That evening at the café l'Oiseau, where I regularly met with Garrison, he told me everything that happened from his going to sleep to his meeting those five guys there earlier that day. They were still with us as he told me everything, and when ignoring his mumbling got too difficult, they would sneer at him, as did many of the other patrons of the café.
"It's interesting how, seeing Jan up the street from here, you lost your hallucination of your family, or 'The Five', as you like to call them, instead seeing who was really here--these five guys," I said.
"Yeah," Garrison said. "Jan's bringing me back into the real world."
"I'll bet seeing more of her will help you heal even more thoroughly," I said.
"Yeah," he said. "I thank God for her. The name 'Jan' means 'God is gracious'. Did you know that?"
"The choice of an English name for that Chinese girl was fate. I think it's a sign. God's rewarding my faith."
"Well, I don't know about that," I said. "Come back to reality, Garrison. Stop believing what other people tell you to believe, and see the truth. Stop doing what others want you to do, and do your own thing. How about it?"
"Right," he said. "It's about time I started living in the real world, and thinking independently."
"That's more like it."
"OK," McLean said, standing up. "Let's all go to Lee's house and get high."
"I'm with you," Garrison said, immediately rising to his feet.
As everyone went over to Lee's apartment, I followed with a frown.
In Lee's living room, he chopped lines of ketamine on his coffee table, while Steven prepared a joint, and the others drank their beers.
The joint was passed around and toked on (Garrison puffing with particular enthusiasm, of course), and the lines of K were snorted by everyone. The others started talking politics as usual, and when everyone was feeling high, Garrison, in another reverie, began mumbling.
"Which family member are you mumbling about now?" I asked him. "Fred?"
"Yeah," Garrison said. "How did you know?"
"I'm closer to you than you realize," I said. "Closer to you than your Adam's apple."
"Oh, well, Fred," Garrison began, "was, and is, a thug. A big brother...Orwell named...his tyrant right. Fred bullied me, pushed me, shoved me, and hit me. He never looked at me with kind eyes."
"He sounds like another charmer."
Yeah. He and Reynold...were almost twins...if you get my meaning. Both of them...close buddies...brothers are supposed...to be buddies...I'm their brother...they aren't my buddies...I'd see them...hang out together...walking down the street, talking, laughing together...I wasn't asked...to join them, of course...I was never invited..." Garrison seemed on the verge of tears.
"Awful," I sighed, ignoring the sneers Lee and the others were giving Garrison and his mumbling. "Go on."
"Corin and Gérard...often hang out...without including me...or Corin and...Steven. Sometimes Corin can be...bad-tempered and...verbally abusive, like Fred. His angry words...often remind me...of my brother."
Garrison, almost overwhelmed by the effects of the ketamine, looked down at the coffee table. "Wow," he said. "Psychedelic."
"What's that?" I asked.
"The coffee table...all dark green, with fungi...mushrooms, and leafy vegetation...growing all over it."
All I could do was hope he would one day see the light and leave the drugs alone. "C'mon, you've had enough. Let's get you home."
Indeed, it had gotten late, and I got him home. He lay on his bed with his clothes still on, and after fidgeting awhile, he fell asleep.
This was his dream...and what came after...
I, Garrison, am fifteen years old and in my bedroom, in my family's old Toronto home. Fred is standing in the doorway, yelling at me, raising his hand, ready to strike.
"You're so stupid, it amazes me!" he shouts.
"Leave me alone!" I shout back.
"Leave me alone," he whines in a sneering imitation of the babyish way he imagines I've spoken. Then he stares down at me with the usual hatred in his eyes.
I, annoyed at his staring, look up at him and mock him for it, with a clownish smile and my eyes bugging out of my head. He makes a fist with that raised hand and pulls it back quickly, ready to punch, but stops.
"Whoa, you're lucky, Garrison," he growls, barely controlling his anger. "I almost punched you right through that wall."
Shaking, I look out the window and see Jan outside. She smiles at me. I smile and wave back at her.
"What are you smiling about, you fuckin' asshole?" Fred says, though I hear Corin's voice. "You lookin' at your devil friends?"
I look back at Fred, but see Corin instead. I look around, and I no longer see my old Toronto bedroom, but now see the living room of Lee's apartment: I'm on the sofa opposite Corin, with the coffee table separating us, as we'd sat at last night's party.
"Was that your girlfriend you were looking at?" he asks me.
I wake up, back in my apartment in China. I'm 39 again. I get up, strip, take a shower, and put on some clean clothes. I check the clock: it's 10:30 AM. I rush outside to get to Mass on time.
I walk to the church and sit at the front pew beside Corin and Gérard, who have already been here for some time. We wait for Father Delacroix and the others to begin.
Corin and Gérard are talking to each other.
"Hi," I say to Corin.
"So, you're finally talking to other people, eh?" he says, but in Fred's cold voice. He isn't looking at me.
"What?" I ask nervously, looking back and seeing Father Delacroix approach the altar.
"Don't you understand English?" Fred's voice is heard to say from, presumably, Corin's mouth. I look back at Corin, but now see Fred and his hateful eyes. He is talking to Gérard again; that is to say, I hear Gérard's voice, but see Julia. I rub my eyes and look again. Now I see Fred talking with Reynold. I'm shaking at my pew. They snap at me to sit still.
As Mass progresses, I look down at my feet, afraid to look at my siblings...or are they my friends?...on my left. Delacroix begins his homily, talking about the importance of having faith in God, no matter what difficulties one is going through. During the sermon, I look over to the pew to my right. I see Jan sitting there, with her pretty Chinese eyes glowing as she looks at me.
I smile back at her, calm down, then look to my left. I see Corin and Gérard again, sitting quietly and listening to the sermon. As my head clears up, I look back where I saw Jan: she isn't there now--instead, there's another pretty Chinese woman sitting there.
Worried, Garrison looked to his left again, but saw Corin and Gérard. He let out a big sigh of relief, and continued listening to the sermon.
"Through the hard times, God is testing your faith," Delacroix continued. "Hang on, keep your trust in Him, and He will reward you for your faith."
Garrison found inspiration in these words, and a new boost of hope. He felt a lump in his throat. Maybe the pain would finally end.
When Mass was over and everybody was filing out of the church, Garrison approached the priest.
"Thank you so much for the wonderful sermon," he said to Delacroix. "It has helped me a lot." Garrison was almost in tears.
"Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it, Garrison," the priest said. "Keep praying, stop the substance abuse, and remember: there are no devils inside you, no more than the rest of us."
Smiling, Garrison quickly said goodbye to the priest, to Corin, and to Gérard, and rushed over to the café l'Oiseau to tell me everything from the party of the night before until now.
After buying a coffee and sitting at my table, he started his mumbling.
"So now I know what I need to do to cure myself of my illness," he said.
"And that is...?" I asked.
"Keep faith in God, and hope for the best in my date with Jan tomorrow night."
"Oh, I'd change a couple things there, if I were you," I suggested.
"Well, you conveniently forgot Delacroix's advice to leave the drinking and drugs alone."
"But I want--"
"I know, I know: you want to fit in. But not with those five guys, come on."
Trying to ignore all the café patrons staring strangely at him and his mumbling, Garrison asked, "What else would you change about my plan to get better?"
"You ignored the priest's one good piece of advice," I said. "You also should have ignored his one piece of bad advice."
"Keeping faith in what doesn't exist--those spirits in the heavens. Your belief in them is just as harmful as your belief in the existence of the devils...in all their horned and human forms."