Chicken and Waffles, Chapter 1

Anthony Albot Armensen had worked at Marcus Overson Accounting for eight years and had hated all 16,640 hours of it. He had never taken a vacation day, never called in sick, never came in late; he was a hard worker who had never enjoyed a day in his life. Until August 20, that is.

It was Anthony’s 34th birthday and he started the day the way he normally would, with some burnt toast and black coffee, before he wrapped up breakfast and headed to work in his Toyota Corolla. At lunch, he received a call from his girlfriend, who promptly broke up with him because “she wasn’t ready to be in a committed relationship” but let’s be honest… there was another guy. Anthony took the news hard but kept it inside as he did all news and got back to work. It wasn’t long before he received another call, this one from his mother.

“Anthony, your father is dead,” said the voice on the other end.

This news penetrated Anthony’s heart even more than the first news, but he kept working. He wasn’t particularly close with his father.

At 2:43 pm he received another call. Surely nothing could make his day worse! But of course he was wrong because his childhood friend had passed into a coma and the doctors said it didn’t look good. Oh, and if he could please look after his cat, that would be fantastic! 

For the first time in eight years, Anthony snapped. He walked into his boss’s office, declared his resignation, gathered his things and left the office. He didn’t go home, however. He drove to a car sales place where they sell old cars for cheap, bought the biggest bus he could find, which used to be an elementary school bus, and drove it back to his apartment. He emptied everything of importance from his apartment into the bus, turned off all the lights in his apartment, locked the door, and drove to the bank, where he proceeded to take out his life savings in cash. Then he started driving. Where, he didn’t know nor did he care. He was making adventure for the first time in his life. It was the only way he felt he could cope considering the recent events. He never stopped to think of the consequences of his actions or where this drastic lifestyle change might lead him. It was a complete impulse decision to leave, and he was happy… which is ironic because he was clearly not happy. But he thought he was happy.

His first day of travel went rather unobtrusively and for the first time in his miserable life, Anthony felt alive. He wasn’t sitting at his desk in his oddly-lit work building next to an elderly woman who ate canned tuna every day and had putrid B.O. He was, rather, driving an unusually large yellow bus down the highway somewhere in Ohio, the windows cracked and the music as loud as the not-so-great sound system could handle. 

“I’ll live on my own for a while. Sleep in my bus, shower at gyms, go to a national park or two… This is the life!”

The sun set on that monumental August day and Anthony stopped at a diner for some breakfast for dinner. It was one of those days, he decided, where one eats breakfast for dinner. The practice had always struck him as odd and honestly, a little annoying, but today was unlike other days. He was being adventurous. He ordered chicken and waffles.

“Isn’t this a southern thing?” He asked the waitress.

“Yes. If you want good chicken and waffles, go to Texas,” she replied.

“I guess that’s where I’ll go, then,” said Anthony.

“Is that your bus out there?” asked the waitress.

“Yes it is. Got it today! Only six thousand dollars! It’s going to be my—“ he stopped as he saw the worried look on the waitress’s face as she glanced out the window at his new purchase.

Anthony followed her gaze to see a couple of highschool dropouts with spray paint vandalizing his new bus. Anthony sprung into action.

“I’ll take the chicken and waffles to go, please!”

He leapt up and sprinted outside, yelling at the kids to leave his new baby alone! The kids heard him and bolted, but not before they added a finishing touch on their masterpiece. By the time Anthony got to the bus, the kids were gone and all that was left were the words “DEPORT THE MEXICANS” in big black ink. Fortunately, they hadn’t slashed the tires so his bus was still highly functional.

Anthony ate his chicken and waffles messily as he drove the evening away. Around 9 o’clock he began to get drowsy so he pulled over at a truck stop for the night. He found the comfiest few seats in his bus and laid across them to sleep. It wasn’t very comfortable. He’d have to do something about sleeping arrangements tomorrow, he thought as he dozed off.

—————

RAP RAP RAP.

Anthony bolted up so fast he hit his head on the roof of the bus. 

“Frickin frick monster freakin OUCH,” he yelled. A moment passed as he sat down in sleepy terror, wondering why, who, or what was the noise that awoke him from his slumber. 

RAP RAP RAP. It was coming from the front of the bus. Somebody must want something.

