My House Call
by Charles C. Cole
One Sunday in 2018, my wife, Suze, and our kids left for church. I skip mass occasionally, especially when my “Saturday” shift ends at dawn on Sunday.
The front door slammed, and my three-year old screamed, “But Daddy doesn’t have to go! I don’t want to go! Not fair! Why can’t we have homechurch like homeschool?”
As they drove off, the shower in the en suite bathroom turned on. Peeking through my heavy eyelids, I noted the door was closed and light was bouncing off the floor tiles over the sill. Even though I’d distinctly heard the car leave, my first instinct was to call: “Honey, what are you doing? Who’s with the kids?”
Suze took hot showers and didn’t tolerate the exhaust fan’s motor, which had led to paint peeling from the ceiling. I didn’t hear the fan and I could see steam escaping.
I jumped out of bed and pushed open the door, reaching for the fan switch. That’s when the shower stopped, so I stopped. I couldn’t see across the room in the voluminous vapor. The floor and the mirror were coated with a discomforting thick film. I kicked the scale and propped the door open, crawling back into bed and awaiting Suze’s retribution for letting the cold air in.
Instead, I heard an aggressive squeaking, as if someone were attempting to clean the mirror with a latex glove. In my exhausted state, it might just as well have been ten pairs of shoes scrambling on a basketball court. Ready for a domestic confrontation, I returned to the scene. There, written on the mirror in big dripping letters: “Ready?”
“What the hell?” I mumbled. I threw back the shower curtain: nobody. I threw open the linen closet, not that there was much room: nobody. I grabbed a towel and wiped down the mirror, then collapsed on a tall stool, prepared to see my wife crawling out of the sink basin cabinet.
That’s when I noticed the “me” in the mirror was still standing. He was also a lot perkier than I felt, beaming in fact.
“How are you doing that?” I asked nobody in particular.
“Hi,” said my reflection.
“Am I that tired?”
“I’m making you up,” I said.
“That’s fair,” came the answer. “I made you.”
“Honey?” I called, looking inside the sink basin cabinet.
“You keep doing that, but there’s nobody else in the house.”
“I’m going back to bed,” I said. “Do what you want, quietly, but be gone when I wake up.”
“Nope.” The scale slid away from the door, and the door shut on its own. The fog lifted.
“I don’t have the energy for a breakdown.”
“I’ll be brief,” said my twin.
“Appreciated. Who are you?”
“While your wife and kids went to my house, I came to yours.”
“You’re God? Here? In my mirror? Crap. Am I that tired?”
“Rhetorical question,” said God.
“All this was to get my attention?”
“Another rhetorical question.”
“What do you want from me? Am I dying? Not a rhetorical question!”
“I don’t want anything from you. You needed a reminder that I’m around. I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d pop by.”
“I’m going to sit on the floor,” I said, “so I don’t have to look at you. No disrespect intended.”
“I could change forms. Maybe Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King.”
“No other magic tricks, please. One is plenty.”
“Can we talk?”
“Rhetorical question. Monkey see, monkey do. Just get to the point. Do I need to leave my wife and kids, to wander the earth as your missionary?”
“You’d like that too much, getting a break from your daily domestic challenges. Nope, you’re staying right here.”
“I’m not dying?”
“Not today. You remember when you were nineteen? You’d left college. You were living with your sister. Your old friends weren’t writing. You felt forgotten. You found a postcard in a store. It said, ‘I waited and waited, and when no message came, I know it must be from you.’ Remember?”
“Sure. Sarcastic but to the point.”
“I got a similar message from you the other day.”
“I was tired.”
“You’re always tired. You have a supportive wife, healthy kids, nice car, roomy house, a job that pays good money. But not enough God, apparently. You want me to tell Suze to let you have a puppy. Is that what this is?”
“You heard about that? No, life feels a little bit like a rut. I thought I’d be happier.”
“And that’s my fault?” asked God.
“I figured if all the material things aren’t satisfying me, then maybe I needed a spiritual enema.”
“That’s not how I usually work, but we could try something.”
“Metaphorically speaking, I thought if I could dislodge whatever’s blocking me emotionally and pump up my soul, then I’d be happy.”
“Happiness is a state of mind. If you want to be happy, then be happy.”
“What if I’m my own worst enemy?”
“Everything’s melodrama with you. ‘Get out of your head!’ Isn’t that what Suze says?”
“At least once a week,” I admitted, though He probably knew. “How do I learn to appreciate everything I have?”
“You don’t like yourself very much, is that it?”
“Mom always said, ‘Self-praise stinks.’ Maybe I shouldn’t have listened to her.”
“You love me, though, right?” asked God.
“I have nothing to be angry about so, yes. You’re okay in my book.”
“Then every time you look in the mirror, I want you to see God, not you, and I want you to smile back at me, appreciatively. Give it a couple weeks before you start feeling results, but I think it’ll work.”
“You don’t know?”
“I gave you free will. I can’t count the number of times I’ve rued that decision.”
When I finally got up, I looked in the mirror again. For the first time in a long while, I saw something more than myself. How does that feel? God knows, and now I do, too.
Copyright © 2021 by Charles C. Cole