Visits From A Man Named Nobody 65

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 65

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Paul considered the thought. It was good moral premise. It even made him consider the religion for an instant, but that made him think of Bill. The next moment, he was a teenager hearing the man he’d thought of as a father had died. The most exemplary Christian Paul could ever name was ripped away from a family. 

He opened his mouth to ask how his mother could love the same God who took Bill away, but that would only hurt her, and he didn’t want to do that. Instead, he changed the subject.

“I think about you plenty,” he said. “I’ll do a better job visiting and calling more often.”

“I appreciate that,” she replied, “but I understand you’re busy, and you’re building a life for yourself. When you were a child, I had a greater role in your life, and you had fewer influences. Frankly, the size of your world was much smaller.”

She smiled  at him, causing her brown eyes brighten. “I remember when your world was little more than our house and a video arcade. You’re older; your world is bigger; but I know you love me.”

“You’re saying I should let Lidia and Jordan have their space, and that they still love me,” Paul said. “Whether I’m the same size in a bigger world or they’re just with me less, it still feels like a loss.”

His mother shrugged. “Nothing in this world is permanent.” She pointed her fork at him. “And that’s why it’s important to make the most of whatever time you get with anyone. Let the time you have with people be about love and fellowship. That way, when those people aren’t in our lives anymore, for whatever reason, we have all those happy memories to hold on to. Isn’t that better than just being angry and resentful and arguing?” She returned to using her fork to eat rather than emphasize her words.

Paul chuckled at her. “No matter what happens, I love you, mom.”

She looked at him and smiled. “That’s so sweet. Now, eat your food. I figure we could enjoy some nostalgia tonight.”

“Nostalgia?” He cocked his head in confusion.

“I still have our game. It’s saved on the console just where we left it,” she said.

“Does that thing still work?” Hadn’t he thrown it away? Maybe that was an older system. No, he distinctly remembered …

“I started it up and played a second or two,” she said. “Still seems to work.”

“But didn’t I throw it away?” Paul was more certain every second he thought about it.

“I don’t know what anybody else did with it,” she said with a bit too much innocence in her tone,” but I found it, and when I realized it still worked, I put it away for just such an occasion. I suppose I’ll finish it alone if you don’t want to play it with me.”

“I didn’t say that!” The thought of her finishing the game on her own gave him a strange blend of remorse and betrayal. 

“OK then,” she said. “I think it’s been far too long since we’ve finished that game”

“Have you even touched a controller in the last six years?” He couldn’t keep the grin off his face.

“I just said I played a few seconds, so yes. Besides, how many video games have you played in the last six years?”

He stared at her. She had a point. The project had taken up pretty much all of his time and effort, at least when a girl wasn’t involved.

“Let’s do it.” He dug into his food, genuinely excited to play a kids game with his mother.

… The End of Chapter eighteen …

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 64

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 64

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She smiled at him. “Of course I miss you, and, if I’m being honest, sometimes I get a little jealous. I just have to remember that while you are my son, you’re not my property.”

Paul chuckled. It was very similar to the point Nobody had made. But it didn’t answer his question. “But how do you remind yourself that?”

“I think I’m different from you there. You’re supposed to leave me to find a wife,” she gave him another shameless grin.

“Mom, I told you-“

“You’re making up excuses because you don’t think you’re worthy of having a wife.” Her face hardened the moment she said it. She gave him stern look. “That’s a lie! Life is a series of choices. Sometimes people make the wrong ones. A lot of people fail to make the correct ultimate choice. But even if you never make that choice, you don’t have to be like your father, and this nonsense that you’re destined to be like him is only a self-fulfilling prophecy if you focus on that rather than just giving your love to the woman who is lucky enough to choose you.”

“Stacy was a wonderful girl,” Paul frowned as he looked down and picked at his food with his fork. 

“Wonderful girls don’t cheat on their boyfriends,” his mother replied. 

“You’re being inconsiderate,” Paul said flatly. “Yeah, she shouldn’t have cheated, and the most painful part is she apologized for doing it. Meanwhile, I ignored her. I never spoke to her. I pretty much only used her.”

“So learn from that,” she said. “For one, remember to truly invest in whatever partner you choose. Don’t use them to gratify your physical desire. Simply appreciate them and care for them. The thing you should learn from her is something we should learn from anyone who sins against us.”

“What’s that?” Paul asked.

She looked at him. “No amount of wrong someone does to you permits you to do wrong.”

He rolled his eyes. “So you’re saying a guy should let someone steal or assault him and just let it go?”

