Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday by William Bell on Grooveshark

Romans 6:1
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

 A couple of weeks ago, the breaks on my car had to replaced.  During my eight hour waiting session at the garage, I read every single magazine they had lying around, even a magazine written for black women.  
The most fascinating article I read, was an article in ESPN magazine, "The Danger of Safer Equipment," by Peter Keating.  The article is about how rule changes were more effective than making the equipment more high tech, more safe.  Now, don't lose me.  This post isn't about sports.  Just keep reading.  
The fascinating part is that study has shown that safer equipment only makes people more dangerous.  Here's an exerpt:  
Look around and you'll see that strange things happen when a dangerous environment is stripped of some of its hazards. Studies show that bicyclists ride faster and feel less threatened when they have helmets on; more experienced boaters are less likely to wear life jackets than novices and, when they do, are more likely to drink alcohol; children running on an obstacle course crash into more objects -- and finish the course faster -- when they wear protective equipment. These are all examples of the phenomenon economists call "risk compensation."
Mr. Keating goes on to give a handful of other interesting examples showing the people, when given the feeling of safety, become more reckless.
Now, go read the verse at the top.  There is surely a correlation.  At some point in time, in every Christian's life, there will come a time when we will abuse the grace of God.  Call it "Grace Compensation," if you will.  This is especially true with us who lean toward a more "Reformed" doctrine, but even the most Armenian believer will struggle often with this.  We know God is gracious and forgiving.  After all, He loved us while we were yet sinners, right?  So, yeah, I know lying to get what I want is wrong, but it'll be okay.  I can ask for forgiveness later.  God will forgive me.
You know what, if you are His elect, then you're right, He will.  The thing is this.  Salvation is not the only thing we are striving for is it?  If that were so, then we could just cruise after we came to a saving knowledge of and submission to Christ.  Yet, God tells us through so many of the Bible's authors, that there is more.  Paul says to run the race as if to win.  To box as one not batting the air.  

Also, we miss out on something better.  We trade some cheap thrill for something more wonderful, more deep, more satisfying.  We are just too stupid to know it in the moment.  We think we know best.  Let us listen to Paul when he says, By no means. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


1Kings 11:1-7

1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 
2 from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, "You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods." Solomon clung to these in love.  
3 He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.  
4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.  [emphasis mine]
5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.  
6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done.  
7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. 8 And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. 

The One You Knew by Joshua Radin on Grooveshark

Nicholas L. Laning
 Home.  After a month at the ranch, I am back in Dallas.  It has been good to be back.  I love the ranch.  I love hunting.  But, as I have written, my heart has fallen a bit.  Whether or not it has or has not actually been close to God, I don't know.  What I can say is that it has been cold in my heart.  My honest assessment is that I was struggling, that there was distance at heart, and it was rough.  Brutally rough.  

A few days ago, providence had me flip through the book of Kings, a book in the Bible we all frequent (shakes head).  The above passage is where I landed.  Several things stood out to me in the passage at first.  None of them do I care to share now.  Doing so would only distract.  Perhaps another time.  The heart change came days later, yesterday to be exact.  The passage had not left my heart and mind, but had been saturating it.  

You see, my belief had been this... that as I matured in my faith, in intimacy with the Father, I would become more and more impenetrable, unflappable, and, to an extent, I was right, as we do grow stronger.  But, the extent I took it to was to believe that my surroundings, the company I kept, the events that took place, would matter less, maybe even not at all.  I had thought that if I fell, struggled, it would be from the inside, period.  Yet, God doesn't work  that way.

How foolish of me.  Look above.  Don't skip the verses, read them.  Solomon was a man of God, so much so, that God came to Him and offered Him anything.  Solomon asked for wisdom, and God granted it.  So, here's this great man of God, who builds the temple, and his heart is turned away by outside forces.  In this case, it was the taking of foreign wives!  Solomon began to divide his worship.  

Idiot I am!  Of course, the outside world affects us heavily.  This may seem obvious and stupid to you.  If so, you are wiser than I, for I just got it, thank God for such mercy.  I have ever been effected by those around me, by the company I keep, by their speech and actions.  Heck, the weather affects me.  I come alive when it is cloudy and stormy and cool.  The drought drained me.  People are even more crucial.  My main love language is quality time.  If people are too busy for me, or if I am alone for a long time, I begin to fade.  You might not even be able to tell from the outside, but I am.  

Why this lie ensnares me so, only God knows.  Yet, He is also faithful to sanctify me through it every day.  Wisdom and maturation is becoming impenetrable, it is knowing you're not, and knowing how hard you push before needing to retreat back and be around those who strengthen you, whom you strengthen back.

My mother, in her wisdom, shared something with me I had never realized.  It is that the disciples were a benefit to Jesus.  We always (well, from what I have observed) think of the benefit as being only for the disciples.  Surely they gained much more.  To be near Jesus!   Unreal.  Yet, Jesus, being a man, would minister and pour out.  Then, He would retreat back and pray and fellowship with His disciples.  He enjoyed them!  He loved their company!  It was a benefit to Him! 

How much more do we need to be mindful of our surroundings, of our fellowship?  One day back, one day around my precious wife, around my sister, my brother, just knowing my church is just down the road, and indeed my church family, has rejuvenated me.  I only pray that I will never forget this, that my heart and mind would both keep fresh the wisdom learned.  I am not an island.  Indeed, God has used the sight of a mountain, the falling of snow, the warmth of the sun, the hug of my brother, the words of a dear friend... they have all changed me.  They have all been hammers in God's hand to smash my heart of stone into something soft, something capable of being molded for His glory, for intimacy with Him.  For that I am forever thankful.

To God be all glory.  He is surely faithful and good.  May His will be done.  May His hand be heavy upon your heart and mine, pleasant or not.  May we recognize those we need to be near, who make us batter, and know when to venture out and be bold as well.  May the Hold Spirit be active in our hearts and minds.  May we be ever thankful, never judgmental or angry, and quick to forgive.  May my grandmother's results come back clean from the doctor, that everything will be well in her body.  Amen.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Northern Lights by Bowerbirds on Grooveshark

Nicholas L. Laning
 I am lying here on one of the beds in the back room of the ranch house, tired, and ready to go to bed as soon as I finish typing this.  I have been out here at the ranch for several weeks now helping out.  I have been guiding hunts, feeding deer, filling feeders, you name it.  When I got here I had a shadow on my face.  Now, my beard is thick.  It has been fun.  I have gotten to see the milky way, sleep outside, hunt, shoot, pet deer, and... I am ready to go home.

This is ironic, as I know that after a month in Dallas, I will inevitably yearn for the country.  That's because I am a hybrid.  Somehow, the life that God has afforded me has molded me so.  My family is sharp, intelligent, and sophisticated, yet can be downright redneck on rare occasion. I am no different.  It is surely a product of desire as well.  For some reason, I have never wanted to limit myself to one sector, to be country person who despises "them city fellers" and all it's fantsyness and such, nor have I ever wanted to be all city either.  I cringe every time I hear someone say that there is nothing to do in the country.

