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 …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 54

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 54

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“She has better grades than you,” Jordan said.

Paul cocked his head. “She does?”

Jordan gave a laugh. If Paul didn’t know any better, he’d say Jordan was frustrated. Paul looked over at Lidia. For a moment, he tried to imagine dating her, being with her. But the picture that formed in his mind depicted the moment he stood over Stacy’s new boyfriend. He became a monster over a girl. If Paul was being honest, he didn’t feel that way about Lidia. Of course, he’d been busy. 

You shouldn’t be with anyone. You’re too dangerous. You’re too much like him.

Paul wanted to dispute the thoughts, but he couldn’t make himself. He took a deep breath. “I think I have a solution.”

He didn’t wait for Jordan to respond. Instead, he walked over to the table beside Lidia. “Have you eaten?”

She nodded. “I figured you’d be here talking, but I had dinner already.”

“Great,” Paul said. “Let’s go to a movie!”

She smiled.  

“”The three of us should have a great time,” Paul added.

Her thin smile vanished. “Three of us?”

“Yeah,” Paul said. “Jordan doesn’t have anything to do.”

“Actually,” Jordan said.

“You don’t have anything to do,” Paul said again. “We were going to sit here and talk for hours on end, so a movie is fine.”

Jordan shot Paul a look that read, “What are you doing?”

Paul shrugged. He didn’t really know. He had an inkling of an idea, but he didn’t have anything remotely resembling a plan. Mostly, Paul just wanted to avoid being alone with Lidia in a way that didn’t make her feel rejected. He didn’t like her that way, but he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. 

“Um,” Lidia said. She looked at Jordan. Maybe he was right. She seemed to want to be alone with Paul, but Paul didn’t have any business being alone with a woman. “I suppose that would be fine.”

“Of course! It’ll be fun,” Paul said in agreement. Yeah, Jordan was right. One mention of a movie and she forgot all about studying. How had he not noticed?

Paul turned and started walking.

“Where are you going?” Jordan asked.

“I thought we all just agreed to watch a movie,” Paul replied.

“You meant now?” Jordan actually yelped. Paul wasn’t sure he’d ever heard his friend yelp before. 

“What else were we going to do?” Paul started to walk again.

“But we haven’t even picked a movie,” Jordan said.

“We can pick one on the way,” Paul replied.

“I haven’t had a chance to get dressed,” Lidia said. 

Paul was about to start walking again, but the comment brought him up short for the third time. “You’re already dressed.”

“Not for a movie,” Lidia replied.

“Wait,” Paul said. “You have a movie outfit?”

Lidia smiled at him. It was a pretty smile. “A woman wants to look right for the occasion.”

“You look wonderful,” Jordan said. “Let’s just go. He’s impossible to stop once his mind is set anyway.”

Lidia gave him a tiny smile and a nod of the head. 

Paul grinned. It seemed his idea had a little bit of merit. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 53

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 53

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Sixteen

May 14, 2036, 4:31 p.m. 

14 Years, 202 Days Ago

Paul and Jordan sat talking in the school cafeteria. They’d just done the fourth successful test of the vacuum field. This time, they created the field without any casing. The blue orb formed and maintained its shape just like they hoped, but they didn’t have any idea how to connect one field to the other without running into the same problem they’d been trying to avoid. 

Paul listened to Jordan while he ate a bite of something that was either meatloaf of Salisbury steak. It was warm and filling regardless.

“Why don’t we try forming two fields to start?”

It was a good idea. “We can try that,” Paul replied after swallowing his food. Jordan shoved some food in his mouth while Paul continued. “Let’s do them close together in a large container. That way, if they connect on their own, we minimize risk.”

Jordan nodded. 

“I don’t really think they’ll just randomly connect. I feel like there is something that connects them that we haven’t figured out yet,” Paul said. “But when we test this next phase, we should test various patterns.”

“Like what?” Even with his mouth half full, Jordan could’t help but ask the question.

“We don’t know if the fields generate each other when you pick a destination or not. Do they have to be formed and then connected, or does the destination cause the second field to form?”

Jordan shrugged at Paul’s thoughts. 

“Hey?” 

The word drew Paul’s attention to a young woman who’d somehow managed to walk right up to his left side without him noticing. Then again, when Paul put his focus on anything, he tended to forget everything else. How long had she been standing there?

Even as he pondered the question, he realized he knew her.

“Oh! Hey, Lidia!”

