Visits From A Man Named Nobody 52

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 52

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The driver helpfully pulled in front of Paul’s dormitory. He stepped out only realizing how exhausted he was as he stretched. He forced himself to make the climb to his room. Each step seemed to be just an inch or so higher than the last. 

He found his floor and started down the hallway, targeting his door like some sort of sleep-deprived missile. He decided to message Jordan and take a sick day just to regain his energy. He was about to do just that when he noticed a note tucked into the crack in his door. 

He almost didn’t reading, supposing it would be Nobody, offering some vague connection that would only give him more to think about, but Nobody’s conversations and messages weren’t typically in public areas. 

That’s why he used his thick fingers pluck the note out and read it. 

“Paul,” It read. The handwriting was Stacy’s. “I never wanted this to happen. I certainly don’t want you to go to prison. Neither does Nathan.”

Paul supposed Nathan was the new boyfriend. He tamped down a surge of anger and resentment, forcing himself to continue reading the letter.

“I admit that it was wrong to cheat on you. I admit that I should have spoken to you or even just broken up with you, but when I’m with you, you’re just so powerful. You’re like some sort of vortex, and anyone near you just sort of gets caught up in whatever you’re doing. I think this can be a wonderful thing, but it’s scary, too. You terrified me tonight.”

And there it was, the condemnation that Paul’s mother refused to give. Just like his father, Paul was a bully. Maybe he was more polite in his posture at times, but deep down, Stacy sensed his rage. Paul shut his eyes, trying to focus his thoughts. How could he get rid of that anger? Hiding it clearly didn’t work. 

“I think you loved having me, but I don’t think you loved me. I know this hurts to hear, and I promise it hurts me to say it. I fell for the man you could be, and I think you can still be that man. I hope you will, at least. We don’t want you to get in trouble. We just want to go our separate ways. If you really want to make up for it, be the man I think you can be. That man is special. Never, EVER, be the man you were tonight again. That man is horrible and frightening. I’m writing this as a letter because I don’t want any electronic trace. Be happy for me. If I’m wrong, and you loved me, please be happy for me. Don’t hate Nathan, appreciate him because he makes me feel loved. Be the man I though you could be. Please.”

There was a curious amount of space before the next portion of the letter.

“I don’t actually know how to end this. I’ve thought about it for an hour. It’s me, Stacy, and I’m pretty sure you already know that. But, just to be sure.”

Paul’s hand trembled. A part of him wanted to crumble it up and burn it, but he couldn’t make his muscles obey the impulse. The letter was a perfect summary about how he’d felt his whole life. And the question terrified him. Even after what he’d done, Stacy was willing to give him a chance to be the man she thought he could be. Who was that man? Was it the same sort of person Bill would have wanted Paul to become? 

Why did everyone seem to think a person could just say, “I want to be this sort of man,” and then suddenly become that man. Did people really become who they set their minds on becoming? Didn’t people just sort of be who they were and others would decide if they were good or bad? Maybe people tried their best, but they just were who they were. 

That was the question Paul didn’t have any answers for. Did he ever really have a choice in who he could be, or was he destined to be just like his father?

He carefully folded the note back up and opened his door as softly as he could. Then he went inside, setting the letter on his study table before falling on his bed, still wearing all his clothes, and falling fast asleep.

… The end of Chapter fifteen …

… To be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 50

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 50

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The officer grabbed the door and opened it a bit wider to emphasize his point. Paul gave the him a slack-jawed stare even as he stepped out of the interrogation room. The officer escorted him around the building so he could collect his belongings and then led him out of the police station. 

“Bit of advice,” the officer said, “You might want to take a close look at how you treat the ladies in your life, and you also might want to look into how you react to certain things.”

Paul nodded. The officer probably wanted to arrest him and sentence him to whatever time in prison was warranted, but if Stacy and her new boyfriend were unwilling to testify, it wasn’t likely there was much to do. That left the officer no other option than to give that warning. A part of Paul wondered how that officer could operate in such a personable manner even though everyone knew Paul had done something terrible. 

What do I do? There wasn’t much else to do in the beginning other than use his PID to get a ride back to the school. For some reason, the officer’s words made Paul want to contact his mom, so he dialed her up on the PID and synched the wrist device to an earphone that he placed in his right ear. He just activated a privacy screen between himself and the driver when his mother answered. 

“Hello, my son!” She was always so cheerful when he called. Her good mood made him feel even more guilty.

“I really messed up, Mom.” Paul’s voice trembled as he spoke. 

“What happened?” There was no annoyed, resentful tone. Neither was she overly concerned as if she were freaking out that something was wrong. It was just a simple question. Maybe she didn’t understand how royally he’d screwed up.

He launched into the story. He kept interrupting himself. Each time, he thought his mother would respond with a rebuke, shout, or simple question; but she just listened.

“I’m on my way back to the university,” he said. “I’m not sure what to do.” 

“You’re not your father,” she said. 

It was every bit as much as what he wanted to hear as it was a lie. A tear rolled down his cheek. “But I did exactly what he would have done.”

“And what should you have done?” she asked.

“I should have treated her better,” he answered. “I should have been more interested in her than I was in … well, what we did together.”

“That’s true,” his mother replied, “but I’m asking what you should have done in that moment you saw them together.”

“I was so mad,” Paul said. “I couldn’t think straight.”

“Are you angry now?” his mother asked.

“A little, but, what are you getting at?” He glanced out the window to see how far the car had taken him since the conversation began. The freeway exit sign made it clear that, despite how long the conversation felt, they hadn’t been talking long. 

