Over the next week, Garrison had some good luck: he got two new night-time tutoring classes, and this boosted not only his spirits but also, of course, his faith in God. Though I, ever skeptical of 'God's' involvement, warned him not to let his happiness depend on fluctuations of good or bad luck, he obviously wouldn't listen to me.
Before going out on another date with Jan on Friday night, he was in his apartment, kneeling beside his bed, praying to God.
"Lord," he said softly, "thank You so much for these two new classes; I know this good fortune is Your work. My faith in You has been rewarded: it's also been strengthened. To show You my deepest love, I promise to find some kind of charity work, and to be a better Christian. I'll be more loving to the Five--er, my family. I'm sure these good deeds of mine will be rewarded by causing reconciliation between them and me, for You would want that. Perhaps Azazel will leave me, too, if he's even in me, as Mom says. Whatever the truth of that matter may be, I'm sure You'll help me to convalesce spiritually, and I'll be saved. Praise You." Then, doing the Sign of the Cross, Garrison concluded, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen."
He got up, left his apartment, and went to find Jan, who was waiting for him in a tea shop.
"Hi Garrison," she said cheerfully, happy to see a smile on his face.
"Hi," he said, sitting at her table. "I have some good news."
"Oh?" she asked. "What?"
"I got two new classes this week."
"Yeah. Praise God. I'm gonna be a better man, you'll see."
"Yeah, I hope. Also more giving."
He ordered a green tea, then went on with his plans. "Do you know of any place where I can do charitable work?" he asked.
"Charitable? What's that mean?"
"Doing nice things for poor people, helping them, giving them money, things like that."
"Oh, well," she said, thinking a moment, "there's a place near my home, just down the street, they give soup to homeless people."
"Great! Do you think I could do volunteer work there?"
"How good your Chinese?"
"What do you think? I think it's OK; you've heard me speak lots. I'd just have to ladle out soup, right?"
"I think, pretty easy."
"Oh, I thank God for my change in fortune, for my life here in the East, and most of all, I thank Him for you." He kissed her hand; she blushed and giggled.
Their tea was served. After talking in the tea shop, they went walking about the streets holding hands. He never saw her change from Asian to blonde the whole time; he suspected his hallucinations were lessening. Later on, he took her home, then went with me to Steven's apartment to party.
Gerard and Corin arrived shortly after us. Tensions between Steven and Gerard had died down over the week, and they were speaking civilly to each other, if coolly. We sensed, nonetheless, a possibility in the future of another fight between them.
Lee and McLean arrived about ten minutes later, and Steven lit a marijuana cigarette and passed it to eager Garrison, who wanted to celebrate like never before.
"What are you so cheerful about, Garrison?" Steven asked.
"God's rewarded my faith," Garrison said with a smile, then puffed on the joint.
"Oh," Lee said sarcastically, and he, McLean, and Steven chuckled to themselves. Lee took the joint.
"I think that's great, Garrison," Gerard said.
"Yeah," Corin said. "Good for you."
"What was this...umm, reward that the Almighty gave you, in all His bounty and beneficence?" McLean asked, smirking incredulously.
"God gave me two new classes this week," Garrison confidently asserted.
"He gave you references, did He?" Lee asked, then laughed with McLean and Steven.
"Don't worry about these skeptics, Garrison," Gerard said, taking the doob for a toke.
"Yeah," Corin said. "They don't understand faith."
"I want to give back to God," Garrison said. "Do charity work."
"Good for you," Corin said.
The first joint was smoked, then Steven rolled another as the other guys drank their beers. The night wore on, and everyone got completely wasted as usual. Garrison mumbled to me, and the other guys discussed politics as always, occasionally sneering at Garrison's mumbling.
"I think Garrison's talking with God," Lee said, tittering.
"Yeah," Steven said. "He's asking the Lord for divine guidance." He, Lee, and McLean laughed. Gerard and Corin wanted to tell the other three to shut up, but didn't, for fear that Steven would say something to provoke another argument with Gerard. The two Catholics just quietly endured the three skeptics as best they could, while Garrison paid no attention to them at all; he just kept mumbling to me.
McLean said, "For my part, I thank God I'm an atheist."
Lee said, "I thank God--just an expression, of course--that America at last has a Democrat for a president."
"Same here," McLean said. Steven nodded in agreement.
Corin said, "Well, I thank God--and I really do thank Him--that after years and years of nonsense from the Liberal Party, Canada finally has a Conservative Prime Minister."
"Same here," Gerard said.
This started another vigorous political debate between the five men, one so absurd that it isn't worth quoting in detail.
The night came to an end, and I took Garrison home as was my habit. He lay on his bed in his clothes and began to dream.
This was it.
I, Garrison, am in my apartment. I'm sitting on my bed. The lights and colours all around me are unusually bright and vivid, and the walls and furniture seem alive, moving, breathing. I can see geometric shapes and patterns on them, too.
As strange as all this looks, though, I am not afraid. Indeed, I feel more than usually at peace, a rare mental state for me, and I'm not even high.
I look in the mirror on my dresser, which is across from the foot of my bed. I see myself in the reflection, but the face there is talking to me, while I sit without moving my mouth or making a sound.
"Good for you, Garrison," I hear my reflection say to me, speaking, however, in my father's voice.
"Father?" I ask. "Is that you talking?"
"Yes," he says. "It is I, your Heavenly Father."
"God?" I ask in astonishment.
"Yes. You were right to believe I'd given you those classes. I'm proud of you, and I love you."
"I'm being a good Christian?"
"It isn't about whether you're a good Christian or not," my reflection says, now speaking with my mother's voice. "It's about loving you because you are who you are. I'm proud of you for you."
"Oh? Why do sound like my mom now?"
"Because I am your mom...and your dad."
"I don't understand."
"I am all your family," he says, now speaking with Reynold's voice. Then his voice changes to Fred's, saying, "I am all people, and all things."
"But isn't that the heresy of pantheism? My mom once had me beaten for saying I believed in that."
"Heresy? Nonsense," my reflection says, now in Julia's voice, chuckling at my limiting views of the divine. "God can be female as well as male, you know. He can be self or other; He is all things and people...even you."
"That can't be," I insist. "I'm possessed by many devils, aren't I?"
"God is in all things, even evil," my reflection says in Jan's sweet, gentle Chinese voice. Then the voice changes to one with what seems to be a Scandinavian accent, saying, "and evil is as much in other people and things as it is in you."
"Really? You mean all other people are possessed of devils, too?"
"I wouldn't say that," God says in McLean's voice. "Devils don't exist any more than a monotheistic God does."
"OK, this is getting too weird now. You're God, but You don't exist?"
"We're the divine," my reflection says in Lee's voice now. Then it changes to Steven's, saying, "All of us, you included, are divinely good and evil. Your inability to see the undifferentiated oneness of everything is what makes you always hallucinate."
"Oh? I must be dreaming."
"This is no more a dream than your waking experiences are," my reflection says in Gerard's voice. Changing to Corin's, it then says, "All of life is an illusion: the illusion of ego, of separate existence, and with that, the illusion of there being any validity in notions of hierarchy, of power, or authority. When we see that we're all God, we're all the Lord, we see that, paradoxically, there is no God, and there are no lords we should obey."
Just then, I see Azazel--in his stereotypical horned, hooved red devil look--flying out of the mouth of my reflection. Then it vanishes in a puff of smoke. I've been exorcised.
Garrison woke up that Saturday at lunchtime, well-rested and in a good mood.