Convalescence, chapter 10Mature

Before going with me to McLean's house to party with those five men on Saturday night, Garrison knelt beside his bed and, shaking, began to pray.

"God," he said, "I lost another two evening classes today. Most people would just look for new classes to replace what they'd lost, but I'm really scared. Have I just been unlucky, or is the devil Azazel cursing me? Most people would just ignore the kind of crazy religious talk I always hear from my mother, but when you've had it pounded into your head all your life, as I have, it's hard to ignore. Please help me keep what remaining work I have, help me to control my erratic behaviour so as not to alienate any more students, and help me get new students to replace those I've lost. Also, help me to make peace with my family, and make them understand how much they always hurt me. I'm trying to stop calling them 'The Five': please make them stop calling me 'devil'." He concluded his prayer with the Sign of the Cross, saying, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen."

In McLean's house, Steven and Gérard were looking at each other coolly, if at all. It was a tense scene when Garrison and I walked into the house.

"Come on, guys," Lee said. "Cut the hostility."

"Yeah," McLean said. "Don't ruin everybody's evening. Shake hands and make up."

"You gonna stop the gossipping about me?" Steven asked, trying hard to control his anger.

"What proof do you have that I've been gossipping about you?" Gérard asked, still genuinely shocked at the accusation.

"Michelle," Steven said, a little more angrily.

"What did she say?" Corin asked.

"She said that Gérard told her...I..." Steven began. "I don't wanna repeat it."

"Well, you're not proving anything about me," Gérard insisted. "But your smart-ass remarks about me, said in front of everyone here...they are proven!"

"Alright, enough," McLean said. "How are we gonna fix this?"

"Look, Steven," Lee said. "If you stop bad-mouthing Gérard to his face, he'll stop gossipping. OK?"

"But I'm not--" Gérard began.

Lee put up his hand before Gérard's face to make him be quiet, then said, "Look, let's just agree to that, so we can get high. OK? I don't wanna wait any longer."

"Sounds good to me," McLean said.

"Me, too," Corin said.

Garrison and I sat silently, but also with hopes that this nonsense would end soon; Garrison, of course, simply wanted to get high with the others; I wanted to get back to helping him.

"What guarantees do I have that my truthful remarks about his religous hypocrisy, not being said, will make his lies about me not be said?" Steven asked.

"You may not be convinced that your silence will be a sufficient condition for my silence...though I was always silent--" Gérard began.

"Bullshit," Steven grunted.

"But your silence will be a necessary condition," Gérard said angrily.

"Settled," McLean said, glaring at Gérard to make him be quiet, then sat down to roll a joint. Steven and Gérard quietly complied, though still frowning.

"Good," Lee said. "Both of you shut up, and let's get high. Finally." He drank from his beer.

Indeed, Gérard and Steven were silent for most of the rest of the night, just drinking their beers and smoking the grass that got passed around the living room. When everyone was nice and high, Lee, McLean, and Corin were the only ones debating politics, while I listened carefully to Garrison's mumbling.

"I've gotta stop...hating The Five...I mean, my family," he said softly after a swig of beer, then belched.

"Oh, I can see five people who don't really deserve your liking," I said, looking around the room at the tokers and drinkers. "Still worried about your work, eh?"

"Yeah," he said. "I prayed to God for help tonight."

"That won't help," I said. "He isn't listening."

"How do you know?"

"He isn't up there among the clouds, Garrison."

"Oh, you know there's nothing up in heaven?"

"I know you see a lot of things, and people, that aren't really here; and that goes double for the heavenly host above, and Satan's minions below."

"So how am I gonna find more work? By blindly trusting in luck?"

"That's what all this religion is, Garrison: blindly trusting in luck. You'll get more work by believing in spirits less, and believing in yourself more."

"And how am I to achieve that miracle?"

"More easily than the miracles you expect from a man-made God."

"I see," Garrison said sarcastically.

"You see what?" McLean asked, sneering at Garrison's mumbling.

"Well, we've made two people shut up," Lee said, also sneering at Garrison. "Can we make a third be quiet?"

Garrison sank into his chair, embarrassed.

"I'm not sure if giving him that hit of LSD two months ago was such a good idea," Corin said, worried.

"Oh, he was weird long before that, Corin," Lee said contemptuously. "Remember that we've known Garrison a lot longer than you have."

"Then why do you tolerate him?" Corin asked.