“Or a guy could lock his house and buy an alarm system and maybe defend himself without attacking, smart guy.” She furrowed her eyebrows, annoyed at his half-hearted witticism.  “It’s not OK to lie just because others lie. It’s not OK to kill just because others kill. It’s not OK to commit adultery just because others commit adultery. If one person hurting another made it OK for people to respond in kind, then the world would devolve into a planet of animals.”

Paul tried to press his lips together. This conversation was a set up, and he knew it, but she’d gotten him bantering, and she knew he could’t resist the debate. Eventually, he caved. “So what are we supposed to do?”

“Forgive.” She said. 

He stared at her as if she just suggested a person learn to sprout wings and fly off. “That’s it.”

She nodded. “The hardest thing to do is learn to forgive, but it’s what I wanted. It’s what I needed. So why, if I’m so hungry to be forgiven, shouldn’t I find it in my heart to forgive?”

“If that’s true why don’t you call-up the bio-dad and tell him you forgive him.” The words flew out of his mouth. They were insensitive. It was a crass, hurtful thing to say, and for no other reason than to win an argument.

“Actually,” she said softly. “I went and visited him in prison to offer my forgiveness.” He stared at her. His mouth opened and closed a few times, but he couldn’t possibly imagine what he would say. 

“I only visited him one time,” she said. “I’m not really sure what else to do, but I didn’t want that resentment anymore. I didn’t want that anger. So I let it go, and the way I did it was remembering all the things I’ve done.”

“You’ve never done anything as bad as what he did.” Some of the words sounded more like an animal’s growl than actual words. It was all Paul could do to keep from shouting.

“Oh if only it were that simple,” she said. She held a hand in front of herself horizontally. “This is all the wrong I’ve done in my life.” She placed her other hand far below the first. “And this is your father. At least as you describe it. Sure, I’ve done wrong, but the things your father did are so much lower and so much more awful.”

She raised her first hand almost like a student in class and pointed upward. “But how does any human look compared to a perfect and holy God? All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Paul flung his hands in the air in frustration. “How perfect and holy can a being be to allow that man to do what he did?”

“Would you rather be a machine?” she asked. “Would you rather have no choice? Would you be human if you didn’t have the capacity to choose? People always get that question wrong. They ask, ‘Why would God allow these things to happen?’ But the better question is, ‘Why do we keep choosing to do the wrong thing when God gave us a way to do the right thing?’ We can’t cry out for freedom to choose and then be shocked when some choose to do evil, especially when we want to use the sins of others to justify our own.”

Paul stared at her. It wasn’t blind religion. It wasn’t pseudo philosophy. It was simple reason. 

“Did you plan this?” he asked her.

She chuckled. “I’m not nearly so calculating, but I’m your mother. Anyone who’s talking to you better be very careful with what they say and think. But don’t miss my point, Son. I forgave your father because it was the right thing to do, but more so because that’s what I wanted. I want to be forgiven for how I let him do what he did to you. I want to be forgiven for so much more than that. And if that’s what I want, then that has to be what I’m willing to give. That’s what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.”

… to be continued ..

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 62

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 62

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Nobody turned off the freeway at the exit to the university. 

“Your friends love you, but their lives are changing, just like your mom’s life changed when she met Bill, and your life changed when you and Jordan went to college,” Nobody said. “You’re not losing Jordan and Lidia anymore than your mother has lost you.”

For some reason, the comment made Paul feel a touch guilty. Sure, he’d called her at least once a week just to say hello. They even played an online game or two just to spend time together. His guilt grew as he tried to remember the last time he’d gone to visit. 

Before that day, he’d just been thinking about how busy he was and how much fun it was to hang out with Jordan and Lidia. Now that he’d felt ignored for a while, he’d wondered if his mother felt the same way, cast off for the new and exciting life as if she’d never mattered. He stared at his PID, but he decided not to call her right there. He’d visit her tomorrow or the next day.

“It’s confusing when you visit,” he said quietly as he let his arm drop to his side. “On one hand each visit gives me a chance to see how your teleportation works. But then you get to talking, and I just want to rip off my own ears.”

“Has nothing I said ever helped you?” Nobody asked.

Paul gave a wry chuckle. “In a way I suppose a lot of it helps.”

He found the strength to call the police when his father was at his worst. He made a friend out of Jordan. And then there was Bill. Losing him hurt, but would he really rather never have met Bill? Wasn’t the life they had together worth holding on to?

But I miss him so much! I’d wouldn’t feel this pain if I didn’t know him.

“You wouldn’t feel loss so strongly if you didn’t have such a great relationship to begin with,” Nobody said. “One day, the pain fades, but that love, it lasts forever.”