“I get that you were blinded in that moment, but you’re not blind now, so you have the time to think you didn’t have then. What should you have done?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I should have just left. Sure, we’d still have broken up. I don’t know that I would have realized what a jerk I had been being to her if I hadn’t done what I did, but at least no one would have gotten hurt.”

“We’re talking about controlling our bodies at church,” his mother said.

“Mom —” He didn’t want her to get into some sermon, but she didn’t seem to be in the mood to be stopped.

“You called me; that means you get my opinions, which I base on God’s word,” she said before continuing her point. “What I think is you try to control your anger by ignoring it. How’s that working for you?”

Paul muttered, “That’s not really fair.”

“But it is necessary,” his mother replied.

“So what am I supposed to do?” he asked, ironically feeling the grip on his temper begin to slip.

“The answer is simple to say but much harder to do,” she said. “You have to train yourself how to be angry without sinning.”

“And how do I do that?” 

“For starters, always start by asking if you have a right to be angry,” she said.

“So Christians don’t have a right to be angry?” He didn’t keep the sarcasm from his tone.

“The commandment wouldn’t be, ‘Be angry, and don’t sin,’ if we couldn’t be angry.” His mother’s patience seemed to make his sarcasm seem even more childish. “The fact that you think you can’t be angry at all is the problem. You associate anger with the violence your father inflicted on us, so you tried to avoid the one by ignoring the other, which is probably what he did, too.”

Paul didn’t say anything for a few moments. “So I am just like him.”

“No,” she said. “It’s true that you did something he had done, but that only makes you just like him if you respond the same way he did. He justified his abuse. He justified his anger. Is that what you did?”
“I don’t know that I had the chance,” Paul said.

“That wasn’t the question I asked,” she replied.

“No, I didn’t do that. I feel guilty. Like I said, I tried to turn myself in,” he said. 

“That is repentance.” His mom paused to emphasize the word “that.” She had a satisfied tone in that moment. 

“I didn’t ask God for forgiveness.” He was about to tell her he didn’t owe God anything, but she jumped into the conversation.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 47

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 47

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Paul smiled. “This is the first step.”

Jordan returned the gesture. 

It was amazing. Paul has been striving to understand how Nobody did it for more than ten years, and he finally had made real progress. There were more questions to answer, but Paul couldn’t stop long enough to consider them. This was amazing! It was so awesome!

“I have to tell Stacy!” 

Jordan rolled his eyes. “Fine.” It came out a resigned sigh. “I’ll clean up and draft the paper.”

Paul darted out of the room and sprinted along the campus. He flew past the cafeteria and into the Sigma Alpha Sigma sorority house. 

“Paul!” One of Stacy’s sorority sisters, maybe her name was Amy, called to him, but he didn’t want to stop. 

He ascended the stairs and burst into Stacy’s room. His mind barely registered the feeling of a white towel on her door nob as he swung open the door to find Stacy in her bed with another man.

Shadows seemed to creep around his vision. His heart swelled with fury, and all he could see was the man with his girl. Blond hair, deepened a shade of brown by sweat, fell over his face and shoulders. He had a narrow face highlighted by a five o’clock shadow and brown eyes. 

Paul couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t even think. All he could do was stare at that face. 

Stacy called to him, but Paul barely heard her. He stomped over to the bed.

The man tried to kick at him. Paul laughed. A kick? Paul had once been thrown through a table! He grabbed the man’s leg and yanked. A strange pop came from the man’s hip as Paul twisted, still pulling. The bastard flew out of the bed and slammed into the wall. The dry wall collapsed, and a mirror fell from the wall, shattering despite the carpet on the floor. 

Paul finally saw something other than that bastard’s face. Each shard of the broken mirror, a mirror Paul had never even seen before, reflected Paul standing. The look on his face horrified him. 

It was a perfect reflection of his father’s face.  He remembered his promise to himself.

I’m never going to be that man!

Paul shut his eyes, trying to remember the promise even as every fiber in his being wanted to kill the man on the floor. Shame and guilt warred with anger and betrayal.  

“If you can stand and walk, get out.” 

“What are you doing?” Stacy screamed the question. She’d finally managed to get out of the bed, a sheet wrapped around herself. 

“I could ask you the same question.” Paul heard himself and was afraid at the rage barely hidden in a whisper.

She betrayed you! How long has she been sleeping around? Is this the only other man?

Paul heard his own knuckles cracking as he clenched his fists. 

This is it, Paul thought. This rage is what he must have felt

But that wasn’t the real issue. He was hurt, ashamed, confused, and sad. The anger was a reflex. 

The man managed to get to his feet. He looked at Paul, who had his father’s large, stout frame even without lifting weights. If that idiot fought him, Paul might kill him. 

They locked eyes, and the man jerked as if frightened by something. Then he limped slowly out of the room.

Paul shut his eyes, trying to will away the rage. 

Stacy reached back and slapped him.

Everything seemed to freeze. Paul stared at her with eyes wide with shock and fury. Stacy trembled for a moment and then stood tall. 

“This is the first time you’ve come to see me in a week,” she said. She slept with another man, and now she’s lecturing him? “The only time you bother to see me is when you want sex. I thought you were different. I thought you actually cared.”

“Are you trying to justify your own actions against mine?” Paul’s tone caused her to take a cautious step backward. “So you cheated on me because I was inattentive. So what should I do now that you’ve created on me?”

He wasn’t looking at anything as he pondered his own questions, but the last one caused him to look at her. She looked back at him, and he recognized that face, too. It was the same look of determination he used to give his own father.

I won’t be that man! 

He replayed the last three minutes of his life in his head. I already am that man.

