“Alma. You remember me. You need to stay out of your head. Keep your focus on your body.”
“I don’t think you understand problems.”
“I sure don’t. Lots of people got it worse than I do.”
“Those people have gaps. They want to be there but they’re here. Well, they’re not actually here, they’re there. But they want to be somewhere else. They need to move. That’s a problem. See?”
“We need to move to the cafeteria. That’s our problem. You need to eat.”
Tyler began giggling uncontrollably. “If there weren’t… any gaps… we wouldn’t have that problem!”
“But we do, hon.”
Tyler sat back down on the bed, started slipping his feet under the covers. “It’s our old friend God victimizing us with painful struggles. Problems. Gaps. Don’t pay any attention to Him. I’m tired. I’m sore all over. I’ll see you later. Thanks for everything.”
“You can sleep after you eat. Get up. Now.” I hate treating them like this. There’s got to be a better way.
She sighed. “You’re my friend, Tyler. I know you’re tired. I know you hurt. I’m hurting too. I just lost my 97-year-old grandmother. She taught me everything I know that’s worth a damn. But you’ll feel better after you stretch your legs and eat. It’s the moping around that’s got you sore. Don’t you want to spend some time talking about those problems over a meal?” You eat apart, you grow apart. Nona on the family.
She stepped closer to him. Just then the smell hit her like a wave of heat. Tyler obviously hadn’t taken a shower since the last time she saw him. When was that? The funeral was Saturday, today is Wednesday … Doesn’t anyone do their job around here?
Tyler twisted and bounced out of bed.
His waving hands started and stopped randomly. “We’ve got a gap. We’re here and we want to be there. But motion doesn’t come out of nothing. You need some motive power. Some encouragement to move. Woman, you have encouraged me! That’s not the real problem. You know what the problem is?”
Nona was in her head again. Ask ‘em back. Don’t guess where they’re going, let ‘em tell you. “No. What’s the problem?”
Tyler gently took her hands. He faced her earnestly. Alma felt strangely reassured. “Struggle hurts. That’s God’s fault. You… Cross gaps… You need to move. There is no… getting around that. God’s hands were tied by mathematics on that one. Only God can be One. The rest of us have flavors.”
Nona had flavors.
Pathological over abstraction is what the psychologist had called it. A classic symptom of schizophrenia. I really hope you’re not suffering too much in there, hon. It’s hell out here.
Tyler took Alma’s hand and lightly led her out the door. “God could do almost anything. There was nothing but a void. Wide open. He still couldn’t get around the gaps. He couldn’t get around the need to move. Not unless he made it all One like Him. So if you want to have flavors, you have to have struggle. You have to move from here to there.”
He put his arm around her. They were alone in the wide hallway. Only their shallow breathing and the soft rhythmic swishes of their feet on the white tile was audible.
He mused absently, “But struggle doesn’t have to hurt. Pain isn’t mathematically necessary. That one’s on God.”
Alma’s vision was hot and moist. She was ten years old, laying on the stained maroon carpet at Nona’s feet with her head propped on her hand. Tasty chocolate words from Isaiah came from Nona’s ruby lips and clogged Alma’s ears and mouth: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”
You can’t argue psychotics out of their delusions. But you also don’t want to go along with them.
Alma gently grasped his wrist and pulled his arm from around her as they entered the cafeteria. Their vital forces tussled with a disorienting dissonance of intermittent clattering, human chirps and familiar new fragrances. She latched onto Tyler’s hand and led him over to the stack of smooth teal trays.
“Yes it is, hon,” Alma whispered. “The hurt is necessary.”