Clara stared out the window of the fast moving train. There was nothing but darkness to see minus the occasional flicker of light slightly illuminating the tunnel. The ride on the train was long and the slightest whiff of something rank she couldn’t quite identify was bothersome. Sitting next to her was an older gentlemen with a newspaper open wide blocking her view of, well, of everything else. She was wrapped up in emotion, feeling sorry for herself, and who would blame her, were her exact thoughts when her cell phone rang. She fumbled to find it in her purse. “Why do you always dive for the bottom?” It took some frantic digging, but she finally grasped the slippery device and pulled it between her thumb and index finger from the bag. Caller ID revealed it was Laura. Laura, the former coworker who still had a job. Clara debated about sending it to voicemail but decided at the last minute to answer. “Hey, Clara, this is Laura.” She sounded way too, too, Clara couldn’t put her finger on it, but whatever the mood Laura was bringing, Clara didn’t like it. She rolled her eyes. “Oh, hi,” Her voice sounded mousy so she cleared her throat. Laura continued, “I wanted to say goodbye, but you were gone before I realized.” Clara remained quiet, no reason to reveal she’d purposely avoided Laura. Laura, with her endless optimism and hopeful outlook. The one always willing to offer a Bible verse. Clara often thought she had the entire text memorized. Nope. No thanks. Clara was tired of acting like everything was going to be okay when nothing felt okay. “Sorry, Laura, it was a tough day and I needed to get away.” “Oh! It’s okay, no apology necessary! I was wondering if I could take you out to dinner sometime, maybe tonight?” Clara’s blood turned cold. Dinner? With optimistic Laura? Ugh. She just didn’t know if she had the energy. Pretending was a façade she couldn’t keep up any longer. “I can’t tonight,” Clara responded and waited for the awkward silence, “How about tomorrow night then?” Laura was not to be put off. Clara thought for a minute, this girl was not going away. “Uh, okay. I guess tonight could work. Just text me where and when.” Clara hung up before another word could be said. Scheming a way out of the dinner date kept her mind busy the rest of the way home.
Laura hung up and sighed. She wanted so badly to help Clara. But, she had nothing to offer; no wise words, no tip on a great job offer, nothing. “Lord, I have no idea why I feel compelled to help, I have NOTHING to offer.” She could feel the deep impression of the Holy Spirit in her soul, When you are weak, I am strong. So true, hadn’t He been strong through the years? Hadn’t He stood by her when life felt too hard and she wanted to throw in the towel? Hadn’t He proven Himself faithful a thousand times? She knew the answer to all of these questions. But, this felt different. It wasn’t Laura’s own pain, it was someone else’s. How do you help when you don’t know what to do? She and Clara had laughed many times over chocolate shakes while comparing notes on reality shows. The thought of those times made Laura smile. Clara was a friend in a place where friendship wasn’t easy. It was a dog eat dog world, her father liked to say. And now, her ally was deeply hurt and Laura could say nothing that would make any difference.
Nothing to make it go away.
Nothing to make her feel any better.
Nothing to offer.
Clara arrived home and felt the emptiness of the small apartment. She laid her purse on the counter and took off her sweater. Ringo came over and stood at her feet waiting for his beloved Clara to pick him up and scratch behind his ears. She did neither. She felt numb. What was there now? There was no significant other, although she’d prayed fervently God would send him. There was no ministry she was passionate about, even though she attended church every Sunday. And, as of today, there was no job, no way to express her love of art and beauty. And, it felt like no one cared.
She felt as empty as her apartment.
She walked over and plopped on the couch and laid as still as a mouse for who knows how long before her phone jingled. It was a text from Laura suggesting a restaurant a couple of train stops away, she wanted to meet at seven. Clara debated before she answered, she could easily bow out. Again, who would blame her? And then she thought about the money, should she spend it eating out? Laura had said “take you out,” Clara hoped she meant to pay the bill as well. She could always eat cheap, she was very good at cheap as a matter of fact. Quickly she typed a message agreeing to the plan and got up from the couch. Ringo was not happy about her sudden decision to move, he was snuggled comfortably beside her. Clara took the time to feed him before she grabbed her sweater and purse and headed for the door.
Food and drink sounded good to her. The thought occurred, as she found a seat on the train, she hadn’t eaten a bite all day.
The conversation with Laura was spotty at best. Neither seemed to know what to say. Laura felt uncomfortable talking about work and Clara didn’t want to know anyway. As soon as she felt it wasn’t too rude to excuse herself, she did. All the way home Clara sulked and replayed how unjust and ridiculous the whole situation was. But not before Laura handed her a notecard with a Bible verse written on the front. She took the card, stuck it in her pocket, smiled sheepishly and waked away. Wasn’t she just as good as Laura, as good as any other person in her department? Why was she asked to leave? She was angry. Understandably angry.
Washing off her makeup and the dried tears from her cheeks, she rehearsed all of the reasons her life was a waste. The face looking back at her in the mirror felt like a stranger with hollow eyes and a dismal expression. She honestly didn’t know who she was anymore. She said her obligatory prayers as she laid down not believing a word of what she’d just spoken.
Where are you, Lord? was her last thought before she drifted into fitful sleep.
“You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.” Psalm 91:5-6