Somehow I have been molded to feel at home wearing camouflage or a tuxedo, going to Bass Pro Shop to buy a new fly rod or Rise No. 1 to eat Souffle in Highland Park, to listen to George Jones or the Fleet Foxes.  I don't know if it is best, but I am thankful for it.  I have enjoyed being a part of both worlds, and would hate to have missed out on either.  The change, the breadth of such a life, I think, I hope, has kept me on my toes. 

Side Note:  Please pray for me.  My heart is struggling mightily with dryness.  I know differently, but I FEEL lost, not in salvation, but just in spirit.  I feel blind and deaf.  I do not feel clear of heart.  It has been rough.  I have desperate to feel the touch of the spirit.  Surely, I am being molded.  God is faithful.  I am struggling to follow my own wisdom of living beyond what I feel.  There is the sensation that this drought of the heart is due to something I have done, as a punishment.  I know different, and am battling it, but it is rough, and exhausting me spiritually.  I covet your prayers.  You surely have mine.  Thank you for who are, and for your heart.

Don't Let is Break Your Heart
By: Coldplay

And if I lost the map
If I lost it all
Or fell into the trap
Then she'd call

When you're tired of racing
And you find you never left the start
Come on over baby
Don't let it break your heart

Though heavily we bled
Still on we crawl
Try to catch a cannonball
And a slowly burning tide

Through my veins it's flowing
From my shipwreck I heard her call
And she sang

When you're tired of aiming your arrows,
Still you never hit the mark
Even in your rains and shadows
Still we're never gonna part

Come on over baby

Don't let it brake your heart
Don't let it break your heart
Don't let it break your heart

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Warning Sign

Warning Sign by Coldplay on Grooveshark 

"And the truth is... I miss you so."

Nicholas L. Laning
Some of the greatest lyrics aren't fancy, they are plain.   They say what people are feeling in ordinary language.  The line above speaks to all of us.  We all miss something, someone, somewhere.  What we miss helps define us.  Just yesterday, I started coming out of a week long drought of the heart (possible sequel to "Total Eclipse of the Heart"?  No.  No one.  Oh okay.  That's cool I just...), and it has been awful.  I have missed being able to feel the presence of God. As I was missing Him, I thought about how God has made us to want Him, to need Him, even if we only know this subconsciously.  

I questioned why He would do that.  At first, my sinful heart thought it petty and cruel to make us need Him.  It seemed odd.  Not but thirty seconds later it dawned on me that us needing God is what makes Christianity different.  We don't follow a system.  We follow and adore a being.  

As a being myself, do I not long to be missed?  Do I not long to want people to be near me?  Surely I do.  I can think of almost nothing more terrible than to have no one in the world that longs to be near me, that treasures me, that is better off when they are near me.  I also long to want to be near people.  I don't want to need everyone the same.  It is the narrowness of my affection that makes giving it so great, what makes it precious.  And so the Holy Spirit has been faithfully and gingerly ministering to me, forgiving me of my own faithlessness and self aggrandizement, freely giving wisdom to see the lies, and faithful to give me courage in the face of lies head on with truth, to obey in trust.

I ask you, do you miss God?  If not, then why?  Do you feel Him unnecessary?  Cruel?  Apathetic?  Without Him, what do you cling to?  Can you live without Him and still find the ultimate purpose you know you need?  Can you still find justice?  

Matthew 22:37 ESV
And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

May you know God, that you would miss Him.  May you miss Him deeply, more and more each day.  May He be gracious to you, allowing your heart to see that He is good.  May you and I be granted humility, never raising ourselves up, but letting God elevate according to His grace.  May we be instruments of hope and peace throughout the world.  May those who see us, see bits of Him, and yearn for it.  May we bit lit from the inside, and never lose sight of the enemy, never lose courage, and never lose hope in Christ Jesus.  He is surely good.  He is marvelous.  He is gracious.  My heart is thankful for Him, and for you.  He is surely great.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Lyric of the Day:

Paradox Heart

Sometimes I’m light
Sometimes I’m dark
That’s how it is
With my paradox heart

Everything is easy
Everything’s so hard
Surely I do have
 A paradox heart
Help me swim up stream
Help me climb the face
Help me cause I’m drowning
Help me with your grace

Never shall we be
Never shall we part
Why do I have to have
This Paradox heart?

Help me cause I’m sorry
Help me run the race
Help me fight the breaking
Help me keep the pace

Will I finish strong?
Or, will I even start?
Nobody knows
Least my paradox heart

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Unimaginable II

I wrote a post a few days ago called Unimaginable about imagining people not in your life as a means of realizing who they are to you.  I will keep this short, but I wanted to say that over the last few days, I have not felt God's presence.  He has been with me, but my heart has been veiled, and it has been rough.  I have felt alone.  I have felt cold.  Try imagining your world without God, if you think.  You will see what He is to you.  Do you miss Him?  Are you happy about it?  Do you feel chained?  Free?  Scared?  What happens inside you when you imagine life without God?

 And don't just think immediate.  Think about that, and go deeper.  In any given moment, I might be tempted to feel free apart from God.  But, if I take the vision further, past a short time, I am opened to a wasteland in my heart, pointless and cold.  All of the things that I am even tempted with become meaningless, inane.  So, again I ask, what do you feel when you picture the entirety of existence without God?

John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

If you read my blog, one of the greatest question I have been trying to answer is how do we love God?  This question has been complex.  I have discovered many subtleties and paradoxes, especially when it comes to people.  People have been the biggest mystery to me.  How do we love them?

Somewhere along the line, I found myself struggling an vain against a web of lies, that had me believing that humans were to be avoided.  Sure, we were to love them, but in deed, not in heart.  We were to guard our hearts.  I was reminded constantly that love is a decision, that people are quick to become idols, that they will disappoint.  All of these lies took on a new power behind the dark might of depression on my soul.

So, I began to make little of people, in order to make much of God, because I struggled to believe I could have a powerful affection for God.  If God were o be first, I had to start hacking other things down, because elevating him wasn't going to happen.  And, in a way, I was right.  Save for the grace of God, and the movement of the Holy Spirit, I had no ability to love God.  So, I simply knew the truth of my heart.  I just underestimated the power and grace of God to change me, to soften my heart, to show me I could actually love him.

Last night, God showed me something new in this battle of mine.  I was thinking about things I love, and was wondering.  Do they matter themselves?  Are we to see God in them?  Or, are we to, as we mature in our love for Him, stop seeing them altogether?  To just see Him? 

