The cold air stung my face as I sat there looking at her. Her beautiful, long brown hair fell down the back of her neck, ending just below her shoulders. She reached over the little table we were occupying in the outdoor coffee shop in New York City and grabbed my hand, her touch as icy as what I felt inside.
"Andy…Anderson…talk to me? Please?" I slipped my hand out of her grasp and pulled some money out of my pocket. I laid the bills on the table in front of her.
"Here's for the coffee, Gina. Thanks for asking me to come." I said, smiling at her, masking what I really felt underneath.
"Anderson, don't do this…" Gina pleaded, "I'm sorry, but please don't block me out…" My smile faltered for a fraction of a second, but it was enough for her to notice. "I know that it's a lot to take in…" she began, but I quickly interrupted, dropping the "happy act".
"You don't know anything about how I feel!" I shouted. I could see the tears forming in her eyes as I got up, pushing my chair back under the table. Pushing that chair back in reminded me of being a "southern gentleman", and just how far from home I actually was. I turned around and briskly walked away, leaving Gina and the coffee shop behind.
"Andy!" She yelled, but it was to no avail. I turned the corner and ducked into a side alley, wanting to lose her for good. Gina ran by, not giving the alley a second glance, but still hollering after me. I left the alley and headed in the opposite direction, back past the coffee shop. My eyes began to water from what I thought was the cold, but the more I thought about Gina, the more the tears came. All she wanted to do was comfort me, and I drove her away.
I shook my head. It wasn't going to help me at all to think about Gina. I trudged down the busy sidewalk, doing my best to avoid bumping into other people with problems, just like me. I bumped into a pretty girl who was walking quickly and almost caused her fall out into the street. "Excuse me, ma'am," I said with a smile, "sorry about that."
She glanced at me briefly and muttered what sounded like a very nasty insult in my direction. I stood there, shocked, while the girl quickly disappeared into the fast moving flow of pedestrian traffic. I turned around and continued moving at my original pace. This city was nothing like living in South Carolina. Nobody cared about another human more than they cared about a bum in a side alley. It just wasn't common to be social here.
I walked until my feet hurt so much that I had to sit down. I went into a small, dingy pub and slammed the door to keep the cold outside. The bartender gave me a tired look as I walked up to the bar and ordered a beer. He must've noticed my sour mood because when he returned he brought a beer for me and a beer for himself. "What's ailing you, son?" the kindly old man asked as he popped the cap off of both bottles.
I glanced at my watch. It was 12:34 a.m. "I've had a rough day, and it's not getting any better…" I said, staring at the bar to avoid his gaze.
The bar keeper sighed. "Yeah, most people come in with problems, and some people leave with their problems," he paused to take a swig from his bottle and then continued, "but if there's one thing I learned from this job is that you can't hold on to your problems, it'll destroy you." Despite his grimy appearance, the old man had a point. Several years of my life had been wasted on some depressing and pointless argument I once had with my father, but I had forgiven him and now we talked to each other all the time.
"You're right," I said, nodding, "it's just…well, my mom just died, and she was really a big part of my life…" I said, doing my best to hold back the tears I could already feel forming in my eyes.
The old man nodded and put a hand on my shoulder. "I lost my mom at a young age too, son. I was 19 when she passed away from leukemia. I moped around for days and almost messed up my life, too. I quit school and moved up here, away from my family, so that I could grieve in peace. Only trouble was I still had to support myself. I got a job at this bar and I've been working here for nearly forty years." I looked up into the old man's eyes and saw that he truly understood what I was going through. "My momma was my life. I loved that old woman," he said, chuckling at some old memory, "but I know now that she wouldn't want me to grieve her anymore. Instead, I'm rejoicing every minute I get because I know that one day I will join her in Heaven."
The flood of emotions that had been building inside of me broke free and the tears started flowing. The old bartender squeezed my shoulder and when I looked up at him through all the tears, his head was bowed and his mouth was moving in a silent prayer.
I immediately felt a pressure on my heart, similar to the one I felt those many years ago at youth camp when I felt led to give my life to Christ. I took out my wallet and opened it up to find three 100 dollar bills inside. I took them out and laid them on the counter in front of the bartender.
"This is going to sound crazy," I started, but the bartender interrupted me.
"But God told you do to this. I know," he said, smiling. He took the three hundreds and put them in his pocket. "There's a lady down the street with three kids who just got fired from her job. She's getting food from the government, but if she can't get the money for their rent, they will be evicted from the apartment they are staying at and will be stranded on the streets. I've been praying that God would help them, and He did. This is enough to fund three months of their rent!"
I sat back down on the barstool and ran my hand through my hair, amazed at what had just happened. God is amazing.
I thanked the bartender for the beer and paid for it, and he thanked me once again for helping the young family so close to losing their home. I left the pub with that grimy old man singing praises to God, and silently praised the Lord as well. As I was walking down the street, I suddenly realized that I didn't know the man's name or the name of the pub. I ran back to the door of the pub and found the lights off and a CLOSED sign hanging on the door. My shoulders slumped, but as I saw the name of the pub above the door, I felt that warm sensation of the Holy Spirit filling me again and smiled.
A Little Piece of Heaven.