Visits From A Man Named Nobody 63

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 63

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November 20, 2036, 2:21 p.m. 

14 Years, 13 Days Ago

Paul felt truly excited to be approaching his home. He hadn’t seen his mother in quite a while. He couldn’t help looking out of the car window during each turn. A smile came on his face. He spoke with his mother here and there about life and how things were going, but he hand’t been home since Christmas the year before. He took a short flight to get most of the way, some 200 miles, and sent a message for a ride the rest of the way.

The vehicle he was in turned the corner, and the smile on Paul’s face melted in to shock. A black, four-door car sat in the driveway. Paul’s PID dinged, and he jumped a the noise. It was just the driver connecting with his unit to collect the fair for his ride from the airport. Paul slowly got out of the car in a daze. 

It was the same color, make, and model. Paul reached out and touched the car, scrambling to think about what it meant. Maybe it was just the same type of car. It wasn’t like there was only one black car in all the world.

He tired the rear door, surprised it opened. He leaned in, looking at the center console. There it was: the tiny dent he put in it when he hit it in frustration. It was the exact dent, and this was the exact car Nobody had used to drive Paul home.

“So I guess you like it.”

Paul jerked at the sound and knocked his head against the frame of the car. He spun around even as he rubbed his skull. “Where is he!?”

“Where is who?” His mother stood before him in a long, form-fitting pea coat. Some blue jeans peaked out from under the black overgarment. A few streaks of gray had started to creep into her black hair, which was loose around her head and shoulders. 

“Who’s car is this?” Paul asked.

She laughed. “It’s mine.” She cocked her head at him in confusion. “I’m glad you like it?” Her voice squeaked as if it were more of a question than a statement. 

“You bought this car?” Paul asked.

She nodded. 


She shrugged, “About six months ago.”

The math flew through Paul’s mind. “Did someone come to borrow it from you. He’d be about my height with black hair.”

Her face lit up with a bright smile. “What’s going on?” She reached into her pocked and produced a key. “I had this key made for you, so you could borrow it whenever you wanted.” She walked over and held it out to him. “But no one has come to borrow it. Who would?”

So he did steal it! Well, Nobody borrowed his mom’s car without asking. Sure he returned it, but it was stealing regardless of whether or not he gave it back.

Paul held the key staring at it in thought. Then he looked at his mom. “I don’t visit you enough; do I?”

“Come on inside,” she said. “I have some food ready.”

Paul followed her in, and they both removed their coats. Paul wore a university shirt. He wasn’t exactly all about school spirit, but his mom liked the idea of seeing him in a school shirt. His mother wore a simple blouse. It was black with a series of white specks that made the shirt look like a pattern of stars. 

Sure enough, there was a feast on the table even though it was several days before Thanksgiving.  He chuckled. “Your church friends coming over to eat, too?” He tried to keep his tone even, but he never felt comfortable around her church friends. They weren’t bossy or preachy. They were a lot like Jordan, or even Bill. But it wasn’t exactly easy to sit around a table full of people who seemed determined to talk about God in some way, shape, or form.

“They’ll be here for Thanksgiving, but not today. I wanted my son to myself.” She sat down at the table and offered a silent prayer before making a plate. 

Paul bent over and gave her a side hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I’m glad to be home.”

He walked around the table and sat down across from her. 

“So you like the car, huh?” She stabbed her fork at a slice of ham. 

“Yeah.” She offered him the serving dish of meat, and he took it, gratefully plopping a few slices on his own plate before setting it down. 

They traded food as they spoke. 

“So did you notice the mileage change?” Paul asked.

She laughed. “I only pay attention to that stuff when I think it’s getting close to the time I need to change the oil.”

“What about the small dent on the back seat center console?” They’d finished filling their plates, and Paul set to cutting up his food.

“There’s a dent back there?” She took a bite of her own food, completely oblivious to the fact that someone took her car, drove it almost 200 miles,  and returned it.

“Yeah, I saw it when I was checking it out.” He also put it there, but he didn’t intend to say that. 

“The truth is I did buy it hoping you’d use it, which, yes, would mean I’d get to see you more.” She rolled her eyes as if he’d just caught her cheating in a board game. 

Paul let out a breath. “I’ll come visit more, but I wish you’d just say what you want.”

She took a bite, giving him a flat stare as she chewed and swallowed. “What I want is for you to want to come visit me more. I certainly don’t want you to show up on some regular basis just because you think you have to.”

“It’s not that,” Paul said. “I know I should visit more often, and I do want to. I just get caught up on work and other things.”

Her eyes glittered. “Do any of those other things have a name, maybe?”

“No.” This time he gave her the flat stare. 

“So no one since Stacy?” Her tone was as gentle as anyone could make it. She wasn’t trying to bring her up, just see if there was anyone new. 