That's when I had one of the those moments, where a profound truth hits you in such a way that you know it didn't come from you.  You were thinking about bananas, and all of the sudden you were able to comprehend some new physical law of the universe.  So it was with me last night.

What came to me was this.  God's creation is all meant to point to Him, and He is the spring from which all goodness, joy, and pleasure flow.  Yet, He pours Himself into that creation in a unique way, and we are intended to see Him, to joy in Him, through those unique ways. 

For example, I have written a novel.  I didn't create it, but I made it.  If you wanted to know me, to love me, that book, Light Blue, is a unique way of doing so.  I could even maybe tell you many of the things that are hidden within it in conversation.  I could share my feelings with you, my thoughts.  Yet, it is my deep and abiding pleasure that parts of me be discovered in this manner.  You cannot know the full extent of me simply by being near me.  It is my pleasure to reveal myself through drawings, music, photography, and writing.

We are those things to God.  We are unique outpourings of Himself.  If we want to know Him, to love Him, we are not to elevate those ways, to idolize them, but were are also not to bypass them either!  Think about how amazing this is!  You and I are unique outpourings of God's creativity, His power, His love!  And, it is His desire, His intent, for us to see Him through each other.  Why is it then that every single command about loving God is about loving people also?!  Is it not?

It is, and it moves me.  We are the works of His hands.  Once I understand all of this, I am free to love my friends and family with as much vigor as I can handle.  There is no limit, at least not set by God.  My sinful heart has limits, and such is the joy of heaven, that our hearts will be made whole, capable of so much more than now.  But, in the mean time, I take the reminder that we are in this half world, mixed of heaven and hell, and I am reminded of my most heavenly moments.  None of them came apart from people.  It is people that are to share God's word, though we are surely not needed.  It is people we are meant to love, to help, to encourage.  We are given gifts, and all of them are for people.  God needs no teacher, no prophet, no encouragement, no service, no healing.

My heart is surely overwhelmed with gratitude at God's faithfulness.  May He continue to move us, press us toward Him, and in so, to empower us to let down the walls put up by lies, and open our hearts to each other.  May we remember the poor, and the sick.  May our hearts pound for them.  May we be moved to use those spiritual gifts for one another.  May we never lose sight of God, our Father.  May we remember the life lived by Christ.  May we be ever thankful for the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit.  God is surely good.  Amen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Nicholas L. Laning

Everyone has heard the phrase, "you don't know what you had until it's gone."  It's true.  Sometimes, my adult subconscious seems to constantly be trying to kill any emotions.  It is intent on functionality, to the point of killing the real joy of functioning in the first place.  In that haze, sometimes I can forget what people mean to me in any given moment... almost.

Every time someone gets cut out, someone who means something to me, a cold wind bows through my lonely heart until I take notice, and remember.  Maybe all of this sounds incredibly weird to you.  Maybe be it is.  I am okay with that.  After ten years of depression, I know my mind has mind, my heart, they have both done things in order to survive that are now not necessary.  I don't need to cut anymore.  I actually never did.  It was love, the love of and from people that were God's greatest gift.  There is nothing even close to it. 

So it is, that whenever those latent defense mechanisms start slashing away at people, I have to step in and remind myself.  All I have to do, is imagine removing that person from my heart, and I know... I know exactly who they are.  All of them mean something, or I wouldn't even be asking myself the question.

Some are just acquaintances.  Some people treat acquaintances as if they are not very valuable.  My belief is that acquaintances are very big influences, in a unique way.  Individually, one may not be huge, but as a collective, acquaintances are a huge influence on who you are.  Take high school for example.  Most of the people at New Braunfels High School were acquaintances.  Was it not that collective of students, acquaintances, that influenced what I wore, how I acted?  Surely it was, whether I like it or not.  Take away those faces, and I change.  I become a different person.

Some people, when taken away, take large chunks of you away with them.  Pieces of you become hazy.  You look in the mirror, and without them, the edges of you are become softer, less defined.  Who might you have been?  You don't know, maybe you would be similar, but not the same.  They are important enough to where, as an individual, pieces of you slip.

Then there Them.  They are few, very few.  They are life changers.  They are the people that, when you imagine your life without them, you disappear.  The very notion of who you are is gone.  You would be a completely different person without them.  Colors, sound, knowledge... they all change.  It is as if they are portals to another reality or dimension.  They don't affect your soul, they are a part of its very fabric.  Without them, and the wind that blows through the shell of your being is complete torture.  It is unimaginable. 

Yes, imagine them gone, and you will know what they mean to you.  You will know.  Try it and see.

Proverbs 18:24 ESV

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.


Philemon 1:12 ESV

I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.

Thessalonians 2:19-20 ESV
19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?  
20 For you are our glory and joy. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Up With The Birds

Might have to go where they don't know my name

Float all over the world just to see her again

But I won't show or feel any pain

Even though all my armour might rust in the rain

A simple plot, but I know one day

Good things are coming our way

Oh yeah

Top 10 List: My Ultimate Holiday List

Nicholas L. Laning
1. Pinon wood burning.
We all know that scent has the strongest link to memory above all the other senses.  So it should be no surprise that my number one would be because of scent.  Most people have grown up smelling Pinon wood in the distance, thought it wonderful, and never knew what it was.  It is a uniquely aromatic wood upon burning, and they only sell it around the holiday season.  You can buy Pinon wood during this holiday season at most of the nicer grocery stores such as HEB, Kroger, or Tom Thumb.  They already have it out around Dallas. 

2.  Johnny Mathis Christmas with Percy Sledge's Orchestra, and Nat King Cole's Christmas CDs.
Nat King Cole gets more publicity, as he is far more famous, but Johnny Mathis' CD is the best ever.  No CD holds more memories for me and my family.  Nat King Cole has been huge as well.  I learned Oh Tannenbaum in German because of this CD.

3.  Homemade Candy
My mother used to make all kinds of home made, from scratch candy that was both delicious, and dangerous, as it would nearly rip the fillings right out of your teeth.  That is, if it didn't just rip out your teeth.  Just saying.

4.  Cirrus clouds
I know, you're probably wondering what I am thinking, and also what a Cirrus cloud even is, right?  Cirrus clouds are the thin, wispy clouds that swirl high the sharp, clear, and cold air of fall and winter.  Along with the change in the suns directionality and intensity, this is what makes that winter sky feel like a winter sky.  As far as what I am thinking, you have to understand that we Lanings are land people.  My grandfather could give you every colloquial name for each piece of foliage that covered the arid ground of South Texas.  My brother seems immune to this, and mocks my father and I every time we begin to extol the beauty of some mighty oak tree, or notice that the temperature is about to change by looking at the clouds.

