Memorandum

He pulls up next to me by sliding the barstool in and out seamlessly. He and his friend are in good spirits. I’m nose deep in one of my notebooks and my laptop out. All business but I still haven’t finished my beer. “Hey man, whatcha writing?”

His dark curly long hair drapes his warm enthusiastic face like curtains. His friend is decidedly more stoic in demeanor. The lanky tall fellow dresses comfortably in flannel. His friend is dressed exact and sharp as his expression.

“Oh, I’m just working on a little project.” I reluctantly spit out. He prods against my lack of enthusiasm but I don’t mind. Cavalier but candid, not a mean-spirit, he piques my curiosity. I explain I’m working on a book, compiling a series of responses from strangers. This piques his interest.

“The question is: What have you seen in recent history that has left an impression on you? When you close your eyes and imagine yourself there, what are you looking at?” He readily closes his eyes, looks up as though praying. “I am standing in front of the orchestra that I lead on Sunday at church.” He pauses. “I am being taken in by the realization that I do not believe in what I am doing. That’s I am a fraud.”

My new friend with a head full of doubts, more questions than answers, is in a rocky marriage. His friend pays close attention to the details surrounding our conversation. Wide-eyed and nodding along with a coaxing expression that might as well have said, “You ought to know better.” I gather she’s someone they both knew in college. The music minister’s taking shot after shot. His friend, an avowed atheist, sips his beer and looks disapproving.

“If people knew how I felt I would be fired in a heartbeat. My life would be over. My wife would leave me for sure. It would be hard to find another job. I’m just kind of stuck.” Now he is slowing down and sipping on a beer. I stop scribbling notes because now he looks uncomfortable. I put my pen down look him silently to let him continue.

”So what’s your moment?” He says anxious to change the conversation.

It was a few months ago. I had taken my kayak to Lake Jocassee. A massive lake with several inlets. I was instructed by my lawyer they have zero contact with my ex. She took advantage of this after she caught on so she would have our three kids calling me and crying asking me things like, “Daddy, where have you gone? Do you not love us anymore?” My oldest was only four years old and my youngest was only a year.

I had filed an emergency custody order and was awaiting trial. It was unusual circumstances because the day I moved out her boyfriend moved in with her and the kids. Three months later he found out about boyfriend number two and split. Emergency custody hearings take what feels like an eternity to get scheduled. I’m slowly losing my mind and my heart is in 1000 pieces for my children. I do the only thing I can do and go out into the water to turn the volume down on life.

I ran my kayak up onto one of the inlets. Pulled my book and lunch out of my waterproof box and sat waist-deep in the clear water. Little translucent fish gathered to investigate my feet. The book is one my sister gave me on prayer and fatherhood. I’m thinking about all the men my children are around, how I am completely helpless to do anything at this moment but wait. It’s the most desperate place I’ve ever been, and a profound sense of loneliness is swallows me.

It was in this moment, half-submerged in the water eating my sandwich with a book in hand, I felt God. I knew it Him who was speaking;

“If you like the person you find in your solitude, you are never really truly alone. If you dislike the person you find in your solitude, no matter what company you may keep, you are always alone.”

Tears flow from my face into the water. I breathe deep, pack my lunch, and make my way back to the shore.

My new friend at the bar is speechless. His skeptical friend with him notices and oddly seems to approve. He’s contemplative as though he had just heard the voice of God himself. We all sit in reverent silence.

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