My foot is tapping, and I’m way aware of it.
Hyperconsciousness is not on the short list of words I would use to describe myself as I would write it. Procrastination, Escapist, and Obtuse might be, though. I’m literally thinking myself in circles about it:
Quit tapping your foot, Gammill. You look nervous. I am nervous. Don’t be nervous. Are you kidding me?
It’s not every day that you have lunch with God.
My eyes are flicking from left to right, down to my watch. I’m just about 15 minutes late between debating outfits, fighting traffic, and that little mental pep-talk I gave myself after parking and before getting out of my truck. From the corner of my eye I catch movement, and my head snaps around like a mother meerkat only to see a busboy wiping off another unoccupied table. In fact, the entire patio is empty… I lose myself in a thought about pretty much nothing in particular, as a figure slides into my immediate peripheral vision, and places his hand on the back of the chair opposite mine.
My head snaps back around and the man in front of me is somewhere between Burt Reynolds in Deliverance and the “Most Interesting Man in the World” from the beer commercials. He’s dressed in a very well cut light grey linen suit and black shirt opened at the collar. My neck suddenly feels constricted by the tie I am wearing, and I remember why I never wear them. I feel awkward and over dressed. I stand with my hand extended to introduce myself, and am met with a polite wag of the hand, and a nod to the empty chair.
“Mind if I sit down?”, he asks politely.
“Who am I to stop you?, I blurt awkwardly”, Immediately regretting opening my mouth.
“It is your choice to accept me at your table, not mine,” He says with a smirk.
“Why does that sound like something you would say?” I ask as I ease back into my chair. Taking what seemed like the first breath in minutes.
My guest just smiles, and unbuttons his coat. He slides into his chair like it is a practiced routine and sighs slightly. Not an annoyed sigh, thankfully. An expectant sigh. Like he’s about to have a conversation that he’s had or rehearsed a thousand times. He doesn’t look at his watch. He ignores the sweating glass of water at his elbow. He simply smooths out the fabric of his pants across his lap, and locks eyes with me.
“Speak”, is all I can think. “Uh, sorry, I’m late, I wa…”
“Don’t apologize, Gammill.”, he interrupts. “Don’t forget that I know you better than you do.”
“Good point, sir.”
“Sir?” he asks with a smile. “Why Sir?”
“Well honestly, sir, I was raised well, and my West Texan roots pretty well dictate that in polite company I refer to another man as sir”
He nods slightly and says “Good answer. See, I’ve been called many things in the past and it’s always interesting to see what people’s reactions and responses to that kind of questions will be. Truth is, you’â€™ll call me what you want to call me, just as I will call you what I want to call you. The important thing here is that you did call on me. Everything else from that point is semantics.”
“So wait”, I say, “You’ve done this before?”
“What, you are the first person who’s ever wanted a private audience with me?”
“Yeah”, I stammered, “That makes sense…It’s just that people who claim to speak to God are generally…”
“Referred to as crazy?” he asks, cocking an eyebrow…
“Gammill, I talk to people all day every day. I’m a whisper in your ear that tells you to turn left instead of right. I’m that sensation of your hair standing up on end when you’re about to do something stupid. I breathe life into everything around you, but if for some reason if you were to claim to speak to me, people would think you’ve fallen off of your rocker. Now, granted, my name gets thrown around a lot. For instance: I’ve never once asked anyone to kill anyone else in my name. In fact, the paperwork on that alone, is a nightmare”
“Paperwork?”, I ask – my eyebrow shooting up this time.
“Hahaha”, he chuckled, “I’m getting off track here. You asked me here, and I am here. Honestly, I was somewhat surprised to hear from you about anything other than a math test, lottery ticket, or police stop. Not saying that I don’t hear you in those other circumstances, it’s just that as you know, I work in mysterious ways.”
“Yeah, what’s with that?”, I say a little disarmingly, “I mean I like a little mystique in my life but being a mystery wrapped in a conundrum sprinkled with intrigue is kind of annoying. Don’t you think it’d be easier for those of us down here if you were a little more Opaque? Maybe then we wouldn’t medicate the people that claim to speak to you, we wouldn’t kill in your name, we would live the kind of lives that you want us to live”
“Now stop right there”, he says straightening in his chair. “If I just give you the answers, you’d quit asking questions. You’d never learn anything. I gave life as a journey, not a destination. Have you ever bought a jigsaw puzzle that you just unfolded from a box? And if you could, would you want it? I’ve set some pretty lose guideline to what I expect from man, and even then, you guys have found countless ways to interpret them in every which manner that you can.”
I nod, “yeah, I get that, but why the confusion? I mean-why not call a press conference and say “Hey Humans, I’m god-cut the shit.”