5.  Houses trimmed in blue lights
No, this isn't my favorite.  I like normal lights, preferably with big bulbs.  No, this one is because this is what my grandfather used to love to put on my grandparents house on Ward St. in Midland, Texas.  He used those lights that had that kind of plastic star burst at the end that, if you handled them incorrectly, could give you a nice gash.  It is in front of that house where the street froze over when I was four years old, and my father, my uncle Mike, and my Uncle Kyle, all pushed me up and down the street on a real sled.

6.  Grandma and Grandpa's/Daddy Jake and Nanna's house
People are very different with there holidays.  For me, as a child, there was one constant, and that was that each Christmas was spent at the grandparents.  We didn't do Christmas at home until I was a teenager, and I hated the break.  It wasn't Christmas if we weren't at a grandparent's house.  This is tough this year.  Both Daddy Jake and Nanna died this year, and their house has been sold.  Tough to think I will never again throw the football to my brother through the tall, rustling sycamores that covered their yard.

7.  Cold weather
Don't say duh!  This is Texas.  Half of the Christmas in my life were spent in cold weather clothing, eyes closed in concentration, hand outstretched toward the sun, trying to Jedi the temperature out of the eighties down to something proper for Christmas.  Yes, it surely gets cold here, but it is so sporadic.  I find it odd that we think of things the way we do, and associate so much cold weather to this time of year, when it really comes for us in January.  I think it is because we get taught in Kindergarten that there are four seasons (lies I say!  I feel hoodwinked!  We all know there is only two... hot and cold.), and what each season brings.  We get taught that winter is all about snow and cold weather, and it sticks.

8. Live High School Football
I have only been to one live football game in the last several years, and that was here in Brownwood, to show my friends from Ireland what a high school football game was like.  Few things kindle the reminiscence of the Holidays than going to watch the New Braunfels Unicorns play football.  Yes, I said Unicorns.  Yes, that really is our mascot.  No, I'm not touchy about it.  YOU WANT TO FIGHT?  LET'S GO!  YOU!  ME!  RIGHT NOW!

9.  Wassail Fest and the Lighting of the Plaza
My hometown is not perfect, or even close to it.  Honestly though, it is pretty wonderful.  Wurstfest has been known for years, and is great, but Wassail Fest has real charm.  When we first went, in the early nineties, Wassail Fest was super small.  Maybe a thousand people showed up, maybe.  By the time I moved to Ireland in 2008, Wassail Fest was huge, and getting well... huger.  Spicy, German Wassail, Scottish Bagpipes, and best of all, everybody comes, and it is one of those moments when you realize you are a part of a community, because you basically just chat with people the whole night.  It's a wonderful thing.

10.  Deer Hunting and Frost Bight
Our ranch is a part of a government program that extends our season both a month earlier and later.  So, we start hunting when it is quite warm out.  So, just to say deer hunting, for me, isn't right.  No, it is that mix of hunting plus misery.  That first hunt that I go out on, and come back unable to feel my fingers... that's the good stuff.  You know that feeling?  The one when your fingers are super cold, then you put them in front of hot air, and it burns like crazy?  That's what I'm talking about.

Anyhow... You got to know me a little bit.  I hope you enjoyed my list, and hopefully it kindled some of those reminiscent notions in you as well. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Light Blue: Chapter 1