His head fell. “I’m sorry.”

He left, careful not to come anywhere near her. A part of him wanted to lash out. He’d forgotten how strong he actually was. He wanted to go find that man and pummel him into oblivion. Instead, he stalked through the campus toward his dorm.

Every step, his mind replayed what had happened. A part of him still wanted to kill him.

He made it to his door.

“It was you, wasn’t it?” He hadn’t opened the door yet, but he knew. He turned the nob and entered.  “You put the mirror in there at some point.”

Stacy could have bought it. She was right. He couldn’t actually remember the last time he’d taken her out. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d spoken to her. He was so busy. The closer he got to the answer, the more he pulled away. Who knew what changes Stacy made to the room between visits, but Paul doubted it was her. That mirror had to be put exactly where it would land exactly how it did. If it hadn’t, Paul might have killed a man.

“Yes.” Nobody sat at the chair beside Paul’s desk.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 39

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 39

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A tiny part of Paul resented everyone, even his mother, for simply being able to move on. Why was it so hard to let go? More importantly, why was it so easy for everyone else to let go? Didn’t they love Bill? 

Paul realized the principal was about to call Jordan’s name. He scanned the other graduates as he waited.

“Jordan Bieliel,” the principal said. 

Jordan stood just as Paul found him. Paul offered a loud shout that he hoped conveyed that he was happy for his friend even if he wasn’t actually happy in general. 

“Jordan has been accepted into the applied physics program at Carnegie in Pittsburgh.” 

A smile bloomed on Paul’s face even as Jordan pointed at him and smiled. The smile seemed to say, “We’re still a team!”

Paul always worried that they’d drift apart. It was still a dirty trick to keep it a secret until graduation. Jordan had implied that he hadn’t had a lot of luck with the application process. Paul clapped for a few blissful seconds until he thought how everything was almost perfect.  

Was there a reality where Bill was alive? Paul was going to study at one of the top schools in the country. His best friend was going with him. They were decorated students. The single omission of Bill being there to see it seemed to make the absence even worse. Would he really feel better if none of it happened? 

Paul tried to be happy for his friend, and he could sort of do that. But every time he tried to be happy about anything he had in his life, his thoughts returned to the person who wasn’t there. That made him worry about losing Jordan, or worse, his mother. 

He couldn’t stop the mental loop he was trapped in. But what eventually ended was the list of students. The final student made his way across the stage, and that was the signal for the rest of the students to stand up. The class began to file into a large square section of the football field that had been designated for the final part of the ceremony. The students arranged themselves into rows as the school’s junior varsity band played Pomp and Circumstance. 

The song reached a crescendo, and the graduates, including Paul, snatched their caps and tossed them into the air. The PID on Paul’s wrist went crazy in vibration as people in attendance snapped photos that instantly transmitted to each other so long as the network identified who was in the picture. 

The moment marked the end of the ceremony, and Paul began the search for his best friend. As usual, Jordan found him. Jordan didn’t grow up so much as put on enough weight to ensure a stiff breeze probably would’t blast him away. 

Paul, however, grew into a large, square man that seemed an odd contrast to his academic performance. While his genetics made him one suited to physicality, Paul denied the hints about joining sports. Those things were too much like Paul’s biological father, and Paul didn’t want to be anything like that man.

So why can’t I let go of this anger? Anger and fear were the two key aspect of his biological father, and they were Paul’s core emotions too if he was being honest. 

The anger in Paul’s heart wasn’t always about the same thing, but there was always anger. Even as Paul recognized the irrationality of it, he couldn’t do a thing to change it. What he could do was sort of hide it under other things, usually. One such way was to spend time around his mother or Jordan, who smiled as he flung his arms around Paul.

“Had trouble with applications, huh?” Paul said as the quick, two-pat hug ended.

“It’s not a lie,” Jordan said. “Those applications were tough! I honestly think I got in because I put you as a reference. I feel sort of guilty riding your coat tails.”

Paul scoffed. “It’s not like you’re not helping. I told them how much you helped me during my interview.”

Jordan shrugged. “I guess I owe you.”

Paul froze, worried Jordan would ask about when they’d start working not he project again. He couldn’t. He couldn’t face those white boards. He couldn’t sit at that table. He couldn’t talk about it.

“So I was wondering.” Jordan looked away as he spoke. Oh no! Don’t ask! Please don’t make me think about it! “I know you’re super self conscious about things like this, but … “

Paul felt the anger and resentment building. Why would Jordan do this? Why would he ask about this now?

“Do you think I could take you and your mom out to dinner? I just want to hang out, and it’s been a while. Why are you laughing?”

Paul couldn’t stop to answer for a few moments. He wasn’t going to ask about the project. He was just trying to hang out. Of course he wouldn’t push Paul. Jordan always knew how to shift the topic. 

“Look man, you hate it when people try to do things for you,” Jordan said. “But dude, you helped me get through school, and you helped me get into a great college.”

“You were in the top ten of our class!” Paul said. 

“Because you helped me,” Jordan said. 

“We studied together, but it’s not like I took the tests for you or did your work for you,” Paul replied.

“True, but let me treat you and your mom, OK? Tonight?”

Paul thought about finding a polite way to say no. He had another appointment. Then he thought better of it. It was already clear Nobody always knew where to go, so it didn’t matter what Paul did. If Nobody said he’d appear tonight, it would happen.

“I think Mom would like that,” Paul said with a smile he hoped looked genuine. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 37

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 37

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The strange square-shaped box composed of pebbles suddenly made sense to Paul. It had to be some sort of water container. His mother left the podium and went into a room behind the stage as the pastor came back out wearing a long white robe. 

