Aflick of a black cloak and Ramon is gone. 

Aster clasps her hands together, to stop them from shaking. “It is nothing,” Aster announces. “Just the empty words of an embittered man.”

Jocef shakes his head, thoughtful.

Aster turns to him, fear becoming anger. “Do you disagree? He is just a sad, lonely monk. You know him, Jocef. You know that this is true.”

Jocef does not answer.

Aster becomes more insistent. “Well, Jocef. Is it not true?”

Eventually Jocef looks up at her. “It is true.”

She rocks back and forth on her feet, soles to toes, toes to soles, waiting, waiting. Brush away my fears. Tell me that my worries are futile.

Jocef speaks quietly. “But sadness and loneliness can lead people to evil deeds.”


The streets of the Call fall away as Ramon strides through them, paying no heed to the children playing or the women and their baskets. They fall away, leaving a path, and when Ramon arrives at the gates, he calls sharply to the guards. “Open the gates. Do not leave me to wait while you tarry.”

But the guards step down from their posts with languid limbs, they are in no hurry as they fit the key into the lock and slowly draw back the iron gates. Ramon steps through, and strides across the city down to the harbor. In the darkness of night, the sea is deep black; it is like looking at the furthermost edge of world.

He clenches his fists. These self-satisfied Jews, what do they know? What do they know of being alone in the world? Their religion is their bond, they are like family to each other, no matter their origin.

He looks in the direction of the horizon, but it feels like he need take only one step and the absence would swallow him.

Ramon, these are good people. Jocef is your friend. He has pledged his friendship, for always.

He lifts his leg and strikes his foot against the cobblestones. The sound rings through the night.

We call them downtrodden, but they have family and love and caring and… they even have scholarship.

Scholarship. All his life, he thought of his losses as wagon wheels: pushing him forward into the future, taking him over the world to places unknown, undiscovered. He filled the places that were missing with a thirst for knowledge and learning and scholarship, he formed himself around his thirst for books and pages and words.

But just look at Jocef and Aster and her father. You can have the learning and still be born into a family. You can be a scholar and still have a father and a mother, roots. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 595)