“Stop!” Paul said. “Stop reading my mind.”

“I’m not,” Nobody said. “It only feels that way from your point of view.”

“What does my point of view have to do with anything?”

“Honestly, everything,” Nobody answered. “And the way you choose to look at the relationships in your life will have a tremendous impact on the anger you still struggle to control. Your anger comes from two placed, pain and possessiveness. If you can let go of just one of those, you’ll see a remarkable change.”

The car pulled up to Paul’s dormitory. “I have to return this car.” He didn’t say anything else until Paul reached over to open his door. “Are you in control of your life?”

The question froze Paul in his place. He wanted to argue he certainly wasn’t any god’s pawn or play thing. The problem was, he knew he didn’t have any real control. His scholarship was controlled by the board. His friends were pulling away. He’d pulled away from his own mother. He didn’t know if he’d ever have the thing he really wanted. 

“Life is life,” Paul said. “And if I can’t have the thing I want, the least I can do is try to be happy when people I love find it.”

“And what is it you want?” Nobody asked.

“Why do you ask questions when you know what I’m thinking and what I’m going to say?” Paul sank back in his seat and ran his hands down his face. “It’s pointless talking to you.”

“No it isn’t,” Nobody said. “Sometimes a conversation is more about helping a person understand what they’re thinking. I’m asking you to just say it out loud.”

“I want someone in my life I can keep!” He didn’t shout. In fact, it almost came out in a sort of whine. Admitting it felt strangely good and painful. “My mom, Bill, and now Jordan and Lidia, I love them, but I know they’re not mine. I feel like some sort of cool game I played as a kid. Sure, it’s fun to play for a while, but eventually you beat the game or get bored and move on. When will I meet someone who wants to be with me and not go or die?”

Of course, as soon as he said it, he realized how impossible that was. No one has control over when they die. 

“I suppose it’d be nice if there was a being who was eternal and willing to always be with you and never let you go,” Nobody said. “Of course, that means you’d have to believe in Him.”

Paul rolled his eyes and got out of the car. He didn’t even feel guilty about slamming the door. If God had been there Paul’s whole life, why let him get beat as a child? Why take Bill? Why give him such great friends if they were just going to go off on their own one day? And how did a person have a personal relationship with a god anyway?

Paul didn’t even bother looking at Nobody. He just stormed into the dorm and tried very hard not to think about how rejected and alone he felt. 

The End of Chapter Seventeen.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 60

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 60

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He left, trying to be as cheerful about it as he could be. As he wandered through the mall, he used his PID to request a ride. 

He made it to the exit and saw a car waiting. He took a moment to look around, failing to see anybody around. He knocked on the driver’s side window, intending to ask if the car was there for him. The PID indicated his ride was still a few minutes out, but the driver might not have taken the time to say he was there. 

The tinted window rolled down, revealing Nobody’s masked face. “I’ll take you home.”

Paul stood there, dumbfounded. It was strange to even consider. The man could immediately teleport wherever he wanted. Why would he own a car? What wasn’t strange was the fact that he was there. Nobody almost always seemed to appear when Paul was at his most angry or frustrated. It also happened to be when Paul least wanted Nobody around.

He went into the back seat and buckled in as if Nobody were indeed the public driver  he’d requested. 

“You own a car?” Paul asked.

“I’m borrowing it,” Nobody said.

“The perfect and holy Nobody stole a car?” Paul challenged. 

Nobody, who hadn’t started driving yet, turned back in his seat. That opaque mask covered the flat stare, but Paul felt it just the same. “I didn’t steal this car. More importantly, I’ve never once said I was perfect. Anyone who says they’re without sin is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

The phrase felt like a Bible verse, which annoyed Paul even more.

“So what it is?” Paul asked. “What’s the little pearl of wisdom you plan to throw at me before you drop me off and vanish?”

Nobody turned back in his seat and began to drive. “Why don’t you tell Lidia how you feel?”

Paul shut his eyes. His anger surged, but he wanted to keep it under control. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Answer the question that I asked,” Nobody said.

“No!” Paul said. So much for keeping my anger in check. “You think you can just randomly appear and ask all these pointed questions, and I’ll just go through your imagined script without wanting answers of my own?”

Nobody didn’t say anything. 

“Why do you get to have all the answers you want, and I have to sit here and be interrogated?”

Nobody didn’t say anything.

“So you’ll ignore me unless I answer your questions?”

Nobody didn’t reply.

“Then pull over,” Paul said. “I’m done explaining myself to you.”

Not only did he refuse to say anything, he just kept driving. 