He carefully stepped into the tub while someone rushed on stage and set up another microphone. 

“I agreed with Mary that this idea would be the best way to honor not only our Lord God, but also the memory of our dear friend Bill, who we all loved so fiercely,” the pastor, Paul supposed his name was Gabe, said. 

“I was very careful to talk to Mary about this,” Gabe said. “It would be easy to understand someone’s desire to share something with a lost loved one. It would be easy to hear someone talk about God just after losing said loved one. What I should have known was that Bill had been speaking with Mary and sharing the gospel for months. It would be wrong to falsely baptize anyone, but after hearing her testimony and speaking with her several times, I trust her judgement.”

Gabe took a breath. It was obvious he was stalling to give Paul’s mom time to change every bit as much as he was using the opportunity to talk more about God. “Baptism is an ordinance. It does not prove or establish salvation. It’s a gesture to reflect rebirth in Christ. Neither will it wash away the sadness we all feel at the loss we suffered. I know I certainly wish it would, but that’s not the case. We all must feel our grief and mourn with those who mourn. But I find a small bit of comfort in this. Mary is living proof that Bill’s work was always for Christ, and she’s a new bond we have in our lives and, in a way, with Bill. It doesn’t make the pain go away, but it does ease it a little for me.”

Paul hadn’t wanted to punch someone so much in months. Was this guy seriously using Bill’s death to advance his religious goals and pad his congregation’s numbers? Were they seriously going to just give a thirty-minute sermon and then move on with business as usual? Paul wasn’t even sure what kept him in his chair. Maybe he was trying to avoid the scene it would cause if he stormed out, but he wasn’t sure. 

His mother came back out wearing the same kind of white robe Gabe wore. She stepped into the water and smiled. She crossed her arms in front of herself, and Gabe placed on hand on hers and another hand on her back. 

“Mary, have you confessed and repented of your sins?” Gabe asked.

“I have.”

“Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, dedicating yourself to serving him?”

“I do.”

Paul gritted his teeth. She was supposed to say those words during a wedding with Bill, not in some stupid ceremony. 

“Then, based on your testimony today I proudly baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” 

Paul’s mother leaned back, and Gabe held her in the water for a moment.

“Washed clean by the blood of Christ.” Gabe pulled her back up. “And justified by Christ’s resurrection from the dead.”

Again the people launched in to a celebration. It’s like they’d completely forgotten this was a funeral. Bill was dead, and all they cared about was some stupid ceremony. Paul stood in stunned silence wondering at how crass it all was. His mother climbed out of the water and headed into the back room. 

Several people smiled at Paul. One person reached out a hand, maybe to shake it or place it on Paul’s shoulder, but whatever look Paul gave him made him pause and pull his hand back. Good! Paul didn’t want anyone thinking he was anything but angry. This wasn’t some pointless anger. Someone was dead, and everybody just moved on with life as if that death didn’t matter. 

He stormed out of the main room and into the lobby. He sat there stewing until his mother came out. She looked at him, a sad smile on her face. 

“Let’s go,” she said. 

Paul followed her to the car and got in. She got behind the wheel and buckled the belt across her shoulders and waist. 

She took a deep breath. “I’m going to ask you to listen.”

She waited. Paul stared out the window. She could say whatever she wanted. 

“I know how angry you are.”

That was obvious. It wasn’t like Paul ever hid his emotions well.

“I didn’t forget about Bill, and neither did anyone else in there.” She waited, probably wondering if Paul would argue, but he’d already decided to just let her have her say. “When Bill and I talked about … “ she paused, clearly trying not to cry. 

Paul was even more determined to stare out the window. He wasn’t about to watch her cry. Besides, didn’t she just get baptized? Didn’t that make life all better and happy? 

“When we talked about the future, I had thought I’d wait until the wedding.”

A tear fell down Paul’s cheek. For some reason, those words caused every memory Paul had of Bill to play through his mind, and each one hurt more than the one before it. 

“I’m still sad.” The tremble in her voice made that obvious. “I still miss him. I’m even still angry that he’s gone. I don’t have the answers I know you want. I don’t know why God took him now.”

Paul squeezed the handle of his passenger door. 

“I don’t know why God would put him in our life only to take him from us this soon. But I trust Bill, and I trust God. I trust the God who gave him to us in the first place.”

“You wanna know why?” Paul muttered.

“I’m sure you have some sufficiently witty and smart remark to make,” his mother said. “I’m sure it’s full of anger and resentment. But before you say that, just ask yourself if you really want to lash out at me right now?”

“So I’m supposed to just sit here and listen to, like, the third sermon in as many hours? I don’t get any say?”

Paul finally looked at her. Naturally, there were tears in his eyes and on her face. He cared less and less by the second. “You think if you talk long enough I’ll just suddenly realize that you all were right, and we should just happily flock to a God who would let this sort of thing happen?”

“No,” she said. “I just wanted you to know that I’m still sad and angry, too.”

“Well you’ve said it,” Paul said. “Can we go now?”

He did have several more things to say. Those church people and his mom may have some misguided idillic vision of some wonderful God, but Paul just had an empty chair where the man who could have been his father was supposed to be sitting. If Bill wasn’t going to sit there, no one would.”

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 35

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 35

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An annoying thought kept popping into his mind. 

He was Bill’s God, too. Well that made Bill an idiot! What was the sense in praying to a God and serving a God who was only going to let you die right when everything was so great?

Another, less annoying and more convicting, thought occurred to him. 

Your mother is downstairs alone.

