He didn’t have a care in the world. -Intellectual Shaman
I looked at him, at the end of each workday. What did he have that I didn’t have? He had something. And I guess nobody else noticed. The man wore a distinguished white beard, while he emptied my trash cans, and I just kept looking at him.
“What?” He asked.
“What do you have?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You’re carrying something that most people can’t see.”
“Yeah, I know, Glock 19. Don’t tell anybody, okay; this is a gun-free zone.”
“No, it’s not that.”
“You’re very sure of yourself.”
“Few people are; they try to convince themselves that they are, but they’re not.”
“Okay, what is it?”
“You’re pressing pretty hard; you’d better be damn sure you want to know.”
“I want to know.”
“It’s faith. You can laugh or don’t believe me, but I’ve increased my metaphysical mass.”
“What’s that? Sounds philosophical.”
“It is, and it isn’t. Objects in space gravitate towards heavier mass, you learn that in physics, so what I’m about to share with you is more scientific than philosophical.”
“Go on…” I could tell he was really enjoying himself. Few people took an interest.
“Well, let’s just say that how we feel about things actually matters, and over time, those feelings are transferred to objects or persons, flesh and blood get injected with the supernatural.”
“Do you watch Oprah?”
“Every Saturday, but that’s not the point.”
“What is the point?”
“I’m getting to that. You don’t have much patience, do you? That’s a symptom of a lack of faith.”
Normally, I would have been irritated, but our conversation had taken such an unusual turn that his arrogance didn’t bother me. In fact, it was enjoyable.
“You’re just a young man, overeducated, and not able to see the forest through the trees, so to speak, so I’m just going to have to spell everything out for you. Yee of little faith; seeing and not believing.”
If he wasn’t going bald and wearing a maintenance uniform, I might’ve thought he was Jesus.
“Are you paying attention?” He asked.
“That’s what you have going for you, imagination. I’m going to give you my bag to prove a point.”
“Use it wisely, conservatively, faith works in small doses. Once too much materializes, you don’t need faith, and what little faith you do have, will be lost. Now I’ve got to empty 50 more trash cans, livin’ the dream.”
He left, and I looked at his bicycle messenger bag with the hole in it.
It was worth something, at some time. I slung it over my shoulder, along with my other two bags. It reminded me of middle school, when my mother was worried I would get scoliosis from all the stuff I was carrying. That never happened, but now I was losing my mind. I guess, I just wanted to believe.
Rejection is difficult to take; after a while, the invisible flagellation creates a simpering hopelessness, or an inability to feel, but there is a third option, that some try to take, and few consistently hold onto. It’s a faith in foolish things, superstitions, like a lucky tie to get that dream job, or a smart shirt that makes you smarter than anyone else at the table. I had a holy bag, and I was beginning to have faith in it, but I didn’t yet know its potential.
I was out with friends, and we were all going to lunch, but I forgot my wallet. I could’ve asked for money, but they weren’t those kinds of friends. It was a writer’s hangout at Panera Bread, or should I say aspiring writers… And what that really is, is a bunch of insecure envious snakes with more venom than a nest of cobras. I had to pretend I was on a health kick— some new diet that worked, and I also knew they would ask me about it incessantly. Writers live stationary lives, and their alter obsession is losing weight. Even with an imagination, I wasn’t sure I had enough lies to get through one hour.
That’s when I touched the dollar bill in my pocket. It wasn’t even enough to buy soup, and I don’t know why, but my mind drifted to feeding the 5,000. I put the one-dollar bill in the lucky bag while standing in line. It was an impulse, a test of faith, and when it was my turn to order, I ordered half the menu.
“That’ll be 77.58.”
“I’m buying,” I said.
The writers cheered.
Then I reached into the bag and pulled out the bill. I didn’t even look at it.
“Out of 100,” the cashier said.
I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t sure if it had been a hundred, or if I had simply passed him the one-dollar bill with total faith, and he accepted it.
Back at the writer’s group, Gregory shared his good news. “I got published,” he said. The envy in the room could kill any soul. I had to get out of there.
“I’ve got a manuscript to drop off,” I said. “I’ve got to go.”
“Best of luck!” They shouted. But it was not good luck they wished on me, but bad. The world was messed up—at least I could write about it. I really had a manuscript to drop off, but it wasn’t for another hour. The best lies are true. I decided to stop-off for an espresso, to feel sorry for myself. Getting published was turning into an impossibility; it was the flagellation I spoke of earlier. You know when a manuscript is good, and you know when it’s wanting, this one wanted more than a 2-year-old, it just didn’t have anything to give, and it wasn’t cute.
But what if the bag could do something for my manuscript? I didn’t have much time. I pulled the 2,500 pages out of my trunk, and squeezed them into the messenger bag. They barely fit. It was the novel that never ended, that could not end, until the nuclear explosion. If you can’t end a novel, there’s always the nuclear option. When I got to the editor’s office, she opened the door.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said.
“And I don’t mean on your book that’s three months overdue.”
“Just read three pages, and if you don’t like what you read, I’ll give you back the advance.” Her skepticism turned to excitement. I was shocked by my own confidence. When I got home, I laid on the couch, and I opened a depressed beer, to celebrate my lack-luster day. I guess luck has its limits, or so I thought. Then I saw a light beeping in the corner. It was my answering machine.
“Andy, we have decided to publish your manuscript at 10 cents a word, plus royalties. Your work rivals War and Peace.”
The lucky bag was worth more than gold. Wealth can’t give you a win like the bag can, and I thought about all the other things I wanted to stick into the bag—Barbie doll, race car, the possibilities were endless.