Craig was a man with a big heart at one time. He volunteered at the local Food Bank, he donated bone marrow to his wife when her life was in jeopardy, and even gave the jacket off his back to a complete stranger once. His life was filled with love and happiness, friends and family.
Now Craig stood in front of the bathroom mirror wearing nothing but stained underwear, staring into oblivion. Suffering and misery now codified Craig’s face like a worn out tapestry. No longer able to distinguish the smell of tobacco from fresh air, he reached for the burning Marlboro from the tainted counter and inhaled deeply. Exhaling onto the reflective glass, it temporarily hid the ugly truth from his sunken eyes. Depression is now Craig’s best friend.
As the smoke dissipates, it carries Craig’s brief illusion of normalcy with it.
“Please…I’m begging…give me the strength to end it this time…please,” he pleads as his sight is drawn to a stranger’s reflection.
The syringe just dangles from a sunken vein, like a twig weaving to Stairway to Heaven as it plays in the background. Craig’s last shoestring is tied in a knot around his purplish-pink abused left bicep. Scabs dot up and down his arm like tacks marking lost dreams along a forgotten highway.
Looking down at the burnt spoon resting on a torn photograph from a past life, his tears begin to well up again as he convinces himself it was only a dream.
“Oh god, why…did you take her?”
Craig’s vision becomes a blur, the ringing in his ears increases in tempo and decibels, knees buckling; he hits the floor, and is able to escape once more.
A year earlier, Craig’s life was considered blessed. Being a successful stock broker allowed him to afford the finest trinkets for his wife Anne, and himself. He never saw it coming, and he couldn’t understand, or adapt when it did. When the market crashed, Craig lost everything.
With the loss of his job, Craig burned through what little savings he had left until the eventual foreclosure of his home. His wife died in an automobile accident shortly after, leaving behind a hollow caricature of the man Craig used to be.
Confidence destroyed, his hopes and dreams bled dry from his heart. Craig would no longer hold the hands of faith and willpower, only the vacuum of nothingness would reside in Craig from that point on.
Now he lies alone, on a bathroom floor covered with dried blood and mucus, in room number 223 of a Motel 6. Burned out eye balls rolled back and twitching, string saliva reaches for the tile from the corner of his blistered lips; shades of black replace the colors his life once held.
Awakening to the buzz of the room’s alarm clock, Craig just turns his head in anguish as the ugliness of his crippled life returns, staring blankly at empty beer bottles.
“Why does that always do that at two in the morning…every fuckin morning?”
What Craig is unable to rationalize, is he doesn’t change the alarm because he forgets about it after turning it off.
Bang, bang, bang!
“I ain’t got…no…money.”
Bang, bang, bang!
“I said, I…”
“Craig, let me in…your friend Matt sent me.”
Wha…Matt? Who the…oh. Craig thought before replying.
“Ya mean the nigh manaer, Matt?”
“Yes, Craig, the night manager, Matt…he sent me to help you.”
“Jus a minite, k?”
As Craig laboriously rose to his feet, he glimpsed the dull needle still attached to his arm, and didn’t care. Opening the door, a tall man with long hair stood with a warm smile. Craig thought he was a hippie.
“Hi Craig, I have been hoping to meet you.”
“K, wha you want?”
“Can I first bother you for a cigarette?”
“You wanna smoke? Lemme see…I got one left.”
“That is alright, you keep it Craig.”
“Naw, you can have it, I don need it anymore.”
Craig held out his hand, offering the cigarette to Manuel. Taking the Marlboro, Manuel immediately lit it.
Inhaling deeply, Manuel commented with a smile as he exhailed, “Cigarettes really are a slice of heaven and hell rolled into one, don’t you think?”
“Wha the hell you talkin bout?”
“Tobacco…can feel heavenly to the addicted…though often leading to cancer and suffering, literally a living hell.”
“Ohh, whateva you say Manie. So’s wha is it you want?”
“Matt asked me to help you.”
“I don need no help!”
“Then why do you have a syringe dangling from your arm?”
Embarrassed, Craig turned and ripped it from his arm, throwing it into a corner of the room next to a pile of dirty clothes.
“Do you have any food, Craig? It has been a while since I have eaten.”
“Only have half a burger an some coffee, but it’s old…it’s yours if you wan it.”
“Thank you, Craig. Matt was right, you truly have a heart of gold.”
Hearing kind words spoken on his behalf sent tears rolling down Craig’s flushed cheeks. Stumbling, shaking, he sat down on the bed and sobbed uncontrollably into his hands. Kneeling beside, Manuel asked Craig to tell his story.
As Craig ended his gloomy tale, he exclaimed that his only wish now was to have the courage to take his own life.
“I want to help you, Craig…will you let me?”
“How you think you can help me? There’s notin you can do for me now. It’s too fuckin late for me!”
“I think I can help, Matt asked me to, and I want to…but you have to ask for my help. Do you think you can ask me for help? What do you have to loose? All you have to say is, Manuel, please help me.”
“Time out! I need ta think.”
Craig sat in silence for a couple minutes, analyzing each word in his head like the instant replay of a football game, trying to find a reason not to trust Manuel.
“Manuel, will you please help me…I want to live, but I don know how nemore.”
Manuel smiled; a watery reflection of Craig glimmered from his eyes. Placing his hand over Craig’s heart, he felt the despair and anguish emanating from a dying spirit.
Brushing Manuel’s arm away, Craig asked with a surprised look, “wooaa…you ain’t no weirdo are ya?”
“No, Craig…my only desire is to help you heal. Everything will be fine, trust in me.”
“Alright, just don get any funny ideas.”
“As I place my hand…all you have to do is just wish really hard…for what it is your heart desires.”
The two men stood facing each other; Manuel’s hand embraced a weak heart as Craig wished really hard for his miracle. Craig slipped into unconsciousness and his heart stopped for one beat as a bright flash and what felt like a bolt of lightning flowing through his heart ensued.
Regaining consciousness 24 hours later, Craig was transformed, and he knew it. Misery and sorrow fled; despair and hopelessness surrendered control of his thoughts. Color returned to Craig’s heart, and he admired the world for the precious gift of life again. Gratitude filled his cup once more.
Walking into the bathroom, Craig noticed a lottery ticket resting next to the spoon that once starved his soul.
Grabbing the ticket, Craig ran to the front office.
“Hey Matt, thank you for sending Manuel over, I don’t know what he did, but I think he saved my life!”
“Craig! Boy am I glad to see you! Now, what were you saying?”
“I just wanted to thank you for having Manuel help me out.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about…are you high again?”
“No, really…come on Matt…Manuel? He said you asked him to help me.”
“Okay, Craig…when was this exactly?”
“Yesterday, a little after two in the morning…about 24 hours ago.”
“Sorry, bud…I have no idea what you’re talking about. The only person I asked to help you was my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
As Matt finished his statement, Craig was comparing the numbers on his lottery ticket to the days winning numbers.
“I won! I won! Look…you gotta look at this! My wish! My wish! Look!”
Hopping up and down, yelling thanks towards the sky, he handed the ticket to Matt. His excitement bursting forth like a young boy after receiving his first kiss.
“Hey, Craig…look what’s written on the back.”
Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
And he will be called Immanuel
Thank you for allowing
me to become your friend