Paul’s rage flared, and he flung his fist into the center compartment nestled between the front seats and the back row of the car. By some miracle, he managed to pull the punch, but he still put a tiny ding in whatever material the compartment was made of.

“Let me out!” Paul roared.

The car pulled over. Paul stared at the door. What was he going to do, walk the rest of the way to his dorm? Maybe he could call for another ride? He glared at Nobody.

“Lidia and Jordan are happy,” Paul muttered, resting back in his seat. The car pulled off the side of the road and continued its journey.

“So,” Nobody said. “Don’t you think you could do more for Lidia?”

“I wouldn’t do that to Jordan, ever, and Lidia isn’t some sort of thing we can fight over. She could have kept trying to start a relationship with me. She didn’t.”

“Why not compete for her?” Nobody asked.

“I already said I wouldn’t do that to Jordan, even it if worked that way, and it doesn’t,” Paul said. 

“Why?”

“Because it’s wrong.”

“So there is a wrong,” Nobody said. 

Paul flung his arms in the air. “Of course there is!”

“Who decides what that is?” 

Paul rolled his head in disgust. There it was, his inevitable need to turn this into a conversation about God.

“Everybody knows there is a right and wrong,” Paul said. 

“But who decides what that is?” Nobody asked.

“You’d say God.” Paul didn’t bother hiding the sneer from his tone. “But people know what right and wrong is.”

“But where does that awareness come from?” Nobody asked. “If were were simply mammalian animals, we’d kill each other or worse just to satisfy our animalistic needs and wants. Some people stoop to those methods because their need seems so great to them they have no choice. So we do indeed have morality, but what is the source of that morality?”

Paul waited, frustrated at the logic. He thought years back about how Dorny would rant and rave at him for hours. There wasn’t any logic in what he said, just random thoughts filled with portions of the Bible even Paul knew were misquoted. Of course, thoughts of Dorny only led to thoughts about Bill, who also spoke with such reason and logic.

“You know the worst thing about your religion,” Paul muttered. “You all can’t get along yourselves. Some of you say this is what God wants, and others say this is what God wants.”

“When I want to understand what God wants, I turn to his Word.” Nobody said it so softly it was hard to hear under the engine of the car. 

“Yeah, but you can’t even agree on that!” Paul shouted. “And what does any of this have to do with Jordan and Lidia.”

“Everything,” Nobody said simply. “Everything comes down to a person choosing what master they want to satisfy. If you wanted Lidia, you could pursue her. She may refuse you, but that’s her choice.”
“I’ve already told you, I’m not going to try and take Lidia from Jordan. She’s not a thing to steal,” Paul said. 

“Then why do you covet her as if she were a thing?”

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 59

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 59

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That was the moment they decided to look remorseful. “But my hope is if you just remember when we are hanging out that there are three of us, then it won’t feel so … frustrating … when I’m around you two.”

“Maybe you’ll find someone,” Lidia said. Hearing it from her stung. “I have a few friends who … “

“You will not set me up on a date!” Paul didn’t bother trying to hide his frustration or annoyance. He took a breath in an effort to sound more calm. “Listen, you know what happened last time I had a girlfriend. I’m just not ready to try that again.” I don’t think I deserve to have anyone in my life, let alone someone like you.

He couldn’t shake the feeling he was going through some sort of cosmic punishment. The universe knew where he came from. It knew his background. It knew the monster he could be if he were given the chance. It actually did him a favor showing him that potential. Knowing he probably should’t be in a relationship didn’t do anything for the loneliness he felt. 

“Well, if you realize you’re ready, I’d like to help you try and find someone,” Lidia said. It was like being suffocated with a hug. 

Paul offered a fake smile. “Thanks, but I think I’ll know when I’m ready. When that time comes, I’d rather not make this mistake again.” He pointed at the two of them. “What we tried to do was have everything. And that’s not how it works.”

“Why not?” Jordan asked. 

“Because you can be in a relationship or a friendship, but you’re one person with only so much time,” Paul said. “Trying to let me tag along just puts more pressure on me and emphasizes the fact that you’re settling into a pretty serious relationship. Are you guys really thinking about getting married?”

They looked at each other. A lifelong friendship made it pretty easy to read Jordan’s expressions.

“You’re not just thinking, are you?” Paul asked. 

Lidia gave him a shy smile, but Jordan’s head sank. One wanted him to be happy and excited. The other knew how little Paul appreciated change. Paul couldn’t do anything to affect that smile though. 

“How long have you been engaged?” Paul asked.

“I asked her last night,” Jordan said.

