Some would think that it would be a boring existence to stand for decades in a plexiglass box wearing a suit of steel armor.
Let me assure you that it is far from the truth. I find it fascinating to watch the gawkers, the curious, the historians, the lovers and the caretakers as they stroll past me. Some stop and begin to read the plaque on the wall beside me until they get bored with the dates, names of those individuals who have owned me over the centuries.
My situation now is that the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in a city called New York, has taken over my care. Every year they disassemble the plexiglass box and polish me.
The really interesting thing is that none of those who are allowed to touch me know that my spirit and soul–for I was the first knight to wear this suit–still exists inside this steel. I am like a god. I see all and hear all. The problem is that what I see and hear takes place only in my line of sight. Whatever the rest of the world is like is beyond my knowledge.
One power I do possess is that I can hear the spoken and even the unspoken words and thoughts of those who enter my arena. Once I have studied their voices and look into their eyes–be careful how closely you look into my face mask–I can visualize entire lives.
The weight of so many cares can get very heavy at times.
There. My plexiglass has been wiped clean once again and the doors of the Museum will open now. What follows are many years of watching and hearing. I’ll tell it to you in the time frame of a single day.
Here they come, past the statues of St. Thomas Beckett, the tooth of Mary Magdalen and the swords of countless dead soldiers and into this very room where they marvel at the mounted steeds, the jousting lances and shields. I stand mute to them…but I am ready to hear all.
There’s a family with three children. Only the boys seem interested in the likes of us. They pretend that war is full of glory and the sword is a symbol of victory. Oh, if they only knew the horror of battle and the sickening things a sword can do to another man’s flesh.
There he goes. I’ve seen him go by me quite a few times now. He walks on, alone.
A couple stop to read about my history. She clings to his arm. He comments how heavy it must have been to wear such a garment as mine. Hey, sir, I’m still in here and still wearing it! And, yes it’s heavy. So heavy I want to let my knees buckle and then I could finally rest; as a pile of newly polished steel. They walk on, talking of dinner.
There he is again. He is holding hands with a girl named Judy. They are laughing…not at me, or any of us, but about how happy they are. Now.
The old man approaches. He’s a medieval historian. He takes notes and studies each plaque of each display. His plan is to write a book about our lives. If I could speak to him, I could save him months of time.
There is the young woman again. She has a sketch pad. She sits near my case and draws the men on the horses. I can see that she can render the steeds very well. She uses bright colors to give life to the banners and flags. She’s always alone.
He’s coming in again. This time he’s alone. His friend Judy is absent. She separated from him and now to study our histories, he comes here by himself. His hair is turning gray.
Twelve school children come in. They clutch tablets and pencils. They draw us and then make up stories about our adventures. The teachers’ stand against the wall and watch, wishing they were somewhere else. The children are excited about our lives. They don’t realize that only a few of us ever saw battle. And the battles we saw are best forgotten. Most of our time was spent drinking and whoring in the villages near the castles.
There’s the man again. His hair, lacking the rich dark brown hue he had when I first saw him, is now the color of snow. He’s has a little girl in his hand. It’s his daughter. He seems happy on the outside, but is sad in his heart when he gazes at his little child.
Here is the docent. She is leading a group on a lecture tour of our hall. I listen and smile. She’s wrong about most of the facts. She read many books on our lives, but she wasn’t there to see it, smell it and suffer during it.
The gray-haired man is now with a boy. He has the boy stand in front of the mounted knights while he takes a picture. The man seems happier now…more accepting of his life.
Here is a boy in a wheel chair. His head is bent back at an odd angle. His hands are deformed. He will never be able to ride these horses like we did, he knows that. But, in his mind he is living a full life of adventure and romance. His imagination has taken wings.
Here is the gray-haired man again. He’s with an older woman. She is not the mother of his children, I can see that in her visage. He is very happy now. They are holding hands. I see her wedding ring glint in the bright lights over our heads.
I close my eyes. It’s all too much even for a spirit to take in. I open them.
There’s a young man. I can sense that he is the child of the gray-haired gentleman. This young man has a little boy with him. It’s his son. The father points to various armor suits and the mounted knights. He’s eager to share certain things with the boy. They walk off, hand in hand.
I’ve been waiting for years now, but the old man with the gray hair does not come here anymore. Someday, when my soul is freed from my steel body I would like to talk with him.
I want to tell him he was a knight in shining armor to someone.