"Oh, I don't know: he amuses us, I guess," Lee said, then toked from one of the joints.

Several hours later, the night's partying ended, and I took a totally wasted Garrison home. Fully clothed, he fell on his bed and went to sleep.

This is what came next.

I, Garrison, am about fourteen years old in my old home in Toronto. Reynold rushes down the stairs when Julia and I have been fooling around in the living room and halls, making a lot of noise.

"Will you two stop making that noise!" he shouts at Julia like a psychotic. "I'm trying to study!"

"Alright," Julia says with a look of annoyance. "Why don't we start with you not making noise with that shouting."

"I have a very important test to study for tomorrow!" he shouts, still psychotic. "Very, very hard! And I need some peace and quiet!"

"Fine!" she spits back. "You be quiet, too!"

I turn around, about to leave the room, since I can't stand all that hostility. Then I hear two different voices.

"You're gossipping about me again, aren't you?!" Steven's voice is heard shouting, as psychotic as Reynold. "You were just spreading your slanderous rumours about me with Garrison!"

"You're paranoid," Gérard's voice is heard to say.

I turn around and still see Reynold and Julia, but they're speaking with the voices of Steven and Gérard.

"He never told me any nonsense about you," I tell Steven/Reynold.

"Maybe," Steven/Reynold says. "But he's slandered my name around other people, like Michelle. Haven't you?!"

"You're crazy," Gérard/Julia says.

"He's slandered you, too, Garrison," Steven/Reynold says. "He told your students that you're gay. That's why you've lost so many classes lately: he's stealing them from you!"

I wake up suddenly, my heart pounding. I look at my bedside clock: it's about 10:15 in the morning. I get up, shower, and put on some nice clothes. Then I hurry off to church.

Gérard and Corin are sitting at the front pew as usual, waiting for Father Delacroix to arrive. I sit next to Corin.

"Hi guys," I say to them nervously.

"Hi Garrison," Corin says to me somewhat sadly.

Gérard doesn't say anything to me because he's busy talking to a Chinese woman sitting next to him.

"I must say, Garrison," Corin says. "I feel kinda bad about us giving you LSD two months ago at that party in Steven's house. Lee and McLean insist that it probably didn't make you crazy, that you were, no offence, always crazy--I mean, before I came here three months ago--but I'm not sure about that. When I did LSD for the first time many years ago, I felt the presence of God; that's why I started going to church. I thought you'd feel Him, too, and be more at peace for it."

"I did feel Him," I say. "I think I did, or I felt something of a divine connection." As Corin and I are talking, I've been looking over at Gérard and noting the Chinese woman he's been talking to--she looks more and more familiar. By the time I finish talking, she looks exactly like one of the students I lost earlier this week! In my dream, when Reynold/Steven said Julia/Gérard was stealing my students, was that a message from God?

I stand up, angry and ready to accuse Gérard, when everyone else stands up too. Father Delacroix is walking up to the altar, and I briefly look at him. Then I look angrily back at Gérard, who is talking to the woman again, but she no longer looks like my former student. I calm down.

As Mass progressed through the 'Kyrie', 'Gloria', and Bible readings, Garrison increasingly saw things as he should have. Father Delacroix began his homily.

"So many of us call ourselves Christians," he said, "but betray ourselves by constantly doubting God's protection of us. We worry about whether we'll have enough money to pay our bills, feed ourselves, and so on; but we forget about how the animals don't worry about these things, and yet God still takes care of them. And how much worthier we are than the animals! God won't abandon us, even when it seems as though we're most alone."

Garrison sighed with relief. This was exactly the kind of reassurance he needed to hear, after hearing about Azazel from his mother, and how that shook up his self-confidence, as well as his recent loss of work.

"As Jesus said," the priest went on, "seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you."

After church, Garrison, with a newly revived sense of hope, met me in the café l'Oiseau for coffee and lunch.

"I mustn't lose faith in God," he said. Then after sipping his coffee, he added, "God is merely testing my faith."

"If you would properly test His existence," I said, "you'd see He'll fail, as do all your other hallucinations."

"God will take care of me," he insisted. "He takes care of all the animals, and they don't worry about being provided for."

"Drought and famine occurs in places all over the world," I said. "Animals suffer from it as well as people. Don't trust in an imaginary hand from heaven: trust in yourself."

He wasn't listening, of course.

The End

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