Paul rushed down, but she wasn’t on the floor in the living room anymore. He opened the door, wondering if she went out with those two policemen, but there was no police car there. 

Paul went inside. He started to worry as he looked around and let out a sigh of relief as he found his mother sitting in the dining room. 

Just a while ago, we were all celebrating.

Paul didn’t know what he felt. Suddenly all the white boards and numbers seemed wrong to him. It wasn’t the same without Bill. A part of Paul was shocked to feel hatred. He hated himself for letting Bill in. He hated Bill for dying, and that didn’t even make any sense.

Paul’s mother sat in her usual place. She stared at the boards as if she were trying to figure the science out. 

“Mom?” He didn’t have a clue what to say. He opened his mouth again to ask if she were OK and shut his jaw as soon as he realized what a moronic question it was. 

“Do you know what he always said to me before he went home?” Her voice quivered even as she spoke. 

Paul shook his head.

“He’d always say, ‘I’m thankful for today, and if this is my last day, I’m glad this was it.’” She started sobbing again just as she finished the quote. It did sound like something Bill would say. It was still stupid. He was still an idiot for pretending a day was worth every day that could have come after.

Paul darted over and wrapped his arms around his mother. Still unsure what else to do, he just held her and let her cry. 

“Why?” Paul hoped she wasn’t asking him, but he knew what he would say. 

He’d say, “Because there isn’t any God. There couldn’t be one if he’d let something like this happen.” 

Something held his tongue though. It was probably because he knew saying something like that wouldn’t help his mother feel any better. As much as he wanted to punch Nobody so hard that mask shattered, he wanted to comfort his mother that much more. 

“You know he loved us, right?” This time his mother pulled back and looked right at Paul. He knew she wanted an answer.

Yeah, he thought. The word didn’t come out. 

His mother grabbed his chin in her hand in a firm grip and stared into his eyes. “He loved you! And I know he loved me.”

Paul’s jaw trembled. “Then why didn’t he stay?”

“Oh, Paul!” She pulled him back into an embrace. “I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s more to love than where you sleep.”

But if he’d stayed, you would have been together! He wouldn’t have been on the road! He wouldn’t have died! In fact the only reason he’s dead is because he was too afraid of pissing off an imaginary being. He died anyway. He did the right thing, and he died because of it! 

“It’s OK.” His mother whispered gently to him, and he realized he was weeping again. He was so angry. All that anger was back. It was like all the years he spent trying to let it go was just like some sort of deposit into an account, and now it was back with interest. The only things stronger were his sadness and his desire to make his mom feel better. 

She held him, and they cried together until the sun came up. 

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 18

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 18

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 //
PT 17 //

“I didn’t mean to bring that up,” Jordan said.

“I know,” Paul said. “Maybe that’s why I am how I am. Maybe I’m just destined to be like my dad.”

Jordan shook his head. “It’s definitely a choice. I’m not saying our dads didn’t have an impact on us. It would be hard for either of us to avoid being like our dads, but we have the choice.”

“You realize you only believe that because your father taught you that.” Paul meant it to prove his point. 

He turned and started walking again, and Jordan followed. “He taught, and I choose to accept it. And if you were cursed to be like your dad, you would have fought those boys no matter what I said.”

Paul gave it some thought. “But it’s harder every time.”

“I’m proud of you every time,” Jordan said. 

Paul smiled. No one had ever said that before. Sure, his teachers were glad his grades were good, and his mother told him she loved him about a million times a day, but no one had ever shown pride in him.

That one word took all the anger out of him. It felt like someone had seem him for the first time. 

“Thanks.” Paul thought that was a pretty stupid word for how he felt, but it was the only one he could think of.

They came to the turn that led to the the cul-de-sac where his house was. It was also close to the choke point where Dorny lived. He’d leap out a window if he saw Paul walking by. Paul didn’t feel like being told he was going to Hell for another hour. 

“Let’s try something,” Jordan said. He started walking toward the next cul-de-sac. 

Paul followed him despite being unsure what the plan was. 

Jordan took the next turn and stopped at the first house. The houses were little more than a series of cookie cutter like designs that butted up against one another. One back yard’s brick wall was mere inches from the next. 

“I think if you take this wall down the side of this house, your house is the one behind it.” Jordan pointed as if trying to remember a map he’d looked at. “It might make your neighbor mad if he sees you, but it’s worth a shot.”

The wall wasn’t much taller than Paul was. He could reach the top by stretching out his arms and hopping. 

“Worth a try.” Paul said. 

He managed to get a grip on the top of the wall, and Jordan gave him a bit of a boost until he reached the top and stood up. A dog roughly the size of a bus rushed up and snapped at Paul. It was a miracle he didn’t fall over. The fall was just barely as frightening as the dog. Luckily, the dog’s attack ended at Paul’s sneakers. On its hind legs, it was too short to reach, but it was so big it couldn’t jump up to get at him.

“Are you ok?” Jordan’s question was a strange combination of a whisper and a shout. 

The dog let out a bark that seemed loud enough to blow Paul’s ear drums. Paul decided to scramble back down the wall before the giant animal found a way to get at him. The barking continued even after Paul got down and headed away with Jordan. 

“It was a good idea,” Paul said. 

“We’ll try the next house,” Jordan said. “You’ll have to walk down one side wall and along the back wall, but it should still work.”

They moved to the next house and manage to get Paul up to the top of the wall. This time, there wasn’t a dog in the yard. Paul worried the plan wouldn’t work every time, but he had a shot to avoid Dorny this time. 

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Paul told Jordan.