Copyright, Nicholas L. Laning, 2011

Chapter 1
Us Against The World
“Excuse me, what time is it?”  I asked, turning to the man sitting in the chair to my right.  He glanced over.  My eyes took focus on his face.  He had small eyes, vibrant, red hair greased into shiny spikes, and wore a dirty, white track suit with royal blue stripes.  His body moved to answer, but stopped when a high, lilting, female voice chimed in over the intercom, causing the man’s eyes to pop up toward the ceiling, “Aer Lingus Flight 1019 from Dublin to New York is open to board.”
In one swift motion, he flipped over his wrist and dropped his gaze down to the face of his cheap, digital watch.  I could barely understand him as he mumbled, “Half nine,” then he went back to his original position without reengaging my eyesight.  His posture hinted, if not warned me, that he was back to his own business. 
Half nine.  It took me a few seconds to remember if half nine was nine thirty, or eight thirty.  Nine thirty.  She could get here at any moment now.    
My cell was in my pocket, but it hadn’t adjusted time zones yet, and I was far too tired to do even the simplest of math.  Sixteen hours to get here, two-hour layover, then sixteen or so hours back.  My brain was already shriveling with exhaustion.  It would be absolute mush by the time we were back to Dallas.
I rubbed my face viciously.  Once finished, it took my eyes a few seconds to uncross and focus.  People everywhere.
My sluggish gaze drifted out past the bustling crowds and through the wall of glass on the other side of the terminal.    The view through the windows was hazed by a million of little droplets of Irish rain that haloed the lights donning the wings and tails of the massive jets being taxied about the tarmac outside.  It was beautifully impressionistic.
Farther still, past the massive jets and the crisscrossing runways, a sliver Ireland sat rolling, wet, and green on the horizon.  Though it was only early September, the notion of Christmas and family warmed and faded momentarily.  To come all of this way and to not get to see Ireland again was some kind of torture. 
Still, I was just glad that none of my flights were delayed.  Had any of them been goofed up I would have missed getting to do what I came to... surprise Carissa, and fly back home with her. 
Seeing as how it didn’t happen, I felt free to chuckle a bit at imagining flying myself all the way over here to surprise her and fly back with her, only to miss the flight, and have to fly back all alone on a later one, and on top of that, not even be there to pick her up from the airport.  Murphy’s law has been measured, and found empty today. 
An annoying, metallic rattle shook my daze.  My eyes followed the noise down to my own hands, which were shaking badly, rapping my college ring against the metal armrest.  Not knowing exactly what to do with them, I jammed my left hand into the warmth of my coat pocket, and rested my chin upon my right.  Hundreds of tiny little needles pricked the palm of my hand.  I stuck out my chin and drug my knuckles across my face.  A raspy hiss accompanied each stroke.  Tough as sandpaper.  Great, I thought, so much for having a nice, smooth face.  On second thought, it doesn’t matter.  She likes me with a bit of scruff anyhow.
For the thousandth time I began to imagine how the surprise would play out.  The moment I clicked that button to buy the tickets, my mind has been stuck on replay of a moment that has yet to even happen. 
I began to imagine her walking into the terminal, but quickly shut my thoughts down.  There was no need to keep imagining. The moment would soon be here. 
My focus came forward out my head and back into the crowded terminal around me: the constant roar of conversation, feet padding, and luggage wheels rolling swirled about the hard, glossy, cavernous, terminal.  My eyes compulsively shot back over to the entrance to the terminal.
A line of what sounded to me like Japanese flew rapidly out of a tiny, grey-haired woman who was trying to position herself into a chair beside me.  Throwing her luggage into heap around her chair, she flung herself down, spilling her hot coffee down my left arm.  
With a measured jolt, I stood and tried to contain my reaction.  Before I could stop it, my eyes flinched shut, and a short burst of air whistled in the sides of my mouth through tightly clinched teeth.  
I couldn’t understand a single word she was saying as she jumped to her feet, trying to wipe my arm with her scarf.  Her raised eyebrows and continuous covering of her face with her hands were easily translatable to me.  There was no doubt that she felt terrible. 
Quickly, and awkwardly, I stretched my face into a smile and raised two open hands to signal to her that it was okay.  “It’s okay.  It’s okay.  Not a problem.  Don’t worry about it.”  A large, dark stain blotted the left arm of my jacket.
Since I wasn’t staying, the only baggage I had was a satchel I was using to carry my laptop in, and a sack full of chocolates for Carissa.  So, it only took a second to gather my things.  My hands moved anxiously about my body patting my pockets in some half involuntary process of remembrance.  Once everything was accounted for, I scooped my hand through the handle of the sack of chocolates, and headed across the terminal to the bathrooms so I could rinse out some of the stain and clean up.  The plastic sack swung noisily by my side, bumping into my leg every so often.
It took all the patience and tact my tired bones still had to wade politely through the moving crowds.  My eyes kept jolting over to the entrance to the terminal.  I worried that if she entered she might see me, but with this many people, that would be unlikely.  Though, she seems to have a sense for such things, as if she can read my mind.  If such a thing as a soul existed she could read mine.  
That is why I have gone so out of my way to surprise her.  To be known so deeply, and so fully is something most people never know.  It is wonderful beyond what I can say, but it makes surprises a real chore.
As always, the entrance to the airport bathrooms had no door.  The wide, turning hallway guaranteed privacy while making sure you wouldn’t have to leave your luggage.  The sight of the line leading up to the sinks pushed my patience.  Now I’ll miss her, I thought.  My surprise is going to be ruined by that old lady and her cup of coffee. 
When it finally came around to be my turn to use the sink, the chrome knob had been handled so much it was warm to the touch.  I grabbed my left coat sleeve with my right hand and pulled it down over my left hand until it swallowed it.  My fingers curled around the lip of the cuff, holding the sleeve flat against my skin while I wetted and scrubbed the stain with my right.  The scrubbing wasn’t getting rid of the stain.
I clinched my fist and slammed it onto the counter.  Out of the corners of my eyes, I could see the men at the sinks to my left and right freeze.  I took a second to calm down before drying off and headed back out to the terminal.  Your’re just tired.  It’s no big deal.  Just calm down.  I kept repeating to myself.  I was exhausted, and I still had to fly back home.  One of the men mumbled, “Damned Americans,” as I walked out of the men’s room and back out into the terminal. 
Immediately upon exiting the men’s room, my eyes aimed and fixed upon the terminal entrance.  Not but a few seconds went by before my throat knotted.  Somewhere in the mass of bodies I saw a reddish-blonde head peak through. It was just a glimpse, but there was this sense in my chest.  My stomach churned inside.  Something felt different.  I felt different.  It was she. 
Eyes fixed on the still moving mass of bodies trying to get another glimpse of her I stepped out into the stream of travelers.  My presence disrupted the flow of everything.  People were dodging and swerving to avoid me.  One fellow saw no reason to change course, and spun me half around with a nice bump of the shoulder.  Through all of it, I kept my focus. 
It had been so long since I had seen her.  Skype had kept me sane, but barely.  Skype can only catch so much of who someone is.  Every moment spent apart saw me dwindle, but hope was in my heart once more. 
There through the sea of people, she stood checking her phone by the gate.  Her eyes darted with a look of frustration toward the terminal entrance, almost as if she were expecting someone to walk through it. 
I got within a few feet when the stream of people between us thickened to where I could not pass.  Yet, I could still see her.  Her body shifted, and her eyes lifted, and began darting about the room.  The look on her face was no longer frustrated, but one of hope and desperation.  Was she looking for me?
