"Hey, it's me."
"Hey you! How are ya these days? You still steady keepin' on?"
"Fair to middlin'."
"That sounds not good."
"You know how that goes."
"Oh my yes. I been around for enough verses to know that chorus by heart. I hear ya over there. What are you drinking?"
He makes a sound of displeasure as I open the door to my freezer, grab a bottle and some juice. As ice cubes hit my glass, I hear the same sound echoing from the Right Coast through my speaker phone. I am silent as we pour, appreciating the subtle changes in the color in the glass once the prefect verse is poured over a dope beat, or in this instance, vodka meeting cranberry.
"So tell me what's goin' on kiddo and don't spare me any details."
So we talk a little. And we laugh a lot. I cry a little. He fusses, somehow managing to not judge me. I listen. It's the way we have always been and probably will always be.
"That's a lot to shoulder little one."
"Watch it. So why don't you drop some of it?"
"I feel like I can't."
"You carryin' it by yourself?"
"Don't want anyone else weighed down with my foolishness and mayhem."
"But we love you. We take it on because we love you. It's not weighing us down. It's compensating for times when you are maybe not strong enough to carry it alone. It's nothing that you don't do for everyone in your life and yet, never seem ok with demanding in return."
"It is my way."
"It's gonna kill you."
We sigh. Or rather, I sigh and he sips. I reach for my glass but it's empty. We continue as I re-up.
"I feel like I am going through too much to be able to, in good conscience, give it over to anyone. And I am afraid that if I do, I will just leave it and never pick it up again. Never deal with it."
"But we are not taught to not give things over. And the way you're dealing with it now is killing you."
"It's not killing me."
"Drinking to fall asleep?"
"You sound like you're forty."
I hate when he's right because that generally means that my shit is all kinds of wrong.
"I know you know better."
"But you won't do better."
"Think back over the 2 years kiddo. It's been a roller coaster. You've loved, you've lost, you're in love again. You're trapped in Texas. Your mom has been ailing. You're estranged from your father and your entire family. Your friends are on an entirely different coast. You lost more than a few family members. You been through more trials and tribulations on the job than anyone should ever have to deal with. You been sick and stressed. Run down and tired all the time. Tryin' to handle all this on your own. This would be a lot for anyone to bear, but its especially hard when you're young, when you're still growing, and when you're trying to do it alone."
"I'm not that young."
"Compared to me, you're an infant."
I am curled up in a ball on my bed, twisting my hair and biting my lip. I am thinking back to a year ago when we had a conversation very similar to this one and I seemed to be making a turn for the better.
Where did 365 days go?
"La listen. You know what you have to do. You know those people you need to get out of your life. You know the moves you need and want to make. You are more well versed in your issues than any other mere human I know. You know that."
"From what I gather, you have the makings of a good support system in place. You just have to stop being prideful and use it."
"I know that too."
"Here's the problem with what you know. You ready?"
"The problem with what you know is the things you haven't dealt with. It's those things that keep sneaking up on you when you're still. It has nothing to do with any of those immediate concerns you just spent a half hour venting about. Those things are not the things that are keeping you from doing the things you know you need to do. The changes you wanna make will all fall into place because they are meant for you. But you gotta give everything room to fall into place. You gotta clear some stuff outta the way."
"You ready to deal?"
"I don't know."
"There is no 'I don't know'. Either you ready or you not. There is no shame in not being ready. But you must recognize that if you are not, that means staying in the same place you are now."
"I don't wanna stay in the same place."
"You have someone you can lean on while you transition?"
"I don't know any more."
He waits patiently while I cry. I hear more ice cubes clinking on his end, more crackles as liquid meets solid.
"You are already everything you need. You are strong enough to do it alone. It's harder, but you can. And if you don't have to, then you shouldn't."
"So do it. You know I don't believe in baby steps. Just do it. Dive in as deep as you can and work hard to get back to the surface."
"Stop crying. Everthing is already taken care of. Your path been set for you kiddo, you just have to have enough faith to walk it."
"Ok. I'm trying."
"I know the largest thing you deal with. And it is a hard beast to struggle with. But you were created far stronger than any adversary. Now all you have to do is believe it."
"You hate me?"
"Good. You ready?"
I hear more ice sliding around in his glass.
"You still drinking that nasty green tea stuff?"
"Oh no. Mrs. B. got off that kick. Now she only lets us drink water. Can't even have juice in the house. She says it has too much sugar or some nonsense. You know she's always on some new age kick. Back in my day, we ate what we grew and it was fine."
"Well she looks my age so you better listen to what she says."
"Oh you know I do. You don't stay married for 43 years disagreeing on unimportant things. I can drink water for my wife, if it makes her worry less about my health."
"Did I interrupt something important when I called? It was rude of me not to ask."
"Oh no. Just working on something for next Sunday. Besides, you only call me once a year. I can give you a few minutes once a year. Just don't make a habit of it."
He chuckles, low and warm, and the sharp pangs of anxiety I have been feeling for months subside just a little. I almost remember what it was like before I felt like I was spending my days on the verge of tears or vomiting.
"There is no need to thank me. I made you a promise and I intend to keep it. You just remember you have made promises too. You must keep your faith. All things happen not in your time, but in due time." I am instantly alert.
"What did you just say?"
"I said all things happen not in your time, but in due time."
"Yeah. Just hearing loud and clear."
"Good. Now I am gonna go make dinner for my wife but I want you to do something for me. Let's make an appointment to talk two weeks from today. I want you to take the next two weeks to be as silent and still as you can possibly be and reflect. I want you to write. I want you to cry. I want you to really take a hard look at some things that are hurting you that you need to change. And I want you to write down a list, however long, of the things you need to change. Every night before you go to bed I want you to get down on your knees and pray over that list. And then you call me in two weeks. Ok? Can you commit to that?"
"Yes Pastor B."
"That's my girl. Now, go wipe your face and get yourself together. You are way too yella to be doing all that cryin' and I know you look 'bout like a fish right now."
"That's not the point."
We laugh, and it is like a melody I thought I had forgotten completely.
"I will talk to you in two weeks time ya hear?"
"And I guarantee you, if you believe in my God like I believe in my God, by the time we talk, many of those things will not be ailing you the same way."
Be back in two weeks...