“Sure.” Jordan turned and started heading to his own house, which was perhaps two miles in the opposite direction.
Paul stood. The two walls between one house and another were each thick enough for Paul’s foot, and they were close enough together that Paul’s foot couldn’t fit between them. So it wasn’t like he had to tight-rope his way home. It was just a little intimidating being twice as high as we was tall, but once he found his footing, it was a brisk walk along the wall. Paul was actually more worried what he’d do if the people who lived on either side of the walls he was on looked out and saw him, so he rushed down the wall and saw his backyard. 

He made it to his back yard and scrambled down. If anybody saw him, they didn’t say anything. 

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 17

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 17

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 //

“Ok.” Jordan’s comment caused Paul to spin and look at him as he grabbed his game card and started to walk off.

“No it isn’t!” Paul stepped in front of the game. The timer was down to three seconds. Was Jordan really just going to give up?

The timer reached zero. They’d have to start all the way over. They’d hardly made it five seconds further into the game than they did the last time, and now they had to start all the way over. Anger boiled inside Paul. He wanted to pound someone, and those boys were standing there smug and satisfied.

Jordan walked up to Paul. “I know you can take them. I know you can beat them.” Jordan spoke low and soft. With all the noise from the games and other kids playing, it was hard for even Paul to hear. “But you said you didn’t want to be that person. It’s a game, our favorite game, but still a game. Is it really worth it?”

Yes! It was his game. It was time for him to relax. He just wanted something to go his way for one minute! Those boys wanted to just bully people and get away with it. 

“Don’t do this,” Jordan whispered. “You’re angry. Even I’m angry.”

Paul glared at his friend. In the time they’ve been best friends, Paul had never seen Jordan so much as raise his voice. He didn’t have the first clue what it was to be angry.

The squat boy stepped up closer. He and his lackey hadn’t even tried to play the game. They never cared about it. They just wanted to boss someone around. “You got something to say?”

Jordan put his hand on Paul’s shoulder even before Paul could process the other boy’s challenge. 

“You’re making a choice,” Jordan said. “Everything you do is a choice you make. Choose to do the thing the person you want to be would do.”

Paul looked at Jordan again. Paul supposed if he could be like anyone, he’d be like Jordan. Kind, smart, patient, and gentle. Paul wasn’t any of those things. There wasn’t a hint of those traits in him anywhere. Paul didn’t have a hope in Hell of ending up like Nobody. Nobody was wise and loving. Nobody seemed to think about everything, and he always found some way to sway a conversation back to the Bible. Paul wasn’t really interested in the Bible, but Nobody had helped him. 

Neither Nobody nor Jordan would be thinking about how easy it would be to punch the boy in front of Paul. 

Paul glared at him. “We have the top five scores.” Even as he spoke, Paul hoped the boy would try to shove him or punch him. Then he’d have an excuse. “I guess it’s only fair to let you play since we’re clearly better, and you clearly need the practice.”

Paul turned and walked away. It was the second time that day he’d walked away when all he wanted to do was fight. Paul didn’t want to be a bully. He didn’t want to hit people, but it seemed like the more Paul worked to avoid getting into fights, the more people seemed to want to aggravate him. Jordan kept pace with him. Paul wasn’t sure where he was going. He stormed out of the store and started walking down the street.

Paul tried to slow his breathing, but he was just so angry. He glanced at Jordan, who looked back at him with a worried expression. 

“How do you do it? Where do you come up with some of the things you say?” Paul shouted at him. Jordan hadn’t done anything wrong, but Paul couldn’t help himself. 

Jordan shrugged. “My dad’s always telling me that stuff.” He used his fingers to count off phrases. “Everything you do is a choice you make. Choose to do the right thing. Nobody makes you do anything. Control your body. Honor God. Love your neighbor.”

Paul jabbed a finger in the direction of the arcade. “Those boys may not even go to our school!”

Jordan let out a chuckle. “That’s not what it means.”

Paul threw up his hands. “So I’m supposed to just let everyone walk all over me!” 

“Are you shouting at me because you just want to be mad at someone?” Jordan’s question took some of the air out of Paul’s anger. “Dude it’s one thing if you’re, like a police man defending his partner or a father protecting his kid, but what are you really losing by giving up a turn in a video game?”

“It’s my game!” Paul said.

“Dude, it belongs to the arcade.” 

“Why do you never yell!?” Paul was probably shouting loud enough for the world to hear.

Jordan waited, looking at Paul. Finally, he spoke in that same calm tone. “Does it work for you?”

Paul thought about it. Somehow, his anger just fell away. A burst of laughter erupted from Paul. It was ridiculous. Paul yelled and shouted. A part of him wanted Jordan to start an argument, or even a fight, less than a second ago. Now Paul had trouble breathing.

“I hate that about you,” Paul said. 

“Um, sorry?” Jordan said. 

Paul laughed even harder. He managed to calm down. With nothing better to do, he started walking toward his house. “I still don’t know how you do it. I’m the person you have the most reason to hate, and you’re my best friend. Sometimes I don’t even know why you hang out with me.”

“Because you keep wanting to hang out with me,” Jordan replied. 

They walked together for a moment. Paul didn’t now what to say. He would have been happy to walk in silence, but Jordan spoke again. “It’s hard sometimes.”

“I’m sorry,” Paul muttered. 

“Not being your friend.” Jordan chucked as he said it. “Well, ok, sometimes your temper frustrates me, but that’s not what I was talking about. I do get angry.”

“I’ve never once seen you angry.” Paul rolled his eyes at his friend. 