Paul shook his head, trying to hide his frustration and shame. “Not me, but Jordan just got engaged.”

His mother dropped her knife and fork and clapped excitedly. “Oh that’s wonderful! Do you have a picture? What’s her name? How long have they been dating? What—“ she paused. “What’s wrong?”

She read his expression. Paul offered her a smile and worked at his PID, trying to find a picture of the three of them together.

“It’s OK.” He found a picture and sent it to her PID. 

“Ohhh, she’s beautiful! They look so happy!” She looked at him and narrowed her eyes. “So why does my son have that fake smile he uses when he wants everyone to believe he’s not angry about something.”

“I talked to them about it,” Paul said after swallowing another bite of food. “The truth is I was jealous about their relationship and how much time they were spending together. I felt left out, but we’ve worked it out.”

She stared at him.

“OK, so we don’t hang out like we used to,” Paul admitted. “But things are good in the lab, and I’m still his best man at the wedding.” He took another bite of food. “The truth is none of us really know how to act around each other, so we hang out every now and then, but we haven’t figured it all out yet. Honestly I still have to figure out how to be happy for them instead of thinking about how I’m losing out on two friends.”

“I see.” His mother grabbed a roll and used it to scoop up some mashed potatoes. “It can be challenging when relationships change.”

“How did you do it?” Paul suddenly realized she had experience. One minute, he was living there and hanging out, the next he was at college.

“I have to accept that you’re your own person,” she said. “I have to remind myself that I know you love me, and then I have to appreciate the time I do get with you.”

“Even if you have to buy a car to try and get me to spend more time with you?” 

She smiled. “It’s completely fair to provide motivation for people to come see you. But that motivation isn’t obligation, and that’s the real trick. I don’t want to guilt trip you into spending time with me. I just want to make sure I give you plenty of reasons.”

Paul nodded. That made a kind of sense. 

… 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

PT1 // 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 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 // PT 48 // PT 49 // PT 50 // PT 51 // PT 52 // PT 53 // PT 54 // PT 55 // PT 56 // PT 57 //

“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. 

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 56

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 56

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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 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 48

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 48

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Paul was still burning with anger and shame. The conflicting emotions caused him to freeze in his doorway. “I think I might have killed him if I didn’t see those reflections.”

“I’d rather not contemplate what would have been, but I have a question: Why are you so angry?” Nobody asked.

Paul slammed the door to give his frustration something to do. The wood near where the latch met the frame cracked at the force. “She cheated on me!”

“Is she yours?” Nobody always had that sanctimoniously calm tone, and he had to know how angry it made Paul.

“She’s my girlfriend!” Even though he felt foolish, Paul couldn’t keep from shouting and gabbing his thumb into his chest. The rage wouldn’t allow him to control himself.

“And how did you treat her? Did you love her?”

“I never cheated on her! I never did anything to hurt her!”

“Is lack of abuse good treatment?”

Paul let out a frustrated sigh, clenching his fists. A tear rolled down his cheek. 

Nobody didn’t give him time to answer. “What was your relationship about? What did you do with her when you were with her? Was she your helper and trusted friend, or was she the object of your lust?”

Paul walked over and slumped down on his bed. The rage seemed to deflate, leaving the shame no opponent to distract it. I used her. 

“Most people these days treat sex like a going for a walk or like a hobby.” Nobody stopped and cocked his head. “I suppose that’s my opinion, but I can’t help but feel that way. They want to have all they sex they want to have without any of the cost. But when we think of sex that way, one can’t help but eventually see people as an object of their sexual fantasies rather than people. That’s why sex is reserved for a husband and his wife. The understanding should be that you are pieces of one another. If sex is a leisure or fitness activity, it’s selfish, but if it’s a demonstration of love, it’s about sacrifice, giving up a part of yourself for the sake of the other, for their pleasure.”

“She never said anything,” Paul whispered. “I’d come see her, and we’d be together. Then I’d head off back to the lab.” His voice trembled with remorse, and more tears came. “I hardly ever even called her.”

No wonder she left me. I never deserved her to begin with.

“I still hate you,” Paul muttered as he got himself together.

“You have no idea how ironic that statement is,” Nobody said. “Even though you hate me, you listen.”

“I still haven’t forgotten how you helped me,” Paul admitted. “But I still hate how much your advice hurt.”

It was a strange contradiction that Paul couldn’t wrap his head around. Nobody’s advice and encouragement helped him escape an abusive father, improve his relationship with his mother, and find a better father figure. Of course, that same encouragement led Paul to lose that father figure. 

“I wish life only gave you good things.” Nobody stood. “More importantly, I wish the presence of pain in your life didn’t so easily blind you to the good things that are there. Human beings take so much for granted. Then, when we lose something or someone we cherish, we hate God for taking them, but we forget He gave them to us in the first place, and we get even more angry because we can’t help but notice all the missed opportunities we had.”

