I found God on the corner of 1st and Amistad
Where the West was all but won
All alone smoking his last cigarette
I said, ‘where you been?’ He said, ‘ask anything.’
~ The Fray. “You Found Me.” The Fray. Sony Music Entertainment, 2009*
I felt like I was being stalked by a little grey cloud of gloom and despair. Nothing had been going right for months. I lost my job. My boyfriend had left me for a younger, blonder, skinnier woman. And, I was underwater on my condo payments. The only thing that would make my existence better at this point was to discover I had a life-threatening disease just as my med insurance ran out.
My mother, bless her heart, kept telling me to hand my life over to God. That I had to trust Him to give me what I needed, that all I ever needed was The One. My cynical, agnostic side would nod and smile at her misplaced faith, but I continued pouring over classified ads and searching Internet jobs forums. I gave little credence to the idea of a benevolent deity reaching down from on high and bestowing on me riches beyond belief.
In an effort to save money, I had left my car parked at home, instead relying on public transportation to get to what few interviews I could secure. The closest passenger kiosk for the downtown bus was at the corner of 1st and Amistad. There’s where I was headed when I first saw him.
I couldn’t help but giggle at the sight of him. In my bible-school adolescent brain, he was exactly how I pictured God would look. Well, except for his disheveled clothing and the lit cigarette hanging from his lips. He was over six-foot tall, barrel-chested with a shock of curly white hair and a beard Zach Galifanakis would envy. Somehow a smoking Almighty was hilarious.
As I walked up, he fixed his milky blue eyes on me, and smiled back at me. Not a “hello” kind of smile, but more of a “I’m not laughing with you, I’m laughing at you,” kind of smile. Considering the day I was having this really pissed me off. Thinking about all the mythology my mother had thrown at me about her loving and generous God, this living, breathing effigy of The Man laughing at me was too much. He was supposed to be helping me regain my good fortune, not sneering at my problems.
I know it was irrational, to actually believe this stranger was God and that He was not only privy to my misfortune but either actively or passively responsible. If I was to believe my mother, and the number of prayers she had sent up to Him, where had He been all these months? I had, even against my own beliefs, said a few myself.
He was standing outside the kiosk, smoking and blowing rings away from the shelter. I sat down at the farthest end of the bench away from Him, my brief case containing extra copies of my resume and personal business cards fitted neatly inside, securely on my lap. I was planted there, feet flat on the sidewalk, knees together, my hands protectively grasping the handles of my case, trying to make myself as small as possible. Avoiding any further eye contact with God, I hoped someone else would arrive soon to ease the tension.
One hand in His jacket pocket, feet planted shoulder-width apart, He commanded attention, while exuding an atmosphere of cool indifference. Each time I would sneak a glance toward Him, He was looking far away ignoring me. But, I could still feel His eyes on me when I turned away.
I don’t know what came over me, but I finally had to say something.
“I haven’t seen you here before. but you look so familiar. I can’t place where we’ve met.”
“Oh, I’ve been around, you just haven’t noticed in a while,” His voice a deep rumble, almost too low to hear clearly.
“Are you a friend of my mother’s? Do you live in the same retirement community, is that where I’ve seen you?”
“Yes, your mother and I are good friends. But no, not there. We’ve known each other since you were a child.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t remember.”
“I know, but you’re here now. I’m here. Ask me anything.”
It seemed like the most natural thing to pour my heart out to this Man, a total stranger. I told Him about my recent troubles, about how lost I was feeling. I told Him how my mom had encouraged me to return to church, to rely on God. He chuckled at this, but didn’t say anything.
I asked Him why everything was going wrong in my life. I had it all and now, I was struggling to keep a roof over my head, and food in my stomach. I told Him I felt abandoned.
“Yeah, I know that feeling.”
“What do I do?”
He sat down beside me, a fatherly hand on my shoulder. I looked into His kind face, eager to learn the answer to my life’s troubles.
“Miss, miss… the bus is here.”
He was gently shaking me, standing, not sitting beside me.
“You nodded off. You don’t want to miss this one, the next bus won’t be by for an hour.”
Rousing myself, I gathered my things and boarded the bus. Looking out the window, I could see the Man was still standing alone on the sidewalk. He smiled at me, waving as the bus pulled away.
(*My prompt appears to be a line from the Elton John song, “The One.” Yet, the first thing I thought of was this song by The Fray.)