A few years ago—I played music in a rundown bar on my late father’s birthday. It was a slow night—which felt a lot like singing to a roomful of house cats.
The crowd fizzled. The bartender was reading Cosmo magazine.
On break, an older man offered to buy me a drink. He was droopy-eyed and long-faced. He told me his son had just ended his own life, days earlier.
He drained his bottle, then made small-talk with a thick tongue. I don’t know how our conversation drifted. But conversations involving beer often do.
He said he didn’t believe in God. After his son’s death he came to believe God was nothing but a cruel joke.
He fell from his barstool. I helped him off the ground.
He started crying. “Jeezus,” he said. “You look like my son.”
All I could think to do was hug him.
A cab arrived to carry him home. He tipped the band fifty bucks before he left.
On my drive home that evening,
I rode the beach route. I pulled over and walked the shoreline. The moon and stars were putting on quite a show. I looked for major constellations, but I’m no good with astronomy.
So I thought about the man at the bar.
I reasoned that, if the Almighty were indeed real, He might have sent that poor man to that particular joint. And if that were true, maybe I was supposed to say something to him.
Something like: “Buck up, Daddy Warbucks, the sun’ll come out tomorrow.”
God knows, that’s the sort of thing everyone said to me after Daddy ended his own life.
Anyway, that night I listened to the Gulf water. The sound was hypnotizing. It made…