Again, Nobody’s voice seemed to shake, as if he too were fighting back tears. He cleared his throat. “You focused on your goal, and you had a great accomplishment today.”

He was talking about the experiment. 

“I’m close.” Paul didn’t feel any of the satisfaction he did an hour ago. 

Nobody shrugged. “Does that success matter in this moment?”

It didn’t. His shame and regret for ruining a good thing made his pride in the experiment seem stupid. Paul offered a similar shrug in return.  

“Another thing that happens when we use people to satisfy our lusts is that we forget they’re people we can share our joys and sorrows with.” Nobody stood. 

“What do I do?” Paul asked. He hated himself for asking the moment the question escaped his mouth. 

“You already know where I look for answers, and I think you already know what to do in this case.” Nobody lifted up his arm and tapped a device on his wrist. Was that a PID? It was so thin. 

The sensation that accompanied Nobody’s teleportation was the same. A part of Paul focused on the new information, even as he contemplated Nobody’s words.

As the temperature fluctuated, and the surging electrical sound rang in Paul’s ears, a strange web of electric blue light formed around Nobody. The pattern was spherical, perhaps a perfect sphere. The field seemed to grow from Nobody’s feet to the top of his head. As soon as the field surrounded Nobody light flashed, and he was gone. 

Paul let out a chuckle. Of course Nobody didn’t bother to turn a corner or close a shower door. Paul already knew about the vacuum field. But how did he connect the fields without tearing a hole through the planet?

Paul laughed again. The jerk was teasing him, forcing him to ask questions. Paul decided not to let his mind wander down that path. He had a lot of more important things to do. 

… to be continued …

Musings on Christianity 32

Musings on Christianity 32

How Can We Control Our Emotions?

I’ve always been a man who wears his emotions on his sleeve. I feel things intensely, and I’m a passionate man. This has done a lot for me. My passion drives me. My ambition and focus enables me to move forward even when I thought I’d quit.

But is that the right thing?

For some time, I’ve been working on being in control of my emotions rather than letting those emotions drive me. This is especially difficult considering I’ve spent the majority of my life being driven by my passion rather than using my passion to do as I should.

I think it happens to everyone. Maybe you had a date set up, and your partner or friend changed it or asked to include someone. Did that make you feel jealous, asking yourself, “So does this person not want to hang out with me?”

Maybe you had this terrific idea on how a day with your child would go on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and then your child asks if he could go to a friend’s house?  Is it possible you felt disappointed? Did you entertain the idea that your child is more invested in his and her friends than you?

I can’t really know you or your emotions, readers. What I know is there are some times when I feel disappointed, jealous, frustrated, or even betrayed or wronged. I might (and that’s a big might) be able to hide those feelings, but that’s not the same as dealing with them, and it’s not anything near to controlling them.

I hope I’m not alone in feeling like I’ve been in situations where I knew my emotions were in control.

How do I recognize this? For me, I know I’m struggling when I can’t let go of a thought or emotion. I know something’s off when I want to dwell in whatever emotion I’m feeling. Maybe you want to “vent” about that coworker who just gets on your nerves. Maybe you want to “vent” about how your spouse “always” or “never” does something. Maybe you want to complain in your car on the way home about how your boss “doesn’t” or “won’t” understand your point of view.

I’ve had to do every single one of those things, and none of them are righteous. None of them are healthy.

I think I do it because I want my feelings to be validated.

Maybe you just said, “Who doesn’t want their feelings to be validated?”

Are my feelings a person who should be included in my plans? Should others always make sure to set two places if they invite my feelings and me to dinner? Am I so important that before anyone does anything, they should consult me and my feelings on the matter?

Consideration is a wonderful thing. It really is. I’m grateful to anyone who asks me how I feel or what I want. Sure, if someone says something like, “I can really see how this might disappoint you, but this is my decision.”

However, to think that me and my feelings should always be considered are still self centered thoughts even if they’re true. A husband should always consult his wife and seek her wisdom. The authority may rest in him, but why not take advantage of a wife’s counsel before making a decision? If you do that, why not at least show your appreciation for her thoughts and opinions? Nevertheless, if my feelings and thoughts aren’t requested, I may feel sinned against. I may feel wronged. This particular chapter looks at how one handles those feelings before they fester into resentment or anger.

I think the first thing to do in a situation like that is to analyze myself. Philippians 4:8 has the guideline for where a person’s focus should be.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

“I feel like my husband cares more about his job than me.” That’s a very valid emotion. It may or may not be true. But to focus on the feeling then puts the emotions ahead of the truth. Why do you feel that way? What is happening that is fueling that emotion? Have you spoken to your husband about those things?