“Coming, coming!” Anthony reminded himself of Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit in that moment, running to the front door to greet a very tall bearded man with a staff. But when Anthony opened the bus door, it wasn’t Gandalf that greeted him, but a short, bald man wearing all brown. He didn’t look very happy. 

“Hi, can I help you?” Anthony said.

“No, I just pounded on your bus six times to wake you up and make you angry,” the man said sarcastically. 

Anthony couldn’t tell if the man was being sarcastic or if he was serious, so they just stared at each other for a long time. A minute passed, then another. Anthony fidgeted a little bit. The man in brown stared straight through Anthony. This was undoubtedly the most uncomfortable he had ever been.

“Okay, what do you want?” Anthony finally said.

“Where are you going with your big yellow, racist bus?” The man asked. The way he spoke was very strange. His head remained very still and only his mouth moved. His eyes stared unblinking and he left his hands dangling at his sides. Expression was not his thing. 

“I don’t know. Why do you care?” Anthony responded. He was sleepy and every new moment of speaking to this ugly man was making him angry.

“My truck died yesterday,” the man said, turning very slightly to look at his truck, which was was parked several yards ahead of Anthony’s bus. “I need a ride to Texas.”

Texas?! Could this be destiny? First the chicken and waffles thing, and now this?! Anthony took this as a sign from heaven and decided with confident resolve to go to Texas. He would be doing himself a disservice if he didn’t go to Texas! 

Anthony shrugged in reply to the short man in brown. “Okay. I’ll drive you to Texas.”

The man didn’t smile, he just nodded. He didn’t say thank you, he just stepped inside the bus and walked all the way to the back of the bus and sat down. Anthony watched him curiously, wondering what in the heck he had just gotten himself into. But he reminded himself that he was living for the first time, and life comes with some weird surprises sometimes! This was his first test. Should he pass the test, he could come away with a new friend. If he failed, at least he’d learn a lesson; better than living a boring life at a boring company with boring co-workers and boring everything!

“I’m just going to take a quick shower, I’ll be back in a few minutes… mind looking after the bus for me?”

“Yes,” the man said.

“You sure there’s nothing you can do to fix your truck?”

“Yes.”

After a short, awkward pause, Anthony stepped off the bus and headed to the showers, making sure he had his keys just in case the brown lunatic in the back of his bus tried some funny business. 

After a five minute shower, he was back to his bus and ready to start driving. He decided he loved driving more than anything in the world. He buckled his seatbelt, cranked up the A/C, and put the bus in drive.

“What’s your name?” Anthony shouted behind his right shoulder at the creepy man who had made a home in the back of his bus.

“Anthony,” the man in the back called back.

“No way! That’s my name too!” Anthony shouted. 

Anthony didn’t respond.

“Hey, come up here and talk to me!” Anthony yelled.

Anthony made his way to the front of the bus and sat down in the closest seat to the driver’s seat.

“You don’t talk much, do you?” Anthony asked.

“No,” Anthony responded.

A few minutes passed, both men thinking about nothing, as men do.

“Let’s clear this up. I’ll call you Antwon for short, and I’ll be Anthony. That way if we meet anyone else on the way to Texas, it won’t be confusing. It’s going to be a long journey to Texas, man.”

“Okay,” Antwon said.

Another long silence ensued before Antwon breached the quiet.

“Can I trust you, Anthony?”

Anthony looked back at Antwon. For the first time in their short relationship, Antwon was showing signs of expression. His eyebrows were furrowed slightly, his lip was pouting in the slightest way, and his eyes were downcast. The man has feelings after all! This was Anthony’s chance to make a breakthrough with this hardhearted man. The image of a dragon shedding its scales to reveal soft, beautiful skin entered Anthony’s mind for a split second before he lunged out of his daydream to respond to the question.

“You can trust me.”

Antwon proceeded to tell his life story, through several bouts of torrential sobs. The next four hours were consumed with his heartbreaking story. Had a more heartbreaking story ever been told? I would suggest no. But you can be the judge of that. If this isn’t the most heartbreaking story you’ve ever heard, you have permission to email me and tell me your more heartbreaking story. Okay, enough with the stall, let’s get to the heartbreak.

HUMAN

I’m so human

I’m so broken 

God please show me

Where to go from here

 

Why is His love not enough?

What more is there to gain?

I keep wasting time on substitutes

And it only ends in pain. 