“I’m angry now,” Jordan said. “I’m trying to tell you that I do get angry. I get mad when people bully other people. I get mad when people make fun of me.” He paused. “I get mad when people make you mad. They do it because they want to see you hit someone. They think it’s funny when you lash out or fight. It’s manipulative.”

“But you never do anything about it,” Paul said. 

Paul managed to walk another ten seconds before he realized Jordan had stopped. He looked like Paul had hit him.

“What?” Paul asked. 

“I did do something,” Jordan said. “I stopped you. I help you avoid being manipulated. I  kept you from doing something I knew you’d regret. Did you want me to hit them or push them?”

Paul didn’t know what to say. For some reason, he felt more ashamed than he had in the arcade. A part of him did want Jordan to lash out or shout once in a while. But another part of Paul wouldn’t ever want to see Jordan that angry. What would have to happen to make him that mad?

“I get angry when you don’t get angry, or look angry, I guess,” Paul admitted. “When you do that thing where you’re calm and you don’t shout, it makes me feel even more out of control. I don’t even know what I’m trying to say.”

“I get it,” Jordan said. “I feel the same way sometimes. It’s hard. I get so mad, but it takes a sort of practice. When I was eight or nine, my dad started talking to me about controlling myself. He made me start martial arts. I thought he wanted me to be able to defend myself, but then he told me he did it to help me focus. My dad doesn’t play around.”

Paul scowled. Jordan noticed and put up his hands. “Not like that! I mean, yeah, he’s grounded me. Once he took at least half of my favorite toys.But he doesn’t … “

“He never beat you.” The sound hardly made it past Paul’s lips. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 12

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 12

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 //

“I want to make sure I understand what happened.” Mr. Eckleman pointed at Paul. “Trevor was apparently talking about your mother.” He turned his finger toward Jordan. “You hit him for that, but Trevor said Jordan was the one talking about your mother, so Paul hit Jordan.”

Both boys nodded.

Mr. Eckleman shook his head and looked at Paul. “You’ve been warned about fighting, Paul.”

“I know,” Paul said softly. “Am I going to be expelled?” That’s what the principal had said the last time Paul got into a fight. 

“But I said it was ok!” Jordan leapt up from his seat. “Look, I’m fine, and he said he was sorry.”

“That doesn’t mean he didn’t do anything wrong.” Mr. Eckleman just kept staring at Paul. “Why did you come in here to confess?”

Paul thought for a moment. “I don’t want to be that person anymore.”

No one else said anything. The silence grew every bit as uncomfortable as Mr. Eckleman’s stare. 

“I’m angry all the time.” Paul wasn’t sure if Mr. Eckleman wanted him to keep explaining, but he just couldn’t tolerate the quiet another moment. “I don’t want to be angry, but I don’t know how not to be. I think someone gave me a hint, but even then I’m not sure how it works. I just want to change.”

Paul realized he wanted to sit down and read Romans. No matter how infuriatingly short Nobody’s visits were, they always left him with advice that helped. Nobody’s questions were infuriating, but the answers gave Paul options he hand’t considered. 

“I want to try something new,” he said. “But I guess that doesn’t really matter here.”

Mr. Eckleman smiled. “I wouldn’t say that.”

“You’re not going to punish me!?” Paul was shocked. Maybe he was going to get one last chance. 

“I didn’t say that either,” Mr. Eckleman replied, “but given what you’ve said combined with Jordan’s desire to help you, not to mention your science teacher, who seems to be the only adult in this building you respect, I’m willing to reduce your punishment.”

Paul nodded. It was already more than he deserved, and he knew that. 

“Instead of being expelled, I’m going to suspend you for two weeks,” Mr. Eckleman continued. “I suggest you use that two weeks to do whatever it is you’re planning to do to let go of that anger. If you’d like access to our counselor, we’ll allow that.”

“Thank you, Mr. Eckleman,” Paul said. Then he turned to look at Jordan. “I’m still sorry I hit you. I’m sorry that I didn’t ask what happened.” 

Even in that moment, a part of Paul wanted to track down Trevor and beat him. It was such a powerful desire. I don’t want to be angry anymore!

Jordan shrugged again. “Like I said, it’s ok.”

Mr. Eckleman smiled again. “I’m not actually sure what happened here, but I’m encouraged by it. We’ll call your mother to pick you up.”

The principal dismissed Jordan and had Paul sit in the waiting area until his mother arrived. While he waited, he used his phone to read Romans, trying to see what Nobody was getting at.

The answer the the question Nobody asked was pretty easy to find. 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” The verse was Romans Chapter 5 Verse 8. 

Paul considered the last thing Nobody had told him. “Nobody deserves forgiveness. That’s why it’s a gift.”

It only took Paul about 45 minutes to read Romans. With nothing better to do, he started reading it again.

His mom appeared after Paul got about halfway through his second pass of the letter. She stood in the doorway. Her long black hair flowed over the her shoulders and nearly blended with the purple Lularoe dress she wore. She looked at Paul with brown eyes that shimmered in unshed tears. 

Paul hated that look for some reason. Why did she have to look at him like that? Did she hate him? Was she disappointed in him because he was turning into someone just like his dad? Was he destined to grow up to be just like the man he hated? 

Paul got up and walked past her on his way to the car. He heard her take in a sharp breath as if she were about to say something, but he didn’t give her time. He walked to the car and got in. He wasn’t particularly interested in reading the Bible, but focusing on his phone seemed to keep his mother from trying to talk. 

He was doing it again. He was ignoring her. He was avoiding her. Why was he so afraid? 

“I’m sorry.”

Paul’s head shot up. He hadn’t noticed his mother had pulled over.