She smiled at him. She had a pretty smile that accented a narrow face. “I think you forgot,” she said.

“Forgot what?” Then it hit him. “OH! Right! Um.” He was supposed to help her study for her test. “Why don’t you sit here?” He moved over to give her room to sit. “Do you have your notes on you? Maybe I can run grab my notes.”

“I have my notes.” She sat down, causing a long black strand of hair to tumble over her eye. “I was just hoping you’d sort of quiz me and tell me if I’m wrong.” 

“Yeah, we can do that,” Paul said.

“We?” Jordan asked. “I was, um, about to go.”

“You don’t have anywhere to be.” Paul said.

Jordan gave him a suffering look. “Can I talk to you over there for a minute?”

“Over there?” Paul asked. “What’s —“

“Just come here,” Jordan said. He sounded like Paul had left all the equipment out and left Jordan to put it away again. 

“We’ll be back,” Paul told Lidia. He still wasn’t sure why they were walking away in the moment.

They made it a few steps away, and Jordan stopped. 

“Why are you leading her on?” Jordan asked.

“What?” Paul replied. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Jordan rolled his eyes. “Listen, man. I know you have more experience than me, but isn’t it kind of obvious Lidia thought ‘help me study’ was code for ‘take me out?’”

Paul thought for a second. That couldn’t be right. “She brought her notes though. She just wants to study.”

Jordan rubbed his temples with a thumb and index finger. “She probably just wanted the excuse, especially since it looks like you stood her up.”

“I can’t stand someone up when it wasn’t a date,” Paul said.

“Did you say you’d meet her?”

“Yeah.”

“And you forgot.”

“Well, yeah.”

“Even if it wasn’t a date, you left her hanging, but I think she likes you,” Jordan said.

Paul looked at her. Slender and small, she seemed focused on her books. “Naw.” He drew out the word to accent his doubt. 

“Just because you don’t see how pretty she is doesn’t mean she’s not interested in you,” Jordan said.

“So you think she’s pretty,” Paul said. Ohhh!

“Anyone not named Paul who looks at her for five minutes would see she’s cute, but you’re avoiding her. She sits next to you in two classes and has sat with us for lunch more times than I can remember.”

“And never once asked me out.” Paul said.

“That time she talked about going to the game,” Jordan said. 

“She doesn’t even like basket ball.”

“The new movie that came out,” Jordan said.

“That was the night of Beta Test One.”

“And whenever she asked for help studying?”

“She has finals,” Paul’s voice went up an octave.”

… to be continued …

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 51

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 51

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“That’s a different problem, but repenting before God is only the highest form of repentance. You sought forgiveness from Stacy, which, apparently, she gave, at least to some degree.”

The car continued along the freeway as Paul considered what his mother said. Was that what he was after? He didn’t think so. “I wasn’t after forgiveness, Mom.”

“You were probably trying to be punished because you know what you did was wrong.” Her already normally soft voice was whisper quiet. She was sad about something. It was probably because Paul wanted punishment.

“I think people should pay for what they do,” Paul said. “I think they should get what they deserve.”

“I sincerely hope not,” his mother replied. “I want to give mercy, and I want to receive mercy. I know exactly what I deserve, and that’s why mercy is so wonderful.”

“You deserve to be happy!” The comment came out in a sort of muttered growl.

“And I don’t deserve to be punished for letting your father do what he did to us?” Paul’s head jerked at the question, which came out much more like an accusation.

“You were the victim!”

“And yet I let him do as much to you.”

Paul shut his eyes and took a deep breath. He hadn’t forgotten how he’d treated her as a child. He did whatever he wanted and expected her to let him. Then he got angry at her for giving him exactly what he wanted. It never made any sense. It only got better when he and Jordan became friends. 

“That’s not the same,” Paul said.

“It can’t be both ways, Paul. We either all get everything we deserve, or we all need mercy. But I’m of the opinion that if everyone got exactly what they deserve, we’d all be in a great deal of agony. And before you make some crass extreme counterargument, I acknowledge that some people are far more evil than others, but that’s not my point.”

“There is no one who is good,” Paul said.

“That’s,” she paused in shock. “That’s exactly right. Have you been reading the Bible?”

He’d never even considered telling her before this moment. It never came up. “I read the whole thing around the time he was arrested.” Paul refused to speak his name, and he’d die a million times over before he acknowledged that man as his father. 

Not that it worked. He was literally just like him, and he deserved exactly what that man got. 

