“I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, of the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened.”
Harper closed the book and let it lie in her lap as she rested her eyes for a moment. This was her second time through Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. That quotation had popped out to her before, but not in the way it did just now. She was almost surprised at the heart change that had happened to her in such a short time. She had hope; whereas, only a few short months ago, she had felt caught in a downward spiral of despair. She was almost satisfied with her life; whereas, before, soul hunger threatened to overpower her. She trusted—God again, but also another human being. She had been kind of avoiding God, which seemed even silly to say, and she had determined never to trust another person again to the point of vulnerability, in love or even in friendship. She had committed to hold people at arm’s length so as to protect her heart from more breakage, and had been accused by Ava and others of living a less than holy life, as one seeing her glass as half empty; but if she had to be honest, she felt more like she had not even been given a glass. She was never positive enough for the “buck up” crowd, and so one by one, she had cordoned them off from her life. All but Ava. Part of her dark attitude probably came from her poetic, melancholy soul; but even with that as part of her innate personality, she still had always had an underlying romantic view in happy ever afters and the justifiable purpose to life, even in its brokenness. She knew she would never be a bright, gregarious optimist—at least most of the time—but she felt that she was indeed coming back from the brink. And that felt good.
She was giving Tia more hours at the shop. Since Tia had had some unexpected home repairs, she was happy for the extra money; and for Harper, the timing was perfect. She was enjoying a more relaxed schedule with time to think and work on some projects. She was practicing more guitar, and her chops were almost back to when she had been playing regularly. Her increased role with the fellowship also added to her to-do list; but that also was good. She felt energized with new purpose. With the potluck on Friday, she had volunteered to get the paper goods together. She hated the idea of single use disposables; but at least for the first one, she didn’t see any way out of it, unless she was willing to wash all the plates. And that wasn’t going to happen. She fed Clutch, gave him a good rub down, and headed out the door.
She drove to the big box store where she picked up some plates and napkins. She decided to make her own personal contribution to the group’s potluck cache, and the planet, by buying cheap metal cutlery. Those she would indeed take home to wash after the meal; and it would assuage her conscience in some small part for the paper goods that would end up in the trash. She smiled to herself at her convoluted thought processes. But she was enjoying her trek out. On the way home, she decided to stop at a coffee shop to get a chai tea. It was like walking into the lion’s den with the smell of coffee all around, but she only had a few more weeks to go of her Lent commitment, so she wasn’t about to give in now.
Outside the shop door stood a man in a long, brown trench coat. He was pacing back and forth nervously with his head down, his matted hair falling over his face. It was hard to tell if he was young or old because he was dirty and weathered, but his makeshift sign which he had laid by the wall said he was hungry and needed help. Harper knew that if she gave him money it might go to alcohol or drugs, but she decided she would give something anyway and let God sort it all out. She went into the shop, ordered a muffin and an apple, and walked out and handed it to him with a five-dollar bill. She tried to think of something encouraging to say other than a “God bless you,” which often sounded so trite. But that’s what came out of her mouth. Agh! She smiled to herself as she re-entered the shop. I need to work on my lines now that I am emerging from my cocoon.
As she hopped into her car with her hot chai, she heard the owner come out to chase the man off. He seemed to know him well enough to call him by name. “JR, park yourself away from my door. Come on, man, you’re bothering the customers.”
JR? Hmm. That was interesting. Harper wondered if that was Max’s JR whom she had been sending out muffins and coffee to at the fellowship. She contemplated getting out and talking to him, but she still had a long list of items to pick up, so she decided to wait. She made a mental note to ask Max more about him on Friday.