“I’ve been having a hard couple of days, Invisible Friend Jesus.”
He leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs, the hem of his white slacks draping gracefully over his ankle. “I know,” he said, with his little smile.
“I don’t know why I find it so hard to be happy sometimes. I mean, my life is glorious awesome, but sometimes I get all squidged up over practically nothing. It’s stupid. I look at what some people have to deal with – hell, I look at how my own life used to be– and it just seems ridiculous to be, you know, like I am.”
“There are some people living in some really horrific situations in this world, it’s true, some by choice and some not. I know you’re thinking about your time in Nicaragua….”
“Those starving kids, it was horrible. And all those war stories….”
“You met folks who had lost their friends and family in the war or to horrible diseases, kids that had to work in the streets instead of going to school, people maimed by polio or explosives or accidents.” He raised his eyebrows at me and tapped his steepled fingers against his mouth.
I saw where he was going with this. “And yet, when we weren’t working, we played cards, or we drank rum and went dancing. We sat around gossiping and watching Betty La Fea on the TV. All the boys tried to get in my pants.”
“People are pretty much the same everywhere,” he agreed. “We all go through shit in our lives, some more than others.” He paused for a moment, rubbing the palms of his hands distractedly. Then he sat up a bit straighter, uncrossing and recrossing his legs, taking a deep breath. “People deal with stuff in different ways,” he said. “Some are angry and bitter, some seem like they’d be cheerful even while taking heavy mortar fire. But that joy in the universe is there for all of us. We just have to tap into it.”
I grimaced a bit. “It’s hard sometimes, even for people like me, living in my peaceful suburban house, spending most of my day doing what I love best.”
“No one’s happy all the time,” he said.
“And people living in war zones, or situations of extreme poverty or abuse… how do you expect them to deal?”
He looked down at his lap, a shadow passing over his face. Then he looked back at me again, his eyes sharp. “Life doesn’t give some of us very many chances for happiness, it’s true, but it does give everyone some chance, and it’s up to each person to do the best they can. Life is a complicated and beautiful thing, but it is not fair. Justice is a human concept, and humans trample all over it more than God does. The best we can do is offer others our love and understanding and compassion.”
“I don’t do enough of that sometimes.”
He grinned lopsidedly. “Well, you’re no saint, Tinkerbell, but I love you anyway. Besides, you’re feeding hungry kids this summer, even though you’d rather be in Vegas and up in the Sierras.” His grin faded and he looked at me earnestly. “Just spread joy and love as much as you can, and you’ll make the world a better place. You may not cure all the world’s problems, but you’ll be doing more than you know.”
I nodded, looking at my feet. “I just can’t find that happy place sometimes.” I glanced back up at him, narrowing my eyes. “And yesterday, when I was lying face-down on my bed, feeling like the world was stomping all over my guts, where the hell were you? I couldn’t find you anywhere.”
He gave me his little smile again. “When you got up again out of your bed, what happened?”
“I got a bunch of texts and phone calls and emails from my friends and stuff.” When he just kept on with his stupid smile, I snorted. “You didn’t go out telling people to be nice to me. It was just a coincidence.”
He shrugged. “You’re the one that likes to indulge in the magical thinking. I see you trying to make fireballs with your Jedi mind powers. Don’t deny it, part of you believes that there is magic in the universe. Look at your books, for fuck’s sake. You know you more than half believe that Purgatory is real.”
I wrinkled my nose and shook my head at him. “Yeah, but most of my friends don’t listen to you, Invisible Friend Jesus. Even if you went around screaming at them ‘CALL LIZ. SHE’S ALL GOOBERS WITH DEPRESSION,’ they wouldn’t even look up from their iPads.”
He flicked a piece of lint off his suit jacket, smirking. “Okay, you got me. Actually, I went out for a steak and a haircut.”
I looked at him and pursed my lips approvingly. “Oh yeah,” I said. “Your hair looks nice.”
“Thanks,” he said, smiling.