The crowd broke, leaving nothing between us.    
Her hands flung up to cover her mouth.  Tears fell from her eyes and down her petite fingers.  She closed her eyes and held them tightly.   I stood motionless, my body unable to decide what to do, overwhelmed in every good way.  
She dropped her hands down by her side, baring her tear fallen face to me.   To the world it may have seemed trite, but I knew differently.  She might as well have been standing naked.  There was a time when such a thing didn’t even seem possible, when she wouldn’t even look at me. 
There comes a point when you have shared so much with someone that trying to hide becomes absurd, pretentious. 
Tears tickled the backs of my eyes.  I told myself it was okay to let them fall, but conditioning kicked in.  It didn’t matter what I said to myself.  Crying wasn’t happening, and wasn’t necessary.  She knew how I felt.  She knew me better than I knew myself. 
My moves felt awkward.  I wanted them to be perfect, to be right, masculine.  Instead, they just ended up being mine.  I walked right up to her and stopped.  For a moment, we just stood there in front of each other, close enough to where I could feel the heat emanating from her.  I stared into her eyes, and just listened to her breathe.  The simple rise and fall of her chest filling and emptying with air moved me to overflowing.  Just to know she was alive and near. 
Now inches away, her eyes darted back and forth as she switched focus between my eyes.  I did the same.  Everything else ceased to be but her eyes, two circles floating in a blur.  They were perfect.  They were light blue.   Like two black holes, they bent time and space.  Surely, if there were a heaven, they would be the entrance, surrounded by an endless, light-blue ocean.
Without warning, she broke, flailing her arms about my neck.  She pulled me in tight.  Her frame felt so incredibly frail and tiny to me, avian almost.  Each bend and break of her body seemed familiar and new in the same moment. 
I closed my eyes.  As we hugged our ears smashed into each other.  I swung my hand up from underneath her arm and sunk it into her long, flowing hair that covered her back.  Smooth as silk, and cool to the touch.  The tips of my fingers wound in and out and up to the back of her neck.  Her heavy breaths blew quickly across my neck, rousing goose bumps all over my body.  In unison, our heads turned slowly in toward each other.  The tips of our noses glided gently across the skin of the others cheek until our noses nestled in beside each other, leaving our lips so close that I could feel the heat from hers upon mine.  Her breaths rushed across my tingling, parted mouth.  Slowly, I pressed my body closer to hers until our lips brushed lightly.  The moment they touched, I could feel her breathing stop and catch inside her.  Her arms gave, mine tightened strongly.  My stone of a heart hurt from atrophy.  It was sore, like a leg muscle being run on for the first time since being injured, unable to take it in.   I was too happy to calculate.  Her arms tightened around my neck.  She pressed her lips firmly into mine.  Our violent breaths hissed against our skin.  Our lips moved in and over the top of the others again and again.  The warmth of her cheek was broken by the lonely, cold touch of a tear.  I couldn’t tell it was hers or mine.  I didn’t care.  I just wanted to be, and be with her.  Our faces stopped, again holding in our stalemate.  As we pulled them apart, her top lip stuck to mine for moment then gave tenderly.  Some of her hair had gotten caught in the short, prickly hairs of my face, that had turned her face bright red from abrasion.  We both chuckled quietly in the private world between our two faces.  Her eyes crossed with aim.  A quick wave of her hand, and the strand of hair slid reluctantly away from my face.  I slid my nose back across her cheek until my right eye was pressed against hers.  I could feel her eyelashes against mine.  The corners of our mouths touched and I could feel the muscles in her mouth tighten into a smile.
In flash, without warning, she pulled her self back.  I stood motionless, confused until… whack.  She sent a sharp jab that connected in the sweet spot underneath my left shoulder muscle.  I grabbed my arm and pretended to be stricken with immense pain. 
She laughed gorgeously.  “You Dork. That’s for…” she trailed off.
“For what?!” 
“Something,” she said, chuckling, “surprising me?”
“I thought you’d like it.”
She smiled.  “Who said I didn’t like it?”
I made my eyes narrow and exhaled deeply to play off my part of acting confused at her response.  I then shook my left arm about.  “Always the left.  Why is it always the left?”  I asked rhetorically.
“You know perfectly well why.”
I responded with as much melodrama as I could muster.  “I have NOOO idea what you are talking about, crazy woman.”
“Because this one,” she sunk her finger into the front of my right shoulder,” is mine.  Right?”
I raised my hands.  “All yours.”
She slowly slid her body against me again, gently resting the side of head against my chest, into the dip between my right shoulder and pectoral muscle.  My already outstretched arms wound around her, and pulled her in once more.  My chin rested perfectly atop her head.
“I missed you... so very much.”
My head rose and fell against hers as I spoke.  “I missed you too, like you wouldn’t believe.”  I rested in those words for a moment, then asked,  “How’d I do?”
“You did good,” she said coyly.  “You did very good.  I’ve gotten to where my mind is always looking for your next surprise, and I didn’t see this one coming.  You outdid yourself.  Though, I ‘m afraid you are going to be one tired man tomorrow.”
“I don’t care.  You’re worth it.”  I let those words sink in before continuing.  “Certainly not our first adventure.”
She gave her head a shake, “Not our last either.”
There was something about the way she said it that left me feeling there was something hidden behind her words.  I almost asked, but then I recalled her curious behavior. 
“So, when I was waiting for you to show up…”
“You kept looking back at the terminal entrance...”
Knowing exactly what I was referencing, she slid right in, “…right.  Well, I was expecting someone.”
I gave a facetiously suspicious look.  “Really?”
She rolled her eyes.  “Yes, and he’s very good looking.”
Continuing in my melodrama, I stuck out my finger and began to wave it about in an embarrassing manner.  “What’s his name?  Come on.  Lemme at’im.  I knew you’d find some Irish deviant to…”
“He’s an old man.”
I stopped dramatically, and contorted my face to one of playful disgust. 
She rolled her eyes.  “His name is Doctor Alexander, and he was supposed to fly with me, but I don’t know.”
“That makes sense...”
She gave a quizzical look.
“I couldn’t book the seat next to you.  One over.  That’s why.  Your friend took it.”  A pang of frustration burned acidic in my chest.  I desperately wanted to be near her.  It was a microcosm of us, running a great race, only to be forced to stop just before the finish line.  I wondered, how long can we stand at the threshold of finishing the race, and keep our sanity?  How long?
I didn’t answer the question.  I pulled her back into my arms.  She slid her head effortlessly, in practiced fashion, back to her spot on my right shoulder. 
“I love you, Carissa Lerche, so much.  So much.”  I gave her a squeeze with a quick flex of my arms.
“I love you, Joel Bernal, more than life.”
Hearing her say my name broke me.  Most of the time, we called each other by one of the many nicknames we had given the other.  Our actual names were only for moments when they really meant something.  My name was sacred to her, and hers was never to cross my lips lightly.  Her name was the closest thing I had to an invocation. 
All I wanted to do was close my eyes and hold her.  I knew the dam would break, that the questions would come spilling over again, but it would hold for now. 
I rested my head atop hers, and peered back out into the crowd.  People spreading to the four corners of the Earth.  You could get lost in it.  You could be anywhere in the world within hours.  I imagined us forgetting everything, and just moving forward, starting somewhere new, somewhere far, letting all that ties us down slide off our backs.  But, it was a lie, because what tied us down, what kept us apart, was inside us, and couldn’t be left behind.  It would follow us no matter where we went.  It would never let us go, never let us be whole.

