OK, I’m sitting in a restaurant at Trudeau Airport, Dorval (My ignorance abated by the patronizing smile of the bus driver who informed me that Dorval was Trudeau—how am I to know these things?). An enormous piece of chocolate cake, on a large white plate, criss-crossed with drizzles of chocolate syrup, is before me. The syrup drizzles are surely arranged to convey a secret message. There is no coincidence or chance to the pattern. Concerned with the potential for chocolate syrup to stain my jacket cuff, I methodically scrape the fringes of the secret message from the outer rim into the safe zone, plate center.
Here I consider the possibility that my unconscious reply, through my compulsive plate scraping, will perplex the dishwasher in the scullery. He is an itinerant shaman, in cahoots with the dessert chef, sending out these coded messages, searching for transients, gods who portal from galaxy to galaxy, through this airport in Montreal. They two are gate agents, assigned to this earthly locale, to assist celestial travelers. The dishwasher-shaman will think I am one of those, consult the dessert chef, and try to determine where I am from and where I am bound.
This makes me think of the eternal beyond, the place of next existence. These agents are mistaken about me, but I understand. I have learned to recognize these secret runes, left by celestials for celestials, to show the way through. I have no idea what they say, but I see them.
I think Jesus is one of these celestial travelers. He came through the portal and missed his connection, wasn’t served the chocolate cake (perhaps this chocolate cake, drizzled with directions, was supposed to be for him), and got stuck here. Imagine that! Maybe all that angst and spiritual emotion was to be meted out in some other place, some more receptive world. Anyway, I am thinking of Jesus because just two short hours before chocolate cake, I remember seeing him, conversing with him.
I had ventured from the underground, beneath the St. Lawrence, to the bus station at surface level. With ticket to the airport procured, I stepped out to the street to take a peek at this Montreal. Immediately, he approached. He was shorter than me; dark hair, a French-Canadian face; drawn, sharp, like a hatchet; noble, prominent nose; brown eyes to pierce my heart; whiskey breath to fool me, beguile me. I have learned to recognize him like this.
“Can you give me $1.50? All I need is $1.50 to get home.” I saw his unsuccessful accostment of some other, who stared through him to the buildings beyond, willed him into non-existence. So, repelled like a pin-ball, he came straight to me; a 10,000 point bumper. If he could bounce off me two or three times, he could win a bonus ball, stay in the game a little longer. I play, drawn to his vagabond gaze. (“If you do this for one of them…”)
A dollar fifty? That’s all you need? I can give you a dollar fifty, if you will give me a cigarette! He looks at me a moment, disappointed. I see this and realize I have asked him for something he cannot give. But, since I pay in advance, he assures me he will deliver. It’s his gospel promise. “You do this for me, I will deliver that for you!” The righteous quid pro quo; the capitalist beatitude. He moves off to accost other pinging, light-flashing, bumper Samaritans, to find me a smoke.
Jesus is OK with my nicotine habit. He understands my base desires. First try, no luck! Second, nothing; third try, still nothing. (These folks don’t realize with whom they are dealing, have no idea the eternal points they could earn.) Ah, but the fourth, a fellow Samaritan. I hear celestial buzzers, see points spinning up, adding to his grand tally. “10,000 points for the Samaritan!” And, Jesus returns to render me a cigarette.
I light up and take a deep, satisfying drag. Jesus looks on, without reproach. He understands. Life is for living. Everyone is free to take chances without condemnation from him. Consequences are cause and effect, not transgression and judgment.
“Man, if I only had 2 more dollars, I could get home.”
I wish him well. I assure him some other Samaritan will get him two dollars closer to his goal. “Man, I will be honest with you, I am really in deep shit! I need just two more dollars. I’m not kidding, I am in deep shit!”
I wonder out loud. How deep can it be if only two dollars afford delivery? (Later, with the chocolate cake before me, I wonder whether Simon of Cyrene was coaxed to carry his cross with the same plea, “Man, I am in really deep shit!”) What difference will two dollars make in Jesus’ shit?
“Because, with two more dollars I can get home!” The look in his eye, the sincerity, was enough. I handed it over. I don’t know what was at home; maybe an angry wife, a pining child, a litigious landlord. Maybe this was the final component required to decipher the message, drizzled across an enormous piece of chocolate cake; directions to the next portal, Jesus’ ticket out of here. I finished my smoke as he disappeared around the corner, on his way home.
I suspect I was tried and found wanting. Why didn’t he ask for $3.50 to begin with? Why did he sand-bag me like that? He was looking for my widow’s mite, the last of my last. I gave what I could easily afford and got a cigarette in return.
I let the waitress take away my empty plate with compulsive scrapings to confuse the gate agents, dishwasher-shaman and dessert chef. I’m no celestial traveler. I am not passing through to anywhere. I am already home.