“Because, Gammill. It is up to you all to: “cut the shit”. And besides all that, this is not the reason you asked me here today.”
“There you go with that omnipotence thing…” I muttered into my glass of water. My guest just chuckled again. “Yeah, I guess I did ask a couple of questions recently. I was surprised that you responded, to be honest. Speaking of which, “God@gmail.com? Really? Part of me is amazed that you actually got that email address, part of me is really glad you did because that would make scamming old people out of money via email really easy.”
“You answered it”, he says. “An invitation by a stranger to meet on a secluded patio at a restaurant you’ve never been to.”
“Yeah…I guess I did.”
“And why?” he asks settling back against the chair, folding his arms across his chest
“Well”, I shrugged, “Call it faith. Faith and a very convincing email address”, I winked.
“Okay”, he sighed, “So if you claim to have faith. Then why, while you were sitting on your patio the other morning after a night of whiskey drinking and wallowing, watching the sunrise through rain clouds, did you ask me why I saw it fit to call 2 of my children home? If you claim faith then you should know that I am going to do what I need to when I need to do it.â€
“But why them, and why now?” I snapped.
“Because” he shot back.
“And that is supposed to make me feel better?” I fired back, feeling another knot tie itself in my throat. “Two good friends of mine are dead in 48 hours, and I ask you why, and you say ‘because’.”
His glare is ice.
My eyes are misted.
His stare softens, and for the first time breaks to look at the menu in front of him.
“Gammill, are you hungry?”
“well” , I stammer, “I really didn’t think this was about a meal. I mean…are you?”
“I can always enjoy a good meal, and the cheese enchiladas here are spectacular. Do you like cheese enchiladas?”
“you know the answer to that”, I say sulking.
Before my eyes can register movement from any direction, there is a plate of what can only be described as the most amazing looking cheese enchiladas steaming in front of me. Just the right amount of chili on top. Smothered in onions. My guest is slowly unwrapping his utensils and laying his napkin across his lap. Grinning from ear to ear.
“You know the secret to great cheese enchiladas?” he asks, “The cheaper the cheese the better. If “government” was a brand of cheese, it would be all anyone used”. He smiles gently and uses his fork to section an end of the confection away from the rest of the pile, scoops it up, and eats.
After another bite,he says, “Listen, Gammill. You asked me why I deemed it necessary to call home a couple of my children. As I sit here sharing a wonderful lunch of cheese enchiladas all I can tell you is that you don’t need to know why. What you need to know is that no matter how hard you try to wrangle life, it is ultimately out of your hands. Now if I flat-out tell you that it’s out of your hands, you’re not going to want to live it. If I give you all of the answers right off the bat, you’ll be bored. So, see, what I try to do is pop up every now and again to keep you reminded of something right outside of what you see. You’ll learn more from reading in between the lines with me than you will by trying to word-for-word interpret what I am saying. SO, when you throw your hands up and ask me why, I say “Because.”
“So that’s it?”, I ask a little annoyed “Cheap cheese, don’t ask questions, know that I got this? I mean, if that’s the point of you meeting me here, then I guess my next question would be, WHY BOTHER? I knew the cheese thing, a waitress at Jacala in San Antonio told me that. I was already confused by what you do and when you do it, to which you say “because”, and you point out my faith in you just to tell me that it’s the only reason I am here looking at enchiladas, and not getting answers… Thanks, but this was a bad idea”
I go to stand, sliding my chair away from me in frustration
“SIT DOWN!” a voice booms, not so much in my ears, as in my entire being…
“Being a bratty child right now won’t get you any further along in your journey. You asked questions, and I am doing my best to answer them as I see fit. You ask. I answer. Sometimes in this life, Gammill, you just need to turn that engineer brain of yours off, thank me for your existence, and live the best life you can. I’m not giving you any other hints. No more secrets. You’re here for a reason, and maybe sometimes there are people in your life that have to make an early exit just to remind you that you are here for a reason. Maybe sometimes those people’s exit is a reminder to you that I do indeed have a plan, and you’re a part of it. So sit down, Shut up. Enjoy the ride…and the enchiladas.”
Hot tears build at the edges of my eyes. I’m balling my fists. My jaw muscles are bunched at the corners of my mouth, and my shoulders are strained across the tightness of my silly sports coat. I swallow hard, and look up…
To an empty chair.
My head swivels left and right waiting to see a grey linen suit retreating sneakily through the parking lot. Nothing.
I look down, and there in front of me is a beautiful plate of untouched cheese enchiladas. So I eat them. Quietly. Slowly. Confused.
I wave the waiter over when I am done, and ask for my bill. After a few minutes he comes back with a leather binder as I reach for my wallet, but as I open it, I see a note scrawled across the receipt that simply read:
I got this too, Gammill.