Garrison was in a tea shop with Jan early on Saturday evening. She was irritated with how he rarely spoke to her, but rather brooded and brooded over his mother's condescending e-mails. All the same, Jan sat there quietly on the other side of their table, and patiently endured Garrison's ill humour, for, loving him, she empathized with his pain.
In his daydreams, he went over several childhood memories. One in particular troubled him: in the old family photo album, there were lots of baby pictures of Reynold, Fred, and Julia, but only one of Garrison, who was born five years after his cluster of siblings ended with Julia.
"Mom doesn't love me as much as she does my brothers and sister," he muttered bitterly, then sipped his tea. "One baby picture of me, but many baby pictures of them."
"Sometimes parents get tired of taking baby pictures," Jan said, glad at least that he finally said something to her after about ten minutes of agonizing silence. "It's not that they don't love you."
"What's there for them to be tired of?" he asked. "Parents go crazy taking pictures of their new-born babies. And it's not just that that bothers me. I was born five years after Julia, as if untimely born. I'll bet they meant for Julia to be their last kid. My birth was an accident, an inconvenience, especially for my mother, who had to endure nine months of hell for a baby she probably didn't want."
"Oh, Garrison, don't be silly."
"Really, Jan. That would explain her preferential treatment of my siblings over me. She resents my whole existence. I'll bet that's where the demon story came from. She's punishing me for being alive."
"Oh, Garrison. Don't be this way. Let's try to be happy tonight."
"I'm sorry, Jan, but she's done this to me my entire life. I'm still waiting for another e-mail reply from her. If she apologizes--sincerely--and if the others do, I'll forget the whole thing and stop suspecting them, OK?"
"OK," Jan said. "But for now, try to forget about that, and pay attention to me, please?"
"OK," he said. "Sorry."
He took her home early that night after walking around the streets holding her hand, chatting with her, and trying to forget about the Five. He went home and turned on his computer, hoping for a reply from his mother.
He checked his e-mail. She'd replied.
This is what she said.
"Garrison, I thought a lot about what you said to me in your last e-mail, and I now realize that I must acknowledge how much you've suffered, especially when you were a child. Those years were really rough for you.
Be grateful that God has helped you through all these troubled times, and keep praying for more of His guidance. We're praying for you, and we all love you.
It may seem as though we don't love you, when we're harsh with you, but you must understand the difficulties we've had dealing with a family member who is possessed. It's been a great strain on us, too. Try to sympathize with us, if you can.
You must realize that all of our corrective measures have been to help you grow good, and to be strong in Christ, even with Azazel still in you. All our efforts have been out of love.
Please think about what I've said before replying. As far as Brian and Julia are concerned, you're welcome to attend the funeral when it finally, regrettably, happens.
Upon finishing reading the e-mail, Garrison broke down and cried. He wept not so much out of having his doubts of her love wiped away, but more out of a wish to believe they'd really been erased. So starved was he for a family love that most people take for granted.
He sobbed and sobbed for several minutes, feeling those doubts fade away, little by little. Up till that time, he'd been seeing , hearing, and thinking clearly. No hallucinations. But now that he imagined again that his mother and the rest of his family loved him, he began to notice the colours of his apartment change: they were brighter, more glowing, almost psychedelic.
Was he having an acid flashback, or a mystical experience?
He got on the floor on his knees, put his hands together, and began to pray.
"God," he prayed, "Please reconcile me with my family. Help us to get over the past. Get them to see how I've changed, and to understand how they've hurt me over the years. If there are devils in me, exorcise them, please." He then did the Sign of the Cross. "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen."
Then he got up, wiped the tears off his face with a Kleenex, and left for Lee's apartment to party. I went with him.
We arrived at Lee's place about twenty minutes later, Garrison having bought a six-pack of beer.
"Hi guys," he said as we walked into the--for him--brightly lit living room, where Lee, McLean, Steven, Corin, and Gerard were sitting around the coffee table, drinking their beers and watching Lee roll a joint.
"We missed you last night," Corin said.
"Yeah, where were you?" Gerard asked.
"Wrestling with your demons?" Lee asked. The others laughed.
"Yeah, metaphorically speaking, of course," Garrison said, sitting on the sofa between me and Corin. "I got an apology, of sorts, from my mom, so all is back to normal with the family."
"Since when were things ever normal with you and them?" McLean asked. The others laughed.
"I'd have to agree with McLean, Garrison," I whispered in his ear. "This problem of yours isn't over, not by a long shot."
"So are you going back to Canada to see your family?" Steven asked, then belched.
"No," Garrison said. "They said I could go to my brother-in-law's funeral, but I don't want to."
"Good God, who would want to pay all that airplane ticket money to be at such a depressing get-together?" Lee asked, passing the rolled joint to Garrison. "Light it up and be the first to toke from it, since you weren't here last time."
"Gladly," Garrison said, lighting the joint and taking a few puffs before passing it to Corin.
After everyone had had a hit, and had drunk enough beer, the political debates among the other five began, while I listened to Garrison's mumbling for the rest of the night.
At the end of the night, I took an extremely drunk and stoned Garrison home, and laid him on his bed, fully clothed as usual. He fell asleep pretty quickly.
This is what he dreamt.
I, Garrison, am at home in Toronto with Mom, Dad, Reynold, Fred, and Julia. We're all dressed up nicely, in suits and dresses, and about to leave the house together.
"Where are we going all dressed up like this?" I ask.
"To church, of course," Julia says, sobbing and sneering at me. "To Brian's funeral."
"Trust Garrison to ask a stupid question anytime," Reynold says.
Fred cuffs me over the ear.
Wanting to be reconciled with them, I turn the other cheek, like a good Christian. Fred, without missing a beat, then cuffs me on that side.
"Fred and Julia, go ahead with Garrison," Mom says. "Reynold, your father and I will be there later, after doing some stuff here first. We'll see you there."
The next thing I know, I'm in a humble little Protestant church, sitting at the front pew. Julia and Fred are sitting to my left. She has a black veil covering her teary face. Fred's frowning, looking as if he's bored.
The funeral service is beginning, and I look back to see the minister approaching the altar. I am shocked, however, to see Father Delacroix approaching in his priestly robes, with altar boys from back in China!
I look back up at the altar, and now see the interior of my Chinese Catholic church. Fidgeting in dismay, I bump my elbow against Fred's arm.
"Watch it, Garrison!" Fred whispers in a growl. Then in Corin's voice, he says, "You want me to smack you again?"
"Don't ruin this funeral for me," Julia whispers angrily. Then in Gerard's voice, she says, "This is hard enough for me as it is."
Garrison looked to his left, and now saw Corin and Gerard, who looked at him oddly.
"You OK, Garrison?" Corin asked.
"Yeah," Garrison lied. Then he thought, I'm just hallucinating again, that's all.
Mass began, and they soon came to Father Delacroix's sermon. "One of the hardest things Jesus taught us," the priest began, "was to turn the other cheek, to love those who persecute us. But that's exactly what God wants us to do. If we're to be saved, indeed, we must do this."
"Oh, God," Garrison groaned softly.