Where does pain come from?

On New Year’s Day 2009 Chris and I braved the icy paths and took a walk towards the end of the day in the park across the street from our building. We plunked ourselves down on a bench. The sun was beginning to sink in the western sky. The temperature got colder. The tensions of the past few days left hardly anything to say to one another.

“What do you see when you look around you”, Chris asked suddenly.

“Reality, Chris, I see reality”, I said, exasperated.

“I see the Atlantic Ocean”, he said, gazing at the setting sun.

“Come on, Chris, the Atlantic Ocean? ”

“Okay, I see the river, then”, he said, shifting his gaze to the south.
The river is not visible from where we were sitting. Was he putting me on? I don’t know. I didn’t try to extract a pedantic, stupid factual answer from him.

We talked about Chris’s childhood, small recollections of our life in our previous city. I decided to go further back. “Chris, do you remember much about your time in utero? You must have liked it because you spent ten months there.”

“Oh yes”, he declared, suddenly animated with the glazed look of psychosis.

“Really? Tell me what you remember.”

“Well, apart from being completely aware that I was in the cell (as he called it) and hearing the guitar that Dad played, it was kind of gooey and red, but it was nice because I felt really close to God during that time. I haven’t felt that close since.”

“So why did you decide to venture forth at all, after ten months?”

“I felt I had to see if there was more to this.”

“And what did you find?”

“I see God and feel his presence, but not as completely. He’s there in that tree and in the air. Knowing he’s there covers the pain.”

I missed a golden opportunity to ask him where his pain lay. That would have to wait for another day. It was getting cold.

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