Half Remembered Dream
Lockers lined both sides of a hallway that seemed to go on forever.  Blurry figures swirled about me in motion, all trying to get to class on time.  Their fear, like mine, was palpable.  Blood throbbed in my neck as I desperately tried to find my locker, but for the life of me, could not.  It’s location was fuzzy in my mind.  The more intensely I pulled for it, the farther it slipped into the recesses. 
“Hurry,” a voice said.  I whipped around and recognized the face, though I couldn’t say from where.  It was surely the face of a friend.  Surely.  Again they prodded me, “Hurry, or you will get in trouble.”  Then they sagged their head down into the stack of books they were carrying against their chest, and scurried on into the crowd. 
I didn’t have long, that much I knew.
Somewhere blue caught my attention.  A blue bow above a sea of bouncing, blurry heads.  When I had finally shoved my way to the girl wearing it, I was filled with dread.  I grabbed her shoulder and spun her about.  “Carissa, help me.  I don’t know where my locker is.”
Fear and disgust crawled across her face.  “Do I know you?”
The words cut me deeply, deeper than I thought possible.  My heart broke.  “Carissa!  It’s me, Joel!” 
She ducked her shoulder out from under my touch and kept moving.  Panic-stricken and confused I followed alongside her.  “Carissa, help me please.  I love you.” 
She stopped abruptly and scowled at me.  “Don’t say that!  Don’t you dare say that.   You don’t know me.”
Apparently I was holding books too.  I threw them against the wall, sending pages fluttering about the hallway. 
Everyone stopped what they were doing. 
Down the hall a door opened.  A massive figure walked out and yelled, “What’s going on in here?  You leave her alone.”
The giant started toward me.  My fear broke in my brain, and a flood of rage flew into me.  “No!   Don’t you tell me what to do!  Don’t you ever tell me what to do!”  Full speed I ran at the giant.  To everyone’s astonishment, I lunged toward its chest and bowled it over onto the ground.  A newfound fear spread across the giant bully’s face.  Before it could react, I raised my fist and smashed it down into his face.  I could feel his skull bounce of the hard tile floor beneath.  Again and again I pounded it.  Arms flailed about my face.  Everyone in the hall tried to pull me back, but none of them could.  Over everything, I could hear Carissa scream, “Stop it!  Stop!  Stop!  Stop it!”  She let out a shriek so loud that I had to stop to cover my ears.

