I’m a good man, but nobody sees it.
What they see is an unwashed vagrant. A man who lives in his car when he has one. And a man who disappears before anybody has a chance to know him.
They see the truth and yet they miss so much.
Which is why my present circumstance is so unusual. I’m sitting in a woman’s living room. She’s alone. She’s fearless. And she’s offered me a cup of coffee. I might think she’s some sort of doo-gooder or danger freak. But I can see in her eyes that she’s neither.
She just knows me.
It all started about 15 years ago. I’d give you an exact count, but I’ve lost track. I was a pretty normal guy. I’d just graduated from Pittsburgh State with a degree in Information Technology. At the time, it was cutting edge. I saw myself going into computers. I saw myself maybe starting my own company, or moving into the management of somebody else’s. The economy was hot and I was in the right place with the right credentials. The future was wide open.
But despite it all, I couldn’t find a job.
I interviewed at dozens of places. I was rejected dozens of times. My parents kept extending me loans. But as the failures mounted, they began to criticize me. Gently at first, but then in clearer and clearer tones. ‘I must be doing something wrong.’ ‘Maybe I was being rude.’ ‘Maybe I was too quick with my answers.’ ‘Perhaps I was too scripted, or not scripted enough.’ Every suggestion came at me like a knife. I was fast becoming a screw-up and I had no idea why. Nobody wanted me. Either I was cursed or I was, even worse, useless.
One clear summer day, I’d managed to score two interviews.The first was in a button-down firm with a massive IT department. I was to be a cog in a great machine. I wouldn’t have minded. I’d finished that interview and ambled my way over to the second. It was in an old red-brick warehouse that’d been converted to offices. They were doing some sort of innovative healthcare software. It was the sort of intimate shop I thought I could really grow in. But by that point, I was so discouraged that the very appeal of the position pushed me away from it.
There was a park outside the building and I was about a half-an-hour early. I decided to sit down, wait out the time. The trees were huge, it was a warm day, and everything seemed picture perfect. I thought about the interview, but I was already well prepared. And so I leaned back on the park bench and just looked skyward.
Past the trees, the blue sky just seemed to beckon.
And then, the strangest thing happened. I found myself being pulled upwards and then into a dream. I looked back, expecting to see my peaceful body enjoying the view. But it wasn’t. My body was spasming violently, like it was in some sort of epileptic shock.
On seeing myself, my first thought was, “I’m dead.”
On seeing the staff rush from the old brick warehouse, my second thought was, “Way to make a good first impression.”
I lived through the experience. The building had doctors, they knew what they were doing. They settled me down, they got my body under control. And, in time, they brought me back to it. Of course, they didn’t see it that way. They just saw it was a short-term coma, brought on by a seizure they couldn’t explain.
What they missed, and what I didn’t tell them, is where I’d gone while they were working on me.
Nobody would believe me, but I’d gone upstairs. To the Big House. And I’d been given a name, Emily Johnson. And I’d been told to give her a message – in a year, she would have a baby.
When I woke up, I didn’t recover slowly. I recovered immediately. The doctors wanted to keep me for observation. But I was a man on a mission. I found Emily Johnson. She was 34, she and her husband had been trying to have a baby for six years.
I rang her doorbell – it was a nice townhouse in a yuppie part of town. I gave her the message. And she broke down crying. I thought she was happy. But she was furious. She thought was a cruel joke somebody was playing on her.
I thought maybe she was right.
And so I hung around, living off the fumes of my parent’s patience. And once six months had passed, it was obvious she was pregnant.
And then I had my second fit, this time while parked in my car.
Another name. Cathy Friedman. She reacted with bitter laughter. Her husband threatened to kill me.
Then Kylie Ferguson, then Kate Yudor, then Christine Smith then… and it just kept going. My parent’s patience disappeared. I begged for money on the streets. I began to smell. And everybody I talked to. Every woman I told the good news to. Every one. Thought I was crazy.
But for some reason, I had to tell them. I knew I was doing more than relaying the news. I was making it a reality.
These women prayed and pleaded for children. They thought some fault of their own was at stake. But I knew it wasn’t so. The souls they were waiting for just needed convincing before they’d come down. When they decided they were ready, I was sent as their messenger.
For 15 years. For at least 300 women. I was the Angel of Life.
And every woman I brought the news to hated me for it.
I prayed to G-d. I asked for answers. But I got none. I had a mission. Understanding was not to be mine.
And then I knocked on the door of Scarlett Leary. She invites me in – a first. She offers me a cup of coffee. And I can see that she knows me.
As I drink the coffee, she just looks at me.
Her eyes are worn with life, but kind.
Kind, but not charitable.
“You travel?” she asks.
“To give women this news.”
“Thank you,” she says.
“You’re welcome,” I answer. Perhaps my prayers have been answered.
“Are you married?” I ask.
“No,” she answers.
“Have you been praying for a child?”
She smiles, “Yes, yes I have.”
I am confused.
“Why,” I ask, “Do you believe me?”
She smiles. It is a bittersweet smile.
“Last night,” she said, “Your name came to me in a dream.”
I’m not sure how to react.
“Tom,” she says, “You are an angel. An Angel of Life. It is a hard task.”
I don’t know how she knows, but I nod.
She continues, “I am also an Angel. An Angel of Death.”
She is looking at me, and I know what she is saying.
“When?” I ask. For some reason, I’m not upset.
“When my child is born,” she answers. Her voice is soft.
“And what do I do until then?”
She looks at me. A smile crosses her face.
“Tom,” she says, “You have a great deal to do.”
I don’t understand.
She extends her hand. I touch it. It is warm and soft.
‘Tom,” she says, “You’re the father.”
I put my coffee down. I close my eyes.
And after 15 years of struggle, I find myself at peace.