“It’s a comedy of errors, you see. It’s about taking a fall.”
I went over to my parents’ house to fix my bike tire. They had already tinkered with it. When I walked up, they were both sitting outside in front. They both gave me this proud look. “We already fixed it.” “You did?” Yup.” “We couldn’t find the leak. We spun it through water, etc.” “Oh, wow. Thank you guys so much. I really appreciate that.”
They invited me to go to Albertson’s to walk around and look for something good. We put my inflated tire into the back of the extended cab so it wouldn’t be stolen from the truck bed. We walked around for a half hour. We discussed how we’re going to miss Albertson’s if Safeway changes the latter’s name to Safeway, remodeling it, etc. We get back to the truck to put groceries in. Check the tire. It’s flat and deflated. We laugh. “Want to come over for burgers?” “Sure. Sounds good.”
Today was good. The sky was filled with pastels, my favorite. Just in front of the mountains there are a nice Autumn cloud bank floating towards us. In that cloud bank there is a perfect slit in the clouds, and the Sun is beaming down perfectly in a concentrated beam. A perfect “heaven, let your light shine down” moment. It made me feel good, the kind of good that is like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. I’ve never seen it, but I never see something that majestic as the true Sun beam, so it was like something rare and powerful and blessed. While I’m writing this, I’m listening to Elliot Smith’s Miss Misery song on Youtube. It reminds me of this guy that I used to know, but I don’t remember his name.
He worked at Starbuck’s in…what year was it? 2006-2007ish. He had shoulder length hair, but nice blonde hair. He stuck out there. It was in the small town of Joplin, MO, where Ozark Christian College is, where I was going to school at the time. That Starbuck’s was a major college outlet for 20 somethings and almost exclusively Christian. All of the baristas and for sure the managers who worked there, I knew, and were all Christians; they went or were going to the same school. The young man with the long hair, probably 24 at the time, he stuck out. I could just tell he wasn’t a believer, a born again, anointed child. However, he did turn gregarious with me when I started talking to him about the music I was listening to: Weezer. He loved music and had such great insight into musicians. I’m sure he started the conversation, but he told me “I get real weird with my music, too. You know who you should listen to? You should listen to some of the Decemberists.” “Oh really? OK.” At the time, I was in a very missionary state of mind. “Spread the Word.” (Ozark is a pretty OK school) So, in a casual way I invited him out to do something or something else.
Over the next few weeks we did begin to hang out. It wasn’t every day, but it was a couple or few times a week. He lived in a small house, very small, with his younger brother who must have been 19ish. His brother was an artist, and they would show me the drawings. One night, I was interacting with their new Doberman puppy. Watching me play with the dog, my man turned to his brother and said, “Don’t you just want to be happy? Like, forget about all the past, all of this, and just be happy for now on?” He then alluded that I, to him, was of the happy sort. It turns out that my hunch was right. He wasn’t a Christian. He was surprised to be on campus when I took him to my dorm room. He was on the phone with his brother, “Guess where I am, dude! Ozark freaking College!” Maybe the school is a punch line for non-believers. But he came there with me. “I’ll come here with you, ” he said. I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I was having a good influence on him. We had some long talks.
Some of the talks were pretty intense. I shared with him my affection and decision for Christ Jesus, but I waited til we were actually friends. Soon after we met, maybe a month after, there was Christmas vacation. We went out separate ways. For some reason I was a little worried about him. He said he was going to visit this girl in the North West. When I got back from vacation, he was one of the first people I went to look for. I could not find him.
Over the break, he committed suicide.
In a couple of days was his funeral, so I was looking for the Church. I stopped into the Christian ran Starbuck’s for coffee; I was addicted to their coffee by then. As I walked in the front doors, there were 4 devout Christian girls standing their, morning our friend’s passing, dressed in fancy black morning clothes. As I moved past them, in my blue jeans and t-shirt, they all gave me dirty looks, as if to day, “How dare you come near us while we’re morning. We don’t know you. But we know who we are morning.” If they were saying that with their hateful stares, then they were right. They didn’t know me. And I didn’t know them. A lot of people went to that school. I got the feeling from being around their Starbuck’s that they were the cool clique, a cool clique who happened to be devoted to their Maker. At the time I though it was strange that they would use up so much energy to give me those looks. But I have pretty thick skin, so as it went, it was fine with me. So I finally get to the Church.
Something struck me odd as I pulled up. I seen one guy and his brother walking out in their suits. I have been a part of a year and half long bible and book group with these two. The older one was laughing about something. Smiling. I never seen any of the people with him, little lone talking to him either in Starbuck’s or outside of it. Our guy never even spoke about any of them, and we spoke super deep like two young guys do. I made my way into the Church to find his little brother right inside the doors.
I walked up to him, and he was crying. He looked at me dead on, and without hesitating, gave me the biggest hug, and whispered in my ear, “I think you were his best friend…”
I was his best friend? How is that possible? We hung out maybe 3 times a week for a month. We talked about things that interested us both. He loved writing and would critique mine every so often, giving me advice. I took him into my world, around the people who I am around all of the time. He never took me around people who he hanged out with. I know now, that those girls he worked with, my devout sisters who scathed me with their disapproving looks, he never hung out with any of them. In fact, he didn’t hang out with any of his fellow Christians whom he worked with. The ones laughing outside his funeral? Nope. It was just me, the guy in blue jeans and a t-shirt. All Ozark Christian College teaches is to spread the Word, witness to others. So how is it possible, that I who didn’t have a fraction of the access to him that that crew did, became his best friend in a small manner of time. I didn’t understand any of it. I knew him a small fraction of the time. I was upset. I was dating a girl named Whitney at the time, and we spoke about it. “There isn’t any answers” she said.
By the way, when his brother hugged me inside the Church doors, I did not feel his brother. All I could feel was Jesus’ warm presence hugging me back. He was a glimpse someone told me later. I just knew that it was Him, like a little child knows their mother when they see her.
I thought some time about the entire thing after if happened, but haven’t thought on it for years maybe. I decided that it’s difficult not to feel responsible for somebody like that. I don’t think I was responsible for his suicide of course, but responsibility in a few of the Greek loves sense. In the Jesus sense, in how He tells us to love our neighbor. Especially when you are with them, in that social intimacy that so many miss out on thanks to the internet, and you know that he is walking around in darkness. It’s a teary situation. But I am sure all of us have situations like that.
Death too is no respecter of persons. And satan, one of the main agents of death, is a vicious being. Don’t get it twisted. He is the chief villain. “The best lie the devil ever told was that he didn’t exist.” That situation had the devils prints all over it. He will blind sincere Christians to the needs of the lost and the lost to the freedom and relief of the truth. Most of us will never see him with our own eyes.
Most of what we see is trees, the sky, our futures, our present; if some of us are special, we will mostly see Christ. But Satan is a traveler, a stalker of weaker creations, a demonic phantom to our flesh, to us. He was even able to communicate through Peter. “Get behind me, Satan.” “Be wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves” we are taught. We must learn it. It is food for our spirits and eyes for our walk.
I have to go to bed. I’m tired. blessings.