“Isn’t that … “ Even as frustrated as Paul felt, he knew his question was rude. It didn’t stop him from asking it. “I didn’t think you’d get serious with a woman who wasn’t Christian.”

They looked at each other in that same guilt-ridden fashion. Oh.

Lidia looked at him. “Jordan was very up front about his beliefs. From the beginning he talked about how important his faith was and how it affects every decision. One of the things that I liked about him was that he was a man of conviction.”

Sure, he’s willing to dump you over a sky bully, but at least he’s up front about it. 

“Don’t look at me like that,” Jordan cut in sharply. “I’ve known you long enough to know when you’re mentally ripping someone apart, and I don’t deserve it. You’re trying to make it like we had some huge debate in the middle of our relationship. That’s not how it went.”

“The truth is I had questions,” Lidia explained. “Part of what helped us come closer together was how easy he was to talk to about God.”

“And now you’re a Christian, too.” Paul muttered.

“I was baptized last week,” she confirmed. “And no, it wasn’t some ultimatum to get married. I didn’t even know he was thinking of asking until he did last night. We’ve been growing together in faith, and our relationship grew stronger.”

“You were just using me as an intermediary tool for an argument,” Paul said.

“Dude!” Jordan said. “You’re mad, and you feel left out. We’ve treated you like a third wheel, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to be a jerk. We asked you out tonight to tell you the news. We know where we stand in regard to the faith. But we’ve been able to stay friends because we know how much we can count on each other, and I need to count on you now.”

Paul shut his eyes, trying to think about a friend who almost never asked him for anything. He reminded himself how often Jordan had sacrificed for him. He reminded himself that he was the one who wanted Lidia and Jordan to be together.

“Can I just be honest?” Paul asked. 

They looked at each other again. Then Lidia turned back and nodded. 

“I want to be happy for you, and a part of me is. Tonight just sort of went south. I know you’re happy together, and I want you to be, but I’m not in a place to celebrate right now. Can we maybe try this again later? I’m just still processing the fact that you two are doing this, and honestly I’m jealous. I need to get my mind right so I can actually be happy for you.”

Jordan smiled at him. “That’s fair, and I’m sorry tonight didn’t work out the way we planed.”

Paul stood. “I’m not exactly prone to letting things go like they should.” He held out a fist for Jordan to tap. As he did, Lidia added her hand.

“Oh!” She yanked her hand back. “Is that a ‘you two’ sort of thing? Did I interject.”

Paul laughed. “No, I’m just saying goodbye. You two should try and enjoy the evening. We’ll do this again when I’m not so resentful.” So maybe never.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 58

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 58

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“So what do we do?” Lidia asked. Leave it to her to want to break this down in to a simple process. 

Paul shrugged. “The truth is, the thing to do is spend less time with me.”

They both looked at him like one of those puppies in the window after they realized they weren’t getting bought. 

“I’m not saying we never hang out,” Paul said, a piece of the resentment coming back. Thankfully, his PID activated, telling him his food was ready. That let him take a breath and walk over to collect his sandwich. 

They followed him. Paul tried to tamp down the petty bit of joy it gave him. It was like it was suddenly their turn to follow him around hope he notices them. He didn’t want that. What he wanted was for it to go back to the way it was.

He glanced at Lidia, and she gave one of those wonderful smiles. Well, what he really wanted to do was go back and take her to a movie and leave Jordan at the cafeteria. At least a part of him wanted that. He wanted to be the one she scurried toward to hold and kiss. He wanted to be the one at the center of her world. 

That truth only emphasized what Paul had already said was needed. He collected his thoughts and found a place to sit. Jordan and Lidia sat across from him, staring at him silently. Paul smirked at Jordan. That would have been his suggestion. He knew Paul would want them to wait for him to think. Maybe what Paul wanted was to go back to that cafeteria and just help Lidia study. Then neither of them would have her, but she wouldn’t be there to complicate their friendship.  

That thought cost him his appetite. She was a member of the team now. Jordan and Paul had argued about telling her the real inspiration behind their experiment, but that was the only secret he kept from her. Neither of them could bear to lose her, but Paul couldn’t shake the feeling that they couldn’t both have her. Not in some sick, perverted way. She could be with one of them, but that meant she couldn’t be both of their friends. 

“You guys are dating, and I guess at least talking about marriage,” Paul muttered. He couldn’t bring his eyes to them. His own thoughts alone were enough to fill his heart with shame. “So you need to date. You can’t do that with me.”

“So we just stop being friends?!” 

