blend. He watched the cloud of smoke drift away and disperse until it resembled her shadow.