 

I’ve had enough of this world

I’ve seen enough to know

That it only leaves you broken

And wanting so much more

 

And that’s what He came into

He met us where we are

Just to prove that He

Can handle all our scars

 

He took the weight of sin

Which God knows I can’t bear

And killed it on the tree

My shame was His to wear

 

Yet somehow still

I grip this world tight

I refuse to let go

And accept what I know is right

 

I’m stuck here in my failures

But I know they’re not true

I’m only human

But my future lies with you

You Can Trust God

I’ve learned a lot of lessons in my life, some of them important, some of them not so important. I’ve learned how to do laundry and how to make my bed. I’ve learned how to talk to people and how to make friends. I’ve learned how to keep a job and how to talk to co-workers. I could go on like this for hours and the truth is, so could you. We’re always learning things, that’s our nature. But when it comes to God…

It’s not so easy to identify the lessons he’s teaching us, is it? If you’re like me, you fear going to church and having to talk to those older fellas that always want to talk to you in the lobby after the service. They always ask hard questions like “what has God been teaching you lately?”

That always gets me. I always want to have an answer to that question, because if you’re walking with the Lord, you should be learning, right? But that’s not always the case for me. Sometimes I just don’t know. I usually BS some answer to get them to leave me alone. Hah! it sounds strange to admit here and now, but I guess that’s the truth. Sorry older fellas!

The point of this entry, though, is to share with anyone who will read, what God is teaching me. Every day. 

All those life-lessons as we call them are important. Pay bills, take care of your car, work out, eat healthy, go to class… They’re all great, see? But one lesson trumps them all, and spoiler alert: it’s the title of this post. Here it is.

You can trust God.

That’s it. It’s a simple sentence, but not a simple concept. In order to believe that sentence is true, you first have to 1) believe in God, 2) believe that you can have a relationship with God, and 3) trust that God has your back.

I don’t know about you, but all three of those statements are very difficult for me. They all require faith, something that seems counterintuitive. Why should I believe in something I can’t see? How can I be sure it exists? What if I’m wrong?

These are questions that I don’t really want to dive into right now, but they are VERY important questions that everyone should wrestle with. 

What I’ve learned though, is that all three parts to that one simple sentence are true. God is real, I can have a relationship with God, and God does have my back. Therefore, I can trust God. And I’m choosing to.

Now, there’s one more thing. Although I can trust God, that doesn’t mean I always do. In fact, I’d say most days I trust myself more than I trust God. That’s what makes this lesson so important to learn… because I’m always learning it. Over and over, again and again. You see, unlike all those other life-lessons such as how to mow the lawn or how to write an essay, this lesson is always being learned. I never look back and say to myself: “oh yeah, I remember when I learned to trust God. Good times…”

NAH! Instead, it’s an every day ordeal. I wake up and force myself to say, “I trust you today, God. I trust you with my problems, I trust you with my relationships, and I trust you with my future.”

That’s not easy for me, but I’m learning more and more the importance of learning that lesson. The cool thing is, the more I choose to trust God, the more He proves himself trustworthy, and the more evidence I have that he is trustworthy. So then, based on past experiences, I choose to trust him more. 

Who do you trust more: the homeless guy that lives under the bridge by your house, or your best friend? Answer: your best friend. Why? Because you’ve built that trust over years of quality time and honesty. That’s what makes trust such a special thing: time.

Mercy

Some people live inside their head.

I cannot. 

I can’t because there’s anger and doubt and insecurity too. 

Maybe I’m scared of the person I’d find if I spent some time with him. Or maybe I already know who he is and want nothing to do with him. 

Maybe when it comes down to it, I despise the person that lives inside my head. 

He’s vile and slanderous; he’s an unfair judge; he’s hateful and wicked; he’s arrogant and deceitful; he’s consumed with lust; he’s a liar, a true scoundrel; there is nothing good about the man inside my head. 

And so maybe that’s why I live for experiences, to forget for a time the one above my brows. I don’t want to reason with my own inner self, so I hide in extraversion and friendly banter. I live for the distraction of human interaction. Others help me play off my own sin nature. “See, they’re no better than I.” 

Ah, there’s the heart of it! I hide behind my “personality” like a politician behind his smile. 

There. I admit it. This is who I am. 