Paul cocked an eyebrow at Jordan and his shout. “That’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m saying you two need to date and cuddle and all that crap.” Paul certainly didn’t want to get into the specifics of what “all that crap” meant. “That way, when the three of us hang out, it can actually be about the three of us. So far, you two seem to be able to set aside your annoyingly adorable romance when we’re in the lab, and I think we all know how important that work is. So when the three of us hang out, it’s not you two trying to force me into your life. It’s just the three of us spending a bit of time together.”

“But you get left out,” Jordan said.

“I am left out!” It was less of a shout than it was a bitter comment, but it was true.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 57

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 57

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Paul struggled through the rest of the conversation, attempting to politely contribute if he was asked, and they happened to actually give him enough time to speak. Despite displeasing Lidia tremendously, they left the shop without a puppy.

A part of Paul felt a strange impulse to buy a dog for her. He tried to dismiss the idea, understanding that he really just wanted to do something for her that Jordan wouldn’t, but his principles wouldn’t allow it. More importantly, his friendship with Jordan wouldn’t. 

The conversation wouldn’t really drop though. Each time one of them mentioned anything, the other would bring up the whole dog issue as if it were somehow related to the whatever they were talking about in that moment. 

“You guys want to eat?” Paul asked.

“I don’t know,” Lidia said, a strange snippiness to her tone. “I’m not sure it’s in the budget, and captain, commander of the dollar says we should think about things before we make decisions.”

“Well we could always just do whatever we want, and then when we can’t afford the things we really care about, like weddings, we won’t be able to because we spent money on things we want on an impulse rather than things we truly want,” Jordan said.

“Or we could eat because we’re hungry!” 

They both stopped at Paul’s outburst. “We could actually spend time and have fun together instead of either making doe-eyes at each other and forgetting I exist or arguing with each other and still forgetting I exist! I’ll pay for your food if you just promise to stop using me only to validate whatever idiotic passive aggressive argument you’re trying to win.”

“We’re not ignoring you!” Lidia said. 

“Dude, we’ve spoken to you this whole time,” Jordan said.

“And I am not passive aggressive!” Lidia said.

“You’ve spoken to me?” Paul asked.  “Other than asking if you’re hungry, what’s the last thing I said?”

Jordan opened his mouth to answer and then stopped. 

“And you!” Paul pointed a finger.” You literally just told me to ask captain commander if it’s in the budget. Was that a direct argument or statement?”

Lidia at least had the dignity to drop her head. 

“Have either of you asked me a question that didn’t in some way involve me backing you up in some sort of point you were making?” Paul asked again.

Neither of them said anything. 

“You two wanna make out? Fine, just don’t ask me to watch. You wanna argue? I guess you can if that’s what you want, but don’t ask me to watch or take sides. Me, I actually want to eat, so I’m going to.” Paul stormed away, for once not really caring if the couple followed him or not. 

Had it really come this far? Did he really prefer not being around them? If it meant not having to watch them either fawn over each other or fight each other, yes. 

Paul picked a restaurant to eat at and got in line. He managed to get up to the counter and order before his friends found him.

“We’re sorry,” Jordan said. 

Lidia flung her arms around him, and it was all Paul could do to keep from screaming. He wanted to be angry. No matter how much he hated resenting his friends and being angry, he wanted it. It didn’t even make any sense, but it was true. But Jordan saying sorry? And Lidia, holding herself against him.

He shrugged her off. She looked taken aback. He wasn’t sure she’d make that face if he’d hit her. 

“It’s OK,” Paul said. “I’m just frustrated, and I don’t want you getting out of it with a nice hug and a few words.”

She looked at Jordan for some reason. “I’m sorry. I just … it’s how I apologize.” 

“You didn’t really do anything to me,” Paul said. 

“How long have we basically ignored you?” Jordan asked. 

Lidia glanced from Jordan to Paul and back to Jordan again. 

“What is going on?” Paul asked.

“I don’t understand you,” Lidia said. 

The words strangely felt like a knife. A part of him, a part he tried very hard to bury, wanted nothing more than for her to understand him.

“You just don’t know him well enough yet,” Jordan said before turning his attention to Paul. “We didn’t do it on purpose, but somewhere in the last few months, we just sort of focused on each other.”

“We don’t want to forget you!” Lidia said. 

Paul shook his head. “I get it. I didn’t exactly hang out with Jordan a lot when I had a girlfriend.” 

Admitting as much gave him a dose of humility. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Greetings all,

Without getting into too much detail, we’re just trying to enjoy this Thanksgiving. I didn’t post on Wednesday (sorry for not announcing that), and I don’t expect you’ll see anything from me until Dec. 1. I might post a new entry to Visits, and I’ll post the video for the Week 3 of December on YouTube at the very least, but I’m taking it easy this holiday weekend. There is news and notes, and I’m excited to share it.

