Joe and Brandon were good friends who had worked together for over a year. They had gotten to know one another while sharing lunch in the office break room. Even though they discussed personal issues like relationships, family, and politics, the subject of religion had never come up. So, during one of their usual lunch breaks, Joe thought he would get his friend’s thoughts on God.
“Do you believe in God?” he asked.
Brandon gave a casual reply as he chewed his food. “Yeah, I guess. I mean, I believe something created the universe. I don’t know. Good question.”
“Do you ever go to church?”
Brandon took a break from eating his sandwich to answer. “I went with my parents when I was a kid, but I quit going after I got out of high school. I haven’t been back.”
Joe pressed. “Do you ever think about giving it another shot?”
“Nope,” Brandon said, “Churches are full of hypocrites. I remember the time when one of the deacons in our church was messing around on his wife. And most people in church think they’re better than everybody else. I don’t want to be around people like that.”
Joe paused for a moment to think about what Brandon had said. Yeah, he’s got a point. I don’t want to get involved with people like that, either.
“Yeah, man, I’ll be there,” Tim said. His stomach tightened. “Yeah, I promise. I said I’d be there and I will be.”
Tim had just promised to meet Derek at one of their old hangouts. Tim hadn’t been going out to the bars for a while now, but Derek had been begging him to get together. The two friends had always enjoyed a couple of laughs and a few drinks.
And sometimes, a lot of drinks.
A blaring car horn jolted Jay back to reality. He blinked to refocus on the road ahead, and straightened the wheel. He wasn’t sure how long he had been in a daze, but it was long enough to drift over into the next lane. He was usually more alert during the drive home, but not today.
Today, his mind was on life and not on driving.
As a young boy, financial success had been Jay’s dream. He believed money would solve most of life’s problems, especially the ones he endured growing up. His parents struggled to keep food on the table, and there were some cold nights occasionally if the power bill was late. Jay swore that when he got out on his own, he’d never be broke again.
Now, he appeared to be doing well. After several years of working in the dry-cleaning industry as a delivery man, he started his own chain. The first two stores did so well he opened three more within a few years and had plans to expand into neighboring towns. Jay had built the empire he dreamed of - all before his fiftieth birthday.
But deep pockets couldn’t fix everything. Many nights, Jay lost sleep thinking about the mistakes he had made. Two divorces fueled his doubts about marriage, so he spent a lot of time alone. He was estranged from one of his kids and only spoke to the other one on special occasions.
The stress had been hard on his health, too. Over the last year, he had been diagnosed with diabetes and put on blood pressure medicine. He had tried dieting at the first of the year, but lost steam after a few weeks. Every day, it seemed he had less muscle and more flab, and wrinkles lined his face. The few drinks he had every night to calm his nerves didn’t help much.
Turning his attention back to the road, Jay looked in the rear-view mirror before changing lanes. That’s when he caught a glimpse of the weariness in eyes. “Is this as good as it gets?”, he asked himself.
The drive home was getting longer.