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A few minutes later, I was about to split, but Bryce told me to hang on. "I want to tell you something," he said. "I know you go through stuff, and so do I. I know you struggle with stuff, and I go through a lot of the same stuff, and I know that you want to do a lot of stuff, and so do I and I just...I've just always wanted to tell you something."
"Yeah?" I said. "Sure. What?"
"I hope you won't think this is weird," he said.
"No, go ahead," I said. "What?"
"Listen, this is important," he said. He took a breath. He was drunk, but sure of himself and his message. "It doesn't matter what you do, or how well you do it. It doesn't matter what you've done. How good or bad you've been. You know why?"
I had no idea.
"Because God loves you," he said.
The band and bar chatter swirled. Conrad had just pinched my ass. Mean Larry was standing a few feet away from us, with some stripper types who were giving out free shots of rum and glow-in-the-dark buttons. My priest, a salty-tongued flake who pulls pastor duty at HCMC and has more street cred than anyone reading this, was nowhere to be seen. On my bookshelf at home were books about Zen Buddhism and self-as-God, and titles such as What Really Matters, Man's Search for Meaning, Sensual Orthodoxy, The Outsider, and Music of Silence. On my CD racks were songs by and about skeptics, saints, and sinners of all stripes.
"What do you mean?" I said, and Bryce told me, matter-of-factly, without a shred of judging or preaching, like he was turning me on to his favorite CD.
"Look, life's a bitch. But no matter what, God loves you, so no matter how hard you are on yourself, no matter what anyone says, you're..."
"...Golden," I finished.
"Golden," he said, nodding.
I thanked him, walked out of the bar, and I haven't seen him since. But whenever I've had a heartache that feels too big to handle alone, or a case of cabin fever that torpedoes my spirit, or whenever I get sick of the sound of my own self, I've tried to remember not only what he said, but how he said it, where we were standing when he said it, and how it made me feel like Bill Murray in Caddyshack when he received "total consciousness" from the Dalai Lama.
So I got that going for me. Which is good.
Jim Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612.372.3775.