A memory flashed in Paul’s mind. It was the night of Nobody’s first visit. The bastard had passed out drunk, and a bottle had tipped over. Paul set it right to be positive the alcoholic wouldn’t trip and hurt himself.

“Paul, are you there?” He’d been years away in the past and hadn’t heard his mother.

“Sorry,” he said. “I zoned out for a second.”

“I was asking why you read the Bible then?” 

That answer would lead to a lot of other questions. Paul had eluded to Nobody once or twice, but he’d never told the whole story. As he thought, he figured he should have lied to his mother, saying he’d read the Bible after he got close to Bill, but he couldn’t bring himself to lie to his mother or about Bill.

“I was looking for answers.” That was at least a part of the truth. “I didn’t find any. I read the whole thing. I think I’ve read it two or three times, but I don’t believe any of it.”

“Because of what happened to Bill.” She said it as gently as she could given her tone, but talking about Bill was always a way to get Paul angry. 

“Yes.” Maybe by being curt, she’d know to change the subject.

“We can’t accept just part of the Word,” she emphasized the capital. “It’s all true. It’s true that he’s sovereign. It’s true that he’s loving. It’s true that he’s the righteous judge, and it’s true that he calls us when it’s our time. We don’t get to pick when, and, to be honest, I don’t know that we’d ever accept the explanation even if he bothered to give it to us.”

“That part is for certain,” Paul muttered. 

“I’m going to ask about this girl now to shift the subject.”

Paul laughed. She could have just done it.

“I’m not doing it because I’m afraid or unwilling to debate or discuss this with you,” she explained. “I doing it because I’m trying to be patient. You’ve been patient, hearing what I’ve had to say. I think any more on this subject would just be an argument neither of us wants.”

“Yeah,” Paul admitted.

“I imagine Stacy is willing to allow you this chance to change,” his mother said. 

“But why? If I’m capable of doing what I did tonight, what else am I capable of?” And there it was. The last part of his question came out in whine of agony. He was a monster. He should be locked up before he hurt anyone. He wouldn’t be sorry if a bolt of lightning struck him down.  He needed to be punished. He needed to be stopped before he became that man.

“We’re all capable of horrible things, Paul,” his mother said. He couldn’t know for certain without activating the holographic feature of his PID, but he thought he heard a smile in her voice. “But you’re every bit as capable of becoming a kind, loving, patient man. If she’s ever willing to talk to you, maybe ask her why she was so willing to give you such precious gift as her own body. Why was she willing to be your girlfriend? I imagine it’s because she saw the man you could be, the other man you could be. I just wish you’d focus on becoming that man instead of avoiding the other.”

Paul glanced out the window as he ran a hand down his face to dry his tears. He caught the exit to his school from the corner of his eye, but he needed to admit something to his mother. “I’m so afraid of being him.”

“But if you focus on him, so that’s your target,” she said. “You have so many better options to focus on.” 

“Bill is the only better option I have, maybe Jordan or his dad,” Paul said. “I don’t know about so many other options.”

“I do,” his mother replied. “You’ve read the Bible. You have Enoch and Noah, Moses and David, the apostles and, most importantly, Jesus.”

“I thought you were changing the subject.” Paul muttered.

“I did, for an entire minute.” She sounded pleased at her quip. “And before you argue about it for the sake of arguing, go back and look at just one of those people. Would it really be so bad to be like them?”

Paul opened his mouth to say, “yes,” but that lie wouldn’t form on his lips either.

“Then there’s Paul,” his mother said. “Now there’s a case I think you could study. You could ask yourself why he called himself the foremost sinner, and yet he was still chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles.”

Paul didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t either start an argument or get more Bible references. His contemplative moment turned into a period of silence.

“I’ll leave you to think on it now, but I hope you will,” his mother said. “We didn’t name you after the apostle, but you seem to focus on the punishments people deserved. It would do you some good to see the value of what mercy can do.”

“Ok,” Paul said.

“Thank you.”

Wait? Did she take that as a promise to look into it? “Mom —”

“I’m sure you’re near the school now, and you should see if Stacy is willing to talk to you,” his mother said.

“Mom, I —”

“I’ll talk to you later. I love you always, my son.”

She hung up. That was a dirty trick! She hung up before he could explain he was only acknowledging that he’d heard her. He shook his head. He didn’t actually promise her anything, and she knew it. He wasn’t obligated to study any of that stuff.

The car indeed pulled off the exit and started to pull around to one of the campus’s entrances. 

… 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 …