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His mother drove home, and they shared pleasantly meaningless conversation along the way. She pulled in front of the house to let him out. He scurried to the door, knowing she wouldn’t leave until she saw him enter the house and turn on the light.
He did so, spinning around to wave at her as she drove away. He didn’t notice when he turned on the light, only flipping the switch to make sure he could say goodbye to his mother, but when he turned around, he realized Nobody was sitting on his living room couch.
It had been more than three years since Paul had even heard from Nobody, and it had been even longer since he’d last actually seen him. Regardless, Nobody looked absolutely no different from the last time they spoke.
He rested an arm along the back of the leather couch and had one leg propped on the knee of the other.
They stared at each other for an embarrassingly long time.
“What?” Paul asked.
“Don’t you want to sit down?” Nobody asked.
Paul scanned the living room. He didn’t notice any signs of freezing or cracking. There wasn’t any wet spot on the brown carpet that he could spot. Wherever Nobody teleported to, it wasn’t the living room.
“I didn’t do anything,” Paul said.
“I know,” Nobody replied.
“Then why are you here?” Paul asked.
“The same reason I come every time,” Nobody answered. “I’m here to help.”
“You can’t do this!” Paul shouted.
“What is it you think I’m doing?” Nobody asked.
Paul stomped up to him, but Nobody didn’t so much as shift his position on the couch. “Every time you come here, there’s something going on. It’s either something I did wrong or something bad happened. You can’t be here!”
Paul still couldn’t see Nobody’s face through the opaque mask, but he’d have sworn Nobody smiled. “I am here to talk about important things, but it’s not something bad. Not this time.”
Those last words only made Paul more afraid. “But you show up, and I’m supposed to just act like it’s expected even though you might appear when something terrible happens?”
Paul was still looming over Nobody, waving his arms in frustration.
“I come when I know you need me most,” Nobody said. “I’ll be there to comfort you when you’re sad, but I’m here now to talk to you about relationships.”
“Relationships?” Paul echoed the word as if he didn’t know what it meant.
“Yes, now would you, please, sit down?”
Paul stepped back, only glancing behind himself for an instant to make sure he wouldn’t trip. When he was sure the recliner was there to catch him, he let himself fall backward into the chair. He didn’t want to take his eyes off Nobody.
“I’m listening,” Paul said.
“Why don’t you like Bill?” Nobody asked.
“No,” Paul said. “It’s not going to go down like this anymore. I’m old enough to ask the questions I’ve always wondered, and you already know what I’m going to say anyway.”
“This has nothing to do with what I know about you,” Nobody said. “It has everything to do with you coming to realize your own heart.”
Paul threw his hands up in derision. “I’m not playing your game without any answers. You know what I’m thinking. You know what I’ve done. You even know what I’m going to do!” He couldn’t help it. His voice grew louder with each sentence. “You have the ability to teleport, and you’re using it to talk to me.”
Nobody set his raised leg down. He leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees and weaving his hands together. “You haven’t asked a single question yet.”
“Why me!?” Paul asked.
“You could have asked any question,” Nobody said. “Yet you didn’t ask how I teleport. You didn’t ask how I know what I know. Instead, you ask why I’m visiting you. Why?”
Paul opened his mouth, but no words came. He thought about it, but all he really knew was he wanted to know why. “Do you visit others? Do you know what they think? Do you have some sort of advanced ability to sense kids who are …”
“Why did you stop?” Nobody’s stare was all the more disquieting because Paul couldn’t see the man’s eyes through the mask.
“Is it because of what my dad did? Do you visit kids who are abused?” Paul whispered the questions.
“I only visit you, and I visit you because I know I can help you,” Nobody said.
“How do you know?” Paul asked.
“Why do people suffer?”
There it was again. Every time Paul really thought he was getting the answers he wanted, Nobody always asked a question that completely changed the direction of what limited conversations he’s had the chance to share with Nobody.
“Don’t ignore me!”
“I’m not ignoring you.” No matter how loudly Paul yelled, Nobody’s voice was always soft and gentle. Paul wasn’t sure he could make Nobody angry even if he honestly tried. “But in order for you to understand how I know I can help you, I have to help you understand the nature of trials.”
“People suffer because the world is full of humans, and most of them are terrible.” Paul was surprised to realize he meant it.
“Only most?” Nobody asked.
“All of us,” Paul groaned. “I remember;’ there is no one who is good.’”
It was one of the first things Nobody had said, and it turned out to be a verse from the Bible. Then again, most of the words Nobody said were taken from the Bible. The man was like a living audio book.
“But is that why people suffer? People suffer because they’re bad?” Nobody asked.
“So does that mean everything bad that happens is some sort of punishment?” Nobody asked.
Paul shrugged again. “It’s what Mr. Dorny says.”
“You already know he’s not a reliable source of information.” That might have been the first time Paul ever heard Nobody speak with any sort of frustration or derision in his tone.
“It’s not just him,” Paul replied. “Lot’s of people say bad thing happen to people who sin. Is that your point? I should behave or God will punish me?”
Nobody shook his head. “God does punish people in His time and in His way, but what about Job?”
“Come on, man! You’re acting like I’ve read that Bible a dozen times or something,” Paul said. “There’s like a million books in that Bible, and I’m pretty sure like three of them are just lists of names.”
“I guess you’ll just have to read one of those books again,” Nobody said. “Job is one of the earlier books. But to help the discussion along, he’s the one God let Satan attack.”
“The guy whose kids died?” Paul asked.
“You’re not helping your case,” Paul said. “The guy didn’t do anything wrong, so God lets the devil do all these bad things to him just to test him. That doesn’t sound very loving or kind to me. Are you saying even when we do right God might still let us suffer just to prove a point?”
Nobody tilted his head as if he were thinking about something. “What point would he be proving?” He didn’t ask the question like he normally did. This question sounded like he was really trying to puzzle something out.
Ha! Paul thought. He doesn’t know how to answer. He doesn’t know how to make God look kind and loving after letting all that stuff happen to Job.
… To be continued …