Traffic In The Sky
My eyes popped open, each at their convenience, slow and cranky.  The mild, monotonous hum of the jet’s engines saturated the cabin.  I flexed and twisted my way around onto my back until I was more comfortable.  My lower right ribcage ached from hours of being smashed into the metal armrest.  I slipped my hands into my jacket and gently massaged the offended spot through my shirt.  My face twisted into a grimace. 
The cabin was mostly dark, save for a few pointed beams of light overhead those who were still awake.  Occasionally, you could hear the muffled sounds of speech, or the distant, tinny beat from someone’s IPod. 
I reached up for the overhead, and twisted the air nozzle all the way open.  The blast of air tickled my facial hair.  It felt good, cooling the warm beads of sweat that stuck to my face.  After a few seconds spent basking in the cool air, I let my head sink to my left. 
My heart warmed, as I looked at Carissa, asleep and dreaming. Several strands of her hair hung across her face, rising and falling with each gust of air from her mouth.  Gently, so as to not wake her, I stretched over and, using the tips of my fingers, brushed back the curtain of hair, revealing her perfect face.  Her lips sputtered from the rush of breath rushing out between them.
Beyond her, through the window, all was black.  The horizon could only be discerned by the stars that shone above the perfect black of the vast, cold, Atlantic Ocean.  My mind drifted, wondering if we were passing overhead where the Titanic lay across the ocean floor, thousands of feet below the surface.  I could just imagine the immense, lethal cold of her deep waters against my skin. 
That’s when I saw it.  Gentle greens and blues slowly pulsing in a giant mist atop the sky.  Aurora Borealis.  My heart began to pound with wonder, with awe.  The moment became immediately etched into my brain.  I would never forget it. 
The Northern Lights.  How many people had seen this wonder?  What had people thought about it thousands of years ago?  Had they thought it deity?  If so, I could see why.  It was more beautiful than I could have imagined.  Nothing I had ever seen in all my life had ever looked more alien, more supernatural. 
How could our lesser-evolved brethren have known that it was not all that different from them?  It was not supernatural at all.  Gases swirling about the air.  Nothing more.  For a moment I couldn’t help but be sad as the wonder faded from within.  Nothing more than gases in the sky.  Nothing more.  Being lucid, being honest, hurt.  I pondered the Orwellian truth, Ignorance is bliss.  If only.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?”  The paper thin voice whispered over my shoulder.
I sat back in my chair and turned to my right, where Dr. Alexander sat writing feverishly in a binder splayed across his lap. 
“It is,” pausing, debating whether or not to fully engage in conversation.  “Thanks again for switching seats with me.” 
He raised his long-fingered hand out and gently waived the notion away in the air in front of him.  “Nonsense.  Had I known you were coming, I would have picked a seat on the other side of the plane.  I fear I have dampened your surprise.”
He had.  “Nah.  She’s here next to me, and that is all that matters.  If not you, it would’ve been some stranger who snored or something like that.”  His body rose as if to chuckle, though no sound emerged.  He had yet to stop writing.  If anything, it seemed his hands worked even faster now that we spoke. 
The old man wore a tweed flap cap, casting a strong shadow across his face and down his chest.  The beaming light reflected brightly of the white pages, outlining the features of his white-bearded face with a thin rim of light. 
I sat back in my seat.  Staring straight forward I blurted out, “It almost looks alien.”
Out of the corner of my vision, I could see his movement come to an abrupt start.
“What’s that?”
I gave a lazy shrug.  “I said it looks almost alien.”
“What does?”
“The Northern Lights.”  I pointed across my body toward the window.  I swiveled my head back toward the old man.  He chuckled through closed lips.  Short bursts of air hissed out of his elderly, red nose.  “You think so?”  He said.
I nodded mildly, uncertain why what I had said warranted such a reaction.  There seemed to be something condescending in it, but I channeled the peace I felt with Carissa next to me into a more tempered response.  “Sure,” I said with a low voice.  “It almost doesn’t seem to fit, like something out of Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars, or the Bible.” 
He tilted his head.  “Interesting paring.”
“How’s that?”
He shrugged.  “The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are works of fiction.  The Bible is a religious text, something over a billion people hold sacred.”
I said nothing.  I hadn’t meant it to be offensive or snide, but I could see how that could be.  I could just imagine Carissa’s face break had she heard me say it.
“You are a marvel, you know that?”
I didn’t.  Actually, the sentiment seemed odd to me, caught me off guard.  Too personal.  He didn’t wait for me to say anything before clarifying, “I mean you and Carissa, not you yourself, though I am sure if half of what Carissa has said is true, you are indeed a marvel as well.”  He smiled.  “No, I know quite a bit about you Joel Bernal.  Carissa has told me much.” 
For some reason that chafed me.  He didn’t know anything about me.  Did he? Carissa did.  Had Carissa shared about me, he may well know things about me even I didn’t, for there was surely no clearer lens into my mind than her.  She has shown pieces of myself I had long forgotten, or never even knew existed to begin with. 
I am just cranky.  Airplane sleep is better than nothing, but not by much.  Still so exhausted, still such a long way to go, and then straight to work.  Just thinking the sentence made me tired.
“Your story confounds.  Again, when I say your, I mean you and Carissa together, not just you.  I ask myself, how is that two people could love each other the way that you do, with such great truth, such brutal honesty and vulnerability, and don’t see eye to eye on the most fundamental truths of your own existence.  Is there a God?  Absolutely fascinating.”
It wasn’t fascinating to me.  His words cut me deeply, not because of his presence in them, but the truth behind them.  Something should have come to mind, but nothing did.  All I could do was stare at the bag of peanuts my hands were pushing about on the tray in front of me.  It frustrated me that I was so obvious, but he must’ve been able to tell what his words had done to me.  He shifted the conversation. 
“Usually, one gets into trouble talking about themselves.  Here I’ve gone and gotten myself into trouble talking about you.  Forgive me.  Let’s start again and I will be far more selfish this time around.  I would like to talk a little bit more about myself, if you’d just be quiet for a moment.”  He snickered at his sarcasm.  “Let me tell you about how Carissa and I met, as I am sure you are just dying to hear the epic saga that is about to unfold.”
Without diverting my gaze, I nodded.  “Sure.”
“Brilliant.  Well, we met in a pub, in this wee little town called Maghera, in the middle of nowhere really.  Boisterous place, full of craic. 
My eyebrow lifted. 
“Ha!  Not that kind of craic, I’m afraid.  ‘t’s a Gaelic word, means ‘fun, conversation, the enjoyment’ like.” 
Ireland dripped openly over the brim of his last sentence. 
I dipped the corners of my mouth down and nodded in understanding.
“So, myself, and a couple of my associates had dropped in, having heard that their mussels were worth the drive, which they were.  We sat down at our table.  We ordered, and that’s when I saw her.  She was sitting at a table hidden away in a nook, all by herself, drinking something non-alcoholic of course.” 
I turned a bit toward him, but not completely, and smiled with the right side of my mouth.  “Of course.”
“Protestants.”  He winked, and rolled his eyes mockingly.   “Anyhow.  I saw her sitting there, her sadness crashing in against the life and music about the room…”
“The craic,” I interrupted.
His face lit up.  “Exactly.  The craic… and it broke my heart.”  He shook his head.  “She reminds me much of my granddaughter.  When I got closer, it was obvious she was crying.  So, I sat down, and I showed her this trick.” 
His hands reached out swiftly and opened the bag of peanuts.  The thin, shimmering plastic crinkled noisily, then popped once the seal was broken.  He held up and shook the bag of nuts with his right hand until a single peanut popped out into the open palm of his left.  He set the bag down and turned toward me with his body as much as the seat would allow, all the while holding the peanut out in front of him.
“Alright,” he whispered.  “Watch the peanut.”  Immediately he drew the peanut up between the fingers in his right hand and lifted it up off his left palm.  With swift motions he lifted his right hand above my head then brought it back down into his still open palm.  He did so three times, then opened both hands.  The peanut had vanished! 
Just as my puzzled brain was wondering how such a trick could have been pulled off, a voice from the seats behind moaned, “Hey!  What the hell? Why are you throwing peanuts?  Come on, man.”
I tried, but couldn’t stop my laughter.  My attempt at covering it up had me hissing like a snake. 
The old man turned out into the aisle to talk back to them, “Terribly sorry.  My limbs don’t always do what they are supposed to at my age.  Was aiming for my mouth when the damned thing popped right out of my hand…”  He broke into laughter himself, blowing any chance of belief in his cover.  He swirled back around, unable to stop from laughing.  He stopped just long enough to add, “Poor fellow wasn’t too nuts about my trick.” 
I laughed until my sides hurt.  Finally, after some time, my breathing began to smooth back out.  I knew what he was doing, but I didn’t care or feel condescended to.  I felt better, just as I knew Carissa had when he preformed the trick for her. 
Besides, I didn’t want to hear about her crying.  I knew it was because of me, and it killed me.   
He continued on, “Anyhow, my lame trick made her smile, and that is how we became friends.”  He paused.  “All the while I have tried to get her to be a part of my research, but she has refused to do so thus far.”
My interest piqued.  What in the world would he need Carissa’s help for?  I could feel one of my eyebrows raise involuntarily.  “What’s your research?”  The second I said it, I thought about how lame the question was, how there were probably fifty better ones. 
“Thought you’d never ask,” he said excitedly.  “I,” he stuck a thumb into his chest, “am an anthropologist.  But, my passion, my field of expertise, if you will, is in studying and researching extraterrestrial life forms.” 
“That,” he continued, “Is why I found your comment about the Aurora Borealis seeming alien so… entertaining.”
I tried to just play along with him, waiting for the turn.  I wasn’t going to made a fool.  “Makes sense then why you would be in Ireland.  Right?  I mean, aren’t there a ton of UFO sightings in the U.K.?  Crop mazes and such?”
He tapped his finger lightly against the trey in front of me.  “There are indeed, though those have nothing to do with my research at all.”  His face was intense, pensive.  “I am studying a different kind of alien.”
“A different kind of alien?” 
I must have sounded more incredulous than I thought.  He answered, “Yes, one much more close to home.”
He’s serious!  I pressed my lips together tightly.  “You know.  It could be possible I suppose, hypothetically, but there’s no empirical evidence to support such the existence of aliens.”
“She said you were sharp,” He offered genuinely.  “Don’t you mean that there is no empirical evidence THAT YOU KNOW OF?”  He emphasized the end of the sentence heavily. 
I wish I weren’t, but I am incredibly defensive, and tired. So, before I could even think about what he said, I had slapped my hands down on the armrests and retorted with fire, “Most scientists would agree with my claim.” 
Covering the top with his hands, so as to cut down the sound, he cracked the top of a miniature Coke can I hadn’t even noticed him retrieve.  The all too familiar sizzle of carbonation hissed out from nooks and cracks in his grip.  He took a quick sip, wiped his mouth, and looked back at me. 
“Joel, science, as a whole, can’t even come to a consensus as to whether or not eggs are good for you.  Yet, they have the gall to say they know, they KNOW, the chemical composition of a star sitting a million miles away.”  He paused for effect.  “Honestly, they have a million eggs right there, and yet, every month there is new study out explaining why eggs are now good for you, only to be reversed by another study a month later.  Are eggs good for me or not?  The suspense is killing me.”  He chuckled at his own joke. 
I took a deep breath, though not so deep as to look intentional, and waited until I was calm.  The whole conversation had turned comically absurd.
He took another slurp from his Coke.  “I’m sure you doubt me, Joel, and that you think me crazy, and that is okay.  That is the very essence of truth.  The second you hold to something as true, you think everyone who thinks otherwise nuts, like it or not.  Even those people who are running around trying to tell everyone there is no truth, so no one should be offended.  They offend more people than anyone.  Ironic isn’t it?”
I didn’t answer his last question, because I didn’t want him to think of me as condescending.  “I don’t think you’re crazy, just wrong.”  I shrugged.  “I trust in what can be seen, smelled, tasted, touched, or heard, and, with that, I have been given no reason to believe in aliens.”
“What if I could give you the evidence you needed to change your mind?” 
The question cut me with its edge of absurdity.  His tone shifted flat, to usher in the utmost seriousness.  “Never mind.  Forget I said that.”
“You really are a true believer?!.”  He said it both as statement and question. “I thought, when listening to Carissa talk of you, there was no way you could really be an atheist, not with the way she talked of your connection.  Seeing your love in person gave me even more doubts.  You really do believe in nothing?”
I nodded.  “Well, it’s not that I believe in nothing, it’s that I don’t believe period.  I take what is there for me to see, period, nothing more.”
“Incredible.  Truly incredible it is, and impressive, in a way.  Empiricism is a tough choice.  Only the most devout can live it.  To believe that we are all just molecules, collected by chaos and breathed of chance...” He gave his head a shake.  “Not many have the stomach for it.”
 I turned my head back over to Carissa.  To know the truth, that we are just matter, and don’t really matter.  It was tough, but the truth is the truth.  We don’t pick it.  We find it. 
As I stared at her perfect face, I couldn’t help but feel myself to be a liar.  Chaos.  Chance.  They were our forefathers.  Dr. Alexander’s.  Mine.  Even my parents.  But, not of Carissa.  No way she was born of chance.  I couldn’t accept it.  I would never accept it.  And that… is tearing my mind to pieces.

Copyright Nicholas L. Laning