The outside mesh wire table wobbles as I put my drink down. I give it a nervous glance but it’s fine. I pack the Swedish tobacco into my black Irish pipe. Not too tight for it to get going, but not too flimsy to burn out right away. Blowing smoke rings the heat warms my hand that’s wrapped around it. The door swings open right next to me, people sifting in and out, casually glancing at the always comedic and colorful chalk marquis.
The pink and violet sunset brings the day to a close as I pull out my pen and red moleskin notebook. I glance at an old acquaintance walking up to me with a few other friends in tow. We chat for a bit, she is ambushed by another friend on her six. They get lost in conversation as I dive deep into my scribbles. Her friend sits down next to me as she disappears inside to order a drink. “What are you writing?”
I explain my project, and subsequently how I met our mutual acquaintance. Now he’s interested. “Would you like to interview me?” I tell him I would love to. I ready my pen, pause, then ask my question. He turns out, looking up into the fiery violet sky. He seems to ponder for a minute, looks unsure, then determined. “I am at my father’s funeral giving his eulogy.”
He explains to me how his father was sick for nearly a year. How it was difficult but expected. And to everyone’s surprise, how his father took off the last two weeks of his life and went to Singapore and died there. How it was his job being the oldest son to go and retrieve his father for the funeral. Originally from India, his parents migrated to the United States.
In his culture, the older son bears the weight of responsibility when the father dies. His family is hurt and confused by his father’s decision to spend his last days in Singapore. He had always spoken fondly of the friends he made while on vacation there but this was scandalous. They all knew he has kept up with them through the years. Visited every so often. But now the family is grieving and confused, my new friend was traveling just as much to investigate as to retrieve.
When he arrived, he was greeted and met with great hospitality. Spending several days together exchanging stories about his father, what he heard made him realize that he never really knew his father quite as they did. He wanted to resent them, but much to his surprise, he found himself loving every minute. He felt what he imagined his father felt; a deep sense of connection and free acceptance. To his surprise, he felt an even deeper connection with his father that his new friends had gifted him. The flight back was dizzying as he began to unpack it all. What he had expected to be a grueling event, his father’s eulogy turned effortless, even joyful.
We both sit silently in reference. I halt my notetaking to blow an almost perfect smoke ring. I thank my new friend for his story. He smiles, tells me I am welcome. We have a few drinks as we enjoy the warm summer night with our mutual friend talking about anything and everything. When it comes time to leave, I hug my friend and shake my new friend’s hand. I leave the music off on the car ride home riding quietly.
I’m thinking about duties and responsibilities. About who we are and who we are expected to be. I’m thinking about what it means to be home and the people that compose it. I’m thinking about what it means to be loved for who you are, versus being loved for what you can offer. How they are not the same thing. How I rejected God when I felt he was absent. When he didn’t come through for me. When Cohen died. When my ex lost herself. How everyone seemed to turn against me.
I’m thinking about being loved versus being used. How when you love someone, you love them for who they are and not what they do for you. How love is based on joy, and not in expectation of a payoff. How I spent seven years being used and was discarded. How I am realizing I did the same to God. How I loved Him for my sake, only for what He could do for me. After talking to my new friend, how now I wanted to love Him out of joy.