This is the human condition, the cards we’ve all been dealt. We do what we can to mask the truth, but the truth remains. 

But this narrative would be incomplete if I didn’t mention the life of Jesus Christ because he was fully human and yet he lived a perfect life void of sin. He took the wrongdoing of everybody else and was murdered in our place. 

This is Dictionary.com’s definition of mercy: “compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power.”

So here is the truth of the matter: I have offended God by my sin; I deserve death. But instead of striking me down where I stand, he had mercy on me. He sent Jesus his son to live a perfect life as a human and to be murdered in my place, taking my past, present, and future sin, and removing it as far as the east is from the west.

He did it because he loves me and wants to have an intimate relationship with me.

This is the ultimate picture of mercy and I would be a fool to reject it. But that is what so many do. It deeply saddens me when I think of all those who never experience the joy of falling into the arms of the one who created them in the first place. 

BIRDS PT. 3

If I were a bird

I’d have vertigo

And fall to the ground

 

I wasn’t made for the sky 

I don’t have the wings

That I need to fly

 

It’s easy to say 

‘I wish I were them,

I want what they have’

 

But It’s better to say

‘I’m not a bird,

I’ll make the most of what I do have’

 

So here’s the conclusion of it all:

Let’s stop wishing

And start living

With what we’re given

BIRDS PT. 2

Ah the rush

To feel the cool

The colors vibrant

It’s so surreal

 

Close your eyes

And take it in

To not enjoy it

Is a sin

 

I don’t understand

The folks who say

They’re content where they are

They’re happy, they’ll stay

 

No need to explore

The world around you,

You have all you need

Right here about you?

 

What about perspective?

How can you have it

When all you do

Is stay protected?

 

Get on out there!

See the sights!

Be a bird 

And enjoy the flight

A Hard Conversation

“Why is it so hard to get that perfect ratio of noodles to sauce?” Darren picked at his bowl of under-sauced spaghetti.

“Darren! I’m trying to have a real conversation with you!”

Kara’s frustration oozed into her words like poison. It got Darren’s attention.

“I don’t feel like talking about it, that’s all!”

“You need to talk about it!” Kara’s concern lined her face and her words alike.

Darren sighed and slumped in his chair at the table, leaving his spaghetti to fend for itself.

An Unexpected Friend

A wave of emotion crashes over me.

I don’t know why.

It’s been a good day.

These feelings are unexpected and frankly, unwelcome. I am in a public place and people are around me; this is no place to break down.

I am holding back tears from betraying my heart, but one persists and breaks through the dyke of my eye. I brush it away angrily and look around to see if anybody has noticed. Nobody has.

What a relief.

“Who cares if you’re seen crying?”

I whip my head around to my right, then to my left. Where did that voice come from? My eyes are wide with surprise.

“Behind you,” the voice says.

I turn to look and sitting directly behind me is a woman. She is smiling sweetly. Immediately I sense something about her. There’s a subtle grace about her, the way she smiles at me, the way her eyes penetrate my heart and mind. She is at peace; content. It is suddenly clear to me that this is a remarkable woman. She is a woman who shares love with everyone she meets.

“Hello.” I don’t know what else to say.

“Hi,” the woman says to me. For a moment we just stare at each other, neither of us feeling the awkwardness of the moment.

“What did you mean by that?” I say finally, looking into her glassy, green eyes. They are alive and vibrant. They are the eyes of an extraordinarily kind woman.

“I meant just what I said. Don’t be ashamed of emotion.”

“Okay, I won’t.”

I say those three words with resolve, confident I’ll keep them at heart. It makes perfect sense, I declare to myself. Emotions are good, we shouldn’t be ashamed of them!

“Thank you,” I say, beaming at the woman. You would think she changed my life with her simple statement, the way I am receiving her words. Maybe she has changed my life. Time will tell.

I turn back around to face the right way in my seat, but a moment later decide to talk to the woman a little bit longer. When I turn back around, however, she is gone. Her chair is vacant. I sincerely hope I see her again someday.

Ego

My head is bigger than my heart,

My ego ready to burst apart.

The world doesn’t revolve around me

And what I say today

Won’t change the world anyway.

 

Here’s what I learned about the economy:

Inflation doesn’t cause harmony

And what does is just a little bit of honesty.

That being said,

I need more heart and less of my head.