Have a bit of patience with me as we get a few things under control or managed. I’m not sure when I’ll offer more explanation or how much explanation I’ll offer. But I imagine I’ll be back on track next week. If not, I’ll at least update you.

For now, I urge you all to be with those you love. Surround yourself in love. Share it with everyone you can. Never miss a second. I am thankful for all of you. Your support has been priceless to me. I’m thankful for this chance to share my art and my dreams. I’m thankful for the chance to chase this dream.

I’m thankful for my wife and family, and the family they added to my life. No words can express that joy.

I’m most thankful for God, who created us all. He created my family. He measured my steps. He took a horrid, wicked man and by his grace, saved me through his Son Jesus Christ.

I am truly a blessed man, and I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 56

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 56

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Seventeen

August 1, 2036, 9:25 p.m. 

14 Years, 124 Days Ago

Lidia sat next to Paul with her head on his shoulder. From her point of view, she was reading a book while they waited for Jordan to get out of the bathroom. She had no idea how much it tortured Paul to feel her on him. The first reason he didn’t say anything was because it made her happy and comfortable. The other reason was that he couldn’t understand how he’d end up in this situation. 

He worked so hard to help Lidia and Jordan see that they were the ones who liked each other, and somewhere along the way he came to realize how wonderful Lidia was. The one of the only things more powerful than his jealousy over their relationship was how stupid he felt for being jealous in the first place.

But neither of those were the worst of it. Jordan came out of the bathroom, and Lidia basically teleported to him. She flung her arms around him, and they kissed each other. They they started walking along the mall. It was like every time one saw the other, Paul vanished. The world fell away when they were together, which meant Paul ceased to exist. 

And they had no idea how lonely that made him feel. He didn’t just miss out on any hope or chance at a relationship with a wonderful woman, he felt like he somehow lost his best friend. They found happiness and love, and he was just more alone than he’d been in his entire life.

They actually made it to the end of the long segment of stores as Paul watched them walk. They turned the corner, completely unaware that they’d left him there. For a moment, he wondered if they’d notice if he went home. Maybe then they’d be ashamed. Maybe then they’d realize how insensitive they were being. But if he left, and they never even realized it, it would be the final proof. It would prove they didn’t care about him in the least. As long as they were together, nothing else mattered, especially not Paul.

He couldn’t bear that thought. Better for them to occasionally offer him some sort of token comment or chance to contribute to life before they vanished into one another’s eyes. Better to be a footnote in their lives than a distant memory. They didn’t even thank him for setting them up together. 

So Paul headed after them in a sort of jog. He ignored the panic in his heart as he turned the corner and couldn’t see them right away. He caught sight of Lidia’s hair and followed it to a pet store.

They were peering in at a group of puppies. 

Lidia cooed at a small white dog that had a single black spot where its back met its tail. The dot looked a little like a bullseye that made Paul chuckle a bit. 

“Aren’t they adorable?” Lidia asked. “Paul you should get one.”

“Why?” Paul asked with a chuckle. 

“Because they’re adorable!” Lidia’s overuse of the word didn’t really justify the reason in Paul’s estimation.

“I wouldn’t even have the first clue how to care for a dog. Also, they’re—“ 

“Jordan, can we get a dog?” Lidia asked.

Paul smiled. “ I don’t know that Jorda—“

“I’ll tell you what,” Jordan said. “Let’s not buy a dog now. We’ll talk about it. And if we still want a dog when we’re not looking at one, we’ll see what we can afford.”

“We?” Paul asked. 

“I think it would be fun,” Lidia said.

“Dog’s are pretty hard to ta—“ Paul said 

“Maybe, but let’s not make a decision in the moment,” Jordan said.

Paul let out a sigh. A few deep breaths helped him calm himself.

“Paul,” Lidia said, “do you think that getting an animal is a good test run for having a family?” 

“There’s no way I’m going to get—“

“Maybe we should talk about marriage more before we talk about having kids,” Jordan said.

“Wait, you guys are talking about marr-“ Paul said.

“It’s just a dog,” Lida said. “And it might help us see how we think as adults and parents.”

Paul realized he really didn’t want to be involved in the conversation, but it seemed clear they were already thinking about marriage and family. He wanted to be happy for them. He wanted to be excited. But given how the current conversation was going, he couldn’t help but feel even more left out. 

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 55

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 55

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They followed Paul even as he used his PID to request a ride to the nearest theater. Once the request was made, there wasn’t much to do but wait.