“Every time you defended me,” her voice caught, but she kept speaking. “You’d protect me, and all I could do was patch you up, but I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Paul forced himself to look out his window. He couldn’t look at her. He couldn’t watch her bury her face in her hands and cry. 

After a moment, she found the strength to talk a bit more. “I couldn’t keep trying to heal you when I was the reason you were hurt.”

“Let’s just go,” Paul said sharply. He still couldn’t bring himself to look at her. He didn’t want to see her cry. It hurt him, and in strange way it made him more angry. What did he expect her to do? What did he want from her? 

“I shouldn’t have stopped coming in to help you.” She rushed the words out. “But it was worse because I never should have let him lay a hand on you in the first place.” The last word ended in a wail. She dropped her head onto the wheel of the car and sobbed.

Paul could look away all he wanted. He even shut his eyes. But he couldn’t block out the sound of his mother’s weeping.

“I couldn’t stand to hear you crying,” Paul said. “I couldn’t stand to see you hurt.”

He finally turned to look at her, and tears streamed down his face. “That’s why I did it, Mom. I was trying to protect you, and it never worked.”

In some random parking lot in the suburbs, a mother and son held each other and wept. 

“I’m sorry,” Paul said between sobs. “I’m sorry I was so mean. I’m sorry I avoided you.”

His mother gently pushed him away to look into his eyes. “You don’t owe me an apology for anything! I did this, understand? I failed you.”

He still wanted to know why. He still couldn’t understand why she never left his father. He couldn’t understand why she ever married him in the first place.

“I deserve it,” she continued. “I know you hate me, and I deserve that, but I still love you.”

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 9

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 9

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 //


Oct. 17, 2024, 2:31 p.m. 

22.9 Years Ago

Jordan Bieliel lay on the grass as his nose oozed blood. Paul loomed over him with clenched fists. 

“Get up, punk!” It was an effort not to leap on the skinny kid and just whale on him. 

The scuffle quickly drew the attention of a crowd of students, who circled around the fight on the school courtyard. Adrenaline surged through Paul, who hoped Jordan would fight back. 

Instead, the younger kid looked up at Paul. “What’d I do?”

“Don’t act like you don’t know!” Paul stalked toward Jordan, who scrambled back while raising a hand to fend Paul off. “Trevor told me what you said!”

“Trevor’s a liar!” Jordan said. “I never said anything!”

Paul stopped, staring down at Jordan. He was a head shorter and had to weigh 20 pounds less than Paul. As the years passed, Paul grew taller and stronger. He looked like a younger version of his father, and he hated himself for it. 

Paul was about to ask why someone would lie when students started scrambling away. 

“Teacher!” Someone shouted. 

Paul didn’t wait to look around. He took off running. He’d been warned about fighting the last time. He knew the risks, but he was so angry. 

He called my mom a whore! At least that’s what Trevor had told Paul Jordan said. Nobody insults my mom!

Paul comforted himself with the thought that’d he’d at least given Jordan a solid punch. Jordan didn’t even run or try to fight back. Idiot! 

Paul ducked into the school’s science building, his favorite building. It was the only place he felt like the world made sense. He skidded to a stop just outside a bathroom and darted inside. He didn’t think anyone had followed him, so maybe he’d avoid getting into trouble. 

Paul looked at his fist where a splotch of blood sat on his knuckles. He deserved it! Paul told himself as he started washing his hands.

Then his hear leapt up into his throat as he felt the temperature in the bathroom shift from normal, to freezing cold, to burning hot and back again in the blink of an eye. The mirror in front of him fractured. Something flashed behind Paul, and he spun around.

It can’t be! I imagined it! 

It had been almost three years since Nobody had visited. It had been so long that Paul had convinced himself that it was all his imagination. Even as Paul tried to cling to that thought, Nobody stepped out of the stall in front of Paul, who noted a small puddle had formed in that same stall.

Even after three years, not a thing had changed about Nobody. It was the same pea coat. The same gray slacks. He even wore the same stupid red bow tie. The opaque mask hadn’t even faded. Almost three years had passed, and it seemed as though Nobody had stepped right out of Paul’s memory. 

“You … you’re not real,” Paul whispered.

“If I’m not real, where’d that Bible in your night stand come from?” Nobody asked. “More interestingly, where’d that note in the Bible come from?

Rage filled Paul, and he charged the man. Nobody caught him in an embrace. Paul didn’t want a hug; he wanted a fight. He wanted to beat Nobody to death.

“You abandoned me!” Paul shouted. As strong as he’d become, he couldn’t free his arms from Nobody, who simply held Paul. No matter how he struggled, he couldn’t gain any leverage. 

Nobody was strong, but he was strangely gentle, only using the energy necessary to keep Paul still. Paul was easily one of the biggest kids his age, but he was still a teenager in the grip of a grown man.

“You’ve never been abandoned,” Nobody whispered. “Just because you haven’t seen me, it didn’t mean I wasn’t there.”

Tears started to fall from Paul’s eyes, and his anger faded.  “I was so angry! I was so alone!”

“We feel alone sometimes, but it doesn’t mean we are,” Nobody said. “You had your mother.”

The comment hit a nerve in Paul’s heart. He managed to shove himself away from Nobody. “But she just let it happen! I called the police! I saved us! What did she do?”

“So were alone because nobody wanted you, or were you alone because you didn’t want to forgive your mother?” Nobody asked. “How many times has she tried to talk about it?”

“Shut up!” Paul yelled.

“How many times has she asked you to forgive her?” No matter how loudly Paul shouted, Nobody’s tone didn’t raise a bit.