Let’s look at the other side of that coin.

“My wife never wants me to get any rest! I work all day, and then, when I come home, she just wants me to do more.” Those are also valid emotions.

You see, one person is seeking comfort in one way, presence and time spent together. Another is seeking comfort in another way, relaxation and quiet. One’s need is connection. The other’s is rest. We can choose to hypothesize about why a person is denying our need, but if we do that, we’re denying a person the right to speak about his or her reasons.

A person controlled by his or her emotions will do that. They’ll fix their thoughts on self-justification. “See!” a wife will say. “He’s gone all day and the first thing he wants is his television!”

“See!” a husband will say. “I just get in the door and all she wants to do is give me more to worry about!”

This is assuming the wife doesn’t work. Maybe she does, but I have to pick a scenario to work with, and this one works as well as any other. The point is the desire these people have is causing  them to perceive the other as an obstacle rather than another human being with needs that may not be getting met.

But what is true?

That’s such a valuable question. But we try to avoid the truth by either holding a trial in our own mind, seeking evidence to support our judgment without ever letting the other person testify, or we try and entrap the other person, asking pointed questions that don’t leave the other person anywhere else to go but where you wanted to shove him or her in the first place.

The search for truth can’t be conducted in a vacuum.

One thing I’ve come to do is ask what I really feel is the most important question anyone can ask another. Just come right out with it: What do you want? Now, you can use a tone that implies you could give a flying fart about what that answer is, and that’s wrong. You’re emotions are in control. But if you ask, genuinely seeking that, you might learn what the other person is after. Then, you can respond in truth and love with what you’re after.

If you find yourself mentally or even verbally articulating why another person is “trying to stop you from” or “refusing to,” you’re being resentful. It’s not loving, and it’s not helping anything.

What is true? I don’t know, let me start by asking. What do you want? Are you really out to stop me from sitting down and thinking for five minutes? Are you really out to avoid me more? Asking those questions in that manner is a sure way to start an argument. But asking, “Hey, babe, what is it you want?” and being honest about understanding the answer will probably allow communication to start. Yes, tired working person who just got home, that means you might need to delay what you want long enough to talk to your wife, but then you’re showing love. You’re being patient and kind, and that glorifies God. Yes, person who has been apart from someone you so desperately want to be close to, that means you might need to explain what you want so that it can be given, but people aren’t God to know and read your heart.

That leads me to another example of when your emotions are in control. Have you ever thought, “She or He knows I … “ or “He or She isn’t thinking about what I … “ You’re making a lot of assumptions with statements like that. 

But what is true? Is that person purposefully, intentionally trying to deny you something you want or need? More than likely that person is just trying to fill a need of his or her own. Is that selfish? Yeah, but aren’t you mad because you feel that other person is trying to deny you something you want or need? That is also thinking of yourself.

That doesn’t mean husbands shouldn’t love their wives or wives should’t respect their husbands or children shouldn’t honor their fathers and mothers (Ephesians 5). But those are commands from God, so they must be honorable and commendable things. However, forgiveness is also wonderful.

I get caught up in my emotions when I see my feelings as truth. We can’t know truth, let alone fix our thoughts on it, if we don’t even know what it is. This requires communication. If you’re not interested in hearing what that person has to say, aren’t you guilty of the same crime: Not being considerate?

We may find ourselves in a situation when our feelings are indeed true. I hate that there are husbands out there who really don’t love their wives. I hate that there are people out there who really do think less of any other people. It’s a sad truth in this broken, sin-cursed world, and that means sometimes our feelings are justified by truth.

Does that mean our feelings can now take control? No. Because there is still one truth that remains. God is judge. Vengeance is His (Romans 12:19). There isn’t enough time in this chapter to get into when it’s acceptable to divorce a person (there are times).

There are times when a person deserves justice, but it’s God’s right to determine when to deliver it. We have police and services we can report things to, and God provided those options. Through them, God can provide justice. In those extreme cases people should seek justice by reporting crimes and situations of abuse. We have to do this because if we don’t, we force ourselves to endure and feed our resentment and despair.

For those times that are less extreme, we have the options Jesus gave us, which we covered in previous chapters. We can forgive, which is always to the glory of God, or we can rebuke, wherein our goal is reconciliation.

What we should strive to do though is focus on the truth, which isn’t known in your mind and by your observation alone. If you do that, you’re making yourself God, proclaiming you know the hearts of man and his intentions.

For me, breaking that habit of venting or dwelling is easiest when I start thinking about that verse, and I share it with you for the same purpose.

For our panel: Why do people fall victim to their own emotions? What other verses can people turn to when they realize they’re struggling to look past their feelings? Is it a sin to succumb to emotions? Why would God give us emotions if they could cause us to sin? How do we live righteously even as we deal with such strong emotions?