“Jordan says your grades are better than mine,” Paul said. 

Jordan looked at him as if he grew a second head. Lidia sent Jordan a glare, but Paul kept talking before she could say anything. “That means you must have the work-energy theorem down.”

Her face scrunched up. “Yeah, but how’d you know that.”

Paul laughed. “It’s the only theorem Jordan and I struggle with.” 

She smiled again. “You two are all any of the professors are talking about. That experiment you’re working on and your latest paper has them scrambling to take it to the next step before you get there.”

“They won’t,” Jordan said. Paul smiled. Leave it to Jordan to humbly be a best friend. “Paul’s a real genius.”

“The fact that I’m not even top in my class anymore is evidence to the contrary,” Paul said,. His poor friend had no idea he was being bated, and he took it eagerly. 

“Einstein wasn’t the top of his class either!” he argued, “And Lidia is next level smart, too. She’s here in class with us and she’s two years younger.”

They continued talking. Paul would casually mentions something Jordan was passionate about, and Jordan would obligingly carry the conversation. It was even better when he realized Lidia shared the topic of interest. 

By the time their ride showed up, Paul was hardly even contributing to the conversation. Though it was fun. Strangely, it was nice to have someone else to talk to about things. Of course, Jordan didn’t tell Lidia how it was Paul was inspired to start this journey, but one topic of conversation led to another, and they were sharing more intimate stories before they arrived at the theater.

“I hit him,” Paul said. 

“Some jerk lied to Paul and said I said some bad things about his mother,” Jordan explained to Lidia. “What kid wouldn’t defend his mother’s honor?”

“Maybe any kid would defend his mother, but I’ve never met another person who was willing to defend the guy who hit him.” Paul smiled at the memory. 

“Why?” Lidia asked. In that moment, she looked at Jordan differently, and Paul knew those two were starting to see in each other what they had thought they saw in him. 

Jordan somehow found a way to humbly talk about how he’d not only forgiven Paul for decking him, but was trying to help Paul avoid getting expelled. Of course, then Paul regained the attention when Lidia heard about his confession.

“Before Jordan,” Paul said, “all anyone wanted to do was see if they could get me to lose my temper. Honestly, it’s still a side of me I’d rather no one ever see.”

It was honest truth, but the sudden look Lidia gave Paul bothered him. He expected as much, but it hurt all the same. Jordan is really the only person who ever saw a part of the monster Paul could be without blinking. Lidia wasn’t horrible for that momentary look of caution, but she was just like almost everyone else. 

As expected, Lidia talked to Paul less and less, and talked to Jordan more and more. Sure, they all talked. Sure, they all laughed. Lidia sort of fit in with them. She was able to hold multiple conversations at once. They’d talk about physics for a minute and then switch to music or gaming. Finding out Lidia was a gamer was all the more impressive. 

The movie wasn’t bad at all, but the highlight of what turned out to be a very long night of discussion and laughter turned out to be just how comfortable they were around Lidia. 

“Why don’t you come by the lab tomorrow?” Paul looked at his PID and grunted. “I guess I mean later today.”

“You guys don’t want me coming in and bothering you in the middle of an experiment,” Lidia said.

“Help us brainstorm ways to link two spacial vacuum areas, and we’ll welcome you to pretty much any event,” Paul admitted. “For now, I think it’s time to head home.”

“Really?” Jordan looked surprised at his own question. “I mean, it’s late, or early, I guess, but we’ve been up later.”

“You two wanna keep talking, it’s fine by me, but I’m tired,” Paul said.

“I could stay up a while longer,” Lidia said. 

A strange surge of resentment struck Paul. They were all having fun, but they were willing to keep going when Paul left?

Of course, that was the whole idea in the first place, but Paul couldn’t understand why it bothered him when it happened exactly as he’d hoped.

“You really don’t want to stay?” Jordan asked.

Paul shrugged. Even as he tried to understand why he wanted to stay just because they were staying, he managed to offer an excuse about being tired. 

He took one last look at Lidia. Why was he so hesitant to try and spend time with her? Wy try to encourage Jordan to admit how he felt about her? Why feel jealous? 

The image of him standing over a man flashed in his mind. 

Right, Jordan realized. I don’t deserve a nice girl like her. She never really wanted to date me anyway. 

“I’ll be fine,” Paul lied. It might be the first time he’d ever lied to Jordan. “You two hang out if you want.”

Paul walked away before his pride could convince him to change his mind. Besides, Paul thought to himself, it’s not like they’ll end up getting married.

… to be continued …