I sat on my hotel bed, staring at the cover of the book I’d just finished: Tales of the Titmouse, which was a memoir written by my neighbor, Pamela Barrett. It was a great story; it told how she’d gotten involved in the drug scene in the 70’s and early 80’s, how her life had been pretty intense until she’d found God and gotten her shit together. I’d devoured the book almost in one sitting, not only immersed in the tale, but hoping I could find some answers in it, something that might help me get my own life back on track. But now the book was over, and I felt more lost, empty and fucked-up than ever.
I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and looked over to find Invisible Friend Jesus sitting on the bed beside me, picking lint off the sleeve of his white suit jacket.
“There you are,” I said.
“Here I am,” he replied.
I tapped my fingers on the cover of the book, my brow furrowing. “I think I’m doing this religion thing wrong,” I said. “In fact, I think I’m doing pretty much everything wrong.”
He folded his hands over his belly, settling back on the pillows and giving me his little smile. “Tell me why you think that, Tinkerbell.”
“Well, Pam had some pretty definitive and life-changing religious experiences. God took away her desire to do drugs. God spoke to her, and saved her life when she overdosed, and gave her clear instructions on what to do.”
“I think you’re oversimplifying the story,” he said. “You’re thinking that God took over her life and did everything for her. Pam still had to struggle, and didn’t always get it right.”
“But her faith is so strong,” I said. “She has such a well-defined idea of what’s right and wrong. Me, I’m still barely convinced you’re real.”
He laughed. “And yet, here I am.”
I plucked at the paisley coverlet, frowning. “Yeah, but my experience with you is so different than everyone else’s. You’re some dude in a suit that tells me jokes. You never give me tough love, get angry when I do stupid shit, or make bargains with me. You rarely tell me what to do at all. You mostly just tell me to chill out.”
He stretched out his legs, twiddling his bare toes. “First of all, don’t compare your experience with me to anyone else’s. You don’t have to go anywhere, searching for someone else’s God. God meets you where you are.”
“Not always,” I said, shooting him an accusing look, and he threw a pillow at me.
“Yes, always. Your problem is, you’re always so busy and frantic trying to figure out what to do, that you can’t see me there. You have this hole in your life, and you’re constantly trying to fill that vacancy. You think there’s something wrong with you, and you’re trying to fix it. Just stop, Tinkerbell. You’re not broken.”
I snorted. “You’re glorious batshit.”
He rolled his eyes. “No, I’m not. You’re not too old, or too ugly, or too stupid. You’re not too poor, or boring, or immature. You don’t need to be more talented or successful or accomplished or likable. You’re fine. Just chill out.”
I blinked at him. “But I need to change the way I feel about things, and the way I act. I need to change myself, because I keep falling short. I keep hurting people and making the wrong decisions.”
“There’s nothing wrong with how you feel, either, and you’re not ‘falling short’. You’re just human. As for hurting people and making the wrong decisions, you can’t change what’s past. But stop worrying about how to fix things. That’s what’s getting you into trouble in the first place.”
I scowled. “But I’ve messed it all up now. I’ve got to fix it. I’ve got to figure out what to do.”
“No, you don’t,” he said. “Let me take care of it.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “Really?”
“Yes. Life is a messy and complicated thing, and sometimes you’ve just got to let it go. You can’t control everything.”
“But…you’re really going to take care of this?”
He raised his eyebrows. “Yes.”
“But you’re a figment of my imagination.”
He grinned. “Whatever. Just watch. I’m going to fix it. And, even if I’m a figment of your imagination, you feel better now, right?”
I thought about it. My body felt relaxed and sleepy, and I stretched out on the mattress. “Yeah, I do feel better,” I said.
I curled up beside him, yawning. “Whatever you do to fix this, it’s going to hurt, right?”
He brushed the hair back from my forehead. “I can’t promise it won’t, but you all will get through it.”
He sat and held my hand, and I fell asleep. I slept all night. It was the first night in months I didn’t have to take a handful of sleeping pills.