Javi's Cafe, 7.
The next afternoon, while Ema was charming customers as she told them how she had helped Emily make the muffins that morning, Jerome, Emily, and I schemed for our New Years’ Soiree.
“I want to put up fliers everywhere again,” Emily said, “but last time the café was packed and I’m worried that will turn people away.”
“It might,” Jerome said, “but the amount of publicity it will bring to you will be worth it.”
“We sure could use that right now.”
I looked at Emily. She’d never made it sound like the café needed more customers. It was usually a quiet place, but from the way Emily handled things and what she said to Jerome and me, I figured everything was going well.
“Even if people don’t come in because it’s too crowded, they’ll still be aware of the café, and the more people that come for the concert, the more people will be likely to come back,” I said.
“And I can help you get ready, if you’re worried about having enough food.”
“Let’s do it, then,” Emily said.
“I had another thought,” Jerome said. “We’d have to reserve some seats, but if we wanted to invite people that were closer to us or important, like professors or parents, then we could, without worrying about them not having a place to sit.”
“We should definitely do that for Clara’s father,” I said. “I doubt my parents would come, but they’d probably appreciate the invitation. And I invited my composition professor, but he sounded like he couldn’t come.”
“What would we do with reserved seating if the people didn’t show up?” Emily asked.
“We could hold them until a few minutes before it started and then make them public,” Jerome said.
“I guess it’s worth it if we have people to save them for,” Emily said.
“Would your parents come?” Jerome asked.
Emily and I exchanged a glance. Jerome didn’t know about her relationship with her parents.
She shook her head. “They wouldn’t come.”
“They wouldn’t come, or you wouldn’t ask them to come?” I asked.
“That’s none of your business,” Emily said.
“Emily, you can’t go on like this.”
“They started it, not me.”
“That doesn’t mean you can just sit back and let things be.”
“I’m not ready.”
I opened my mouth to speak again, though I didn’t know what I was going to say.
“I’ve got to make some more scones,” Emily said and went off into the kitchen.
“What was that about?” Jerome asked.
“Her parents became hostile towards her when she decided to keep Ema,” I said. “But it’s been four years and I doubt things are still the way they were.”
“Emily knows her parents better than you do,” Jerome said. “But if she’s never tried anything in the last four years, then I would encourage her to invite them to the concert.”
“I know she tried to make things right at first, but now I wonder if all that keeps them apart is stubbornness.”
“And yet we don’t know all that happened like they do. Let’s leave it be for the most part, though after a time we could both gently remind her we think she should invite them.”
I didn’t say anything.
“There’s more than just this troubling you, isn’t there?” Jerome asked.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he said.
We grabbed our coats and hats and began walking towards Central Park.
“What’s going on? Does it have to do with Clara?”
“Not at the moment,” I said. “That seems to be going well. She’s going to join us at the concert, and will come to the café sometime to practice with me. But I’ve been thinking a lot about things you’ve said, wondering how they work out in relation to Emily and Kate.”
Jerome was silent, but I had been expecting him to say something so didn’t know what to say next. We trudged on through the cold.
“You’ve talked a lot about fathers, and how God cares for the fatherless. But I can’t get it to fit together. If God really cares about people being fatherless, then why did he allow Emily to be estranged from her parents, Javi to die, and Jake to leave Kate? I’m trying to figure it out to help them, but also because sometimes I don’t know what I think about God, and if He’s the one that lets it happen, it seems so contrary to the other things I know about Him.”
“I don’t know if I can answer your questions to your satisfaction,” Jerome said after a while. “I don’t have all the answers, Walter, and even I sometimes struggle with the ones I do have. But I think, like you, there are some things we both believe about God that we know are true, even when life doesn’t match up. Am I right?”
“And often, if someone believes in God, they believe He’s good, and also powerful enough to stop bad from happening.”
“Right again,” I said.
“So when something bad happens, especially when it’s something we believe God really cares about – like the fatherless – then it makes us question either God’s goodness or His power.”
“So what are we supposed to do? Ignore God? Ignore reality?”
“That’s what I’m asking you,” I said. “You know a lot more about these things than I do.”
Jerome laughed. “I’ve had many more years to think through it than you have, that’s all. That’s what I want you to do. I’ll help you, but I don’t want to give you answers. If you’re going to come to a place where you really know the answer to that dilemma, then I can’t just tell you what I think.”
“I was afraid that was what you’d say.”
“You may want the easy way now, Walter, but unless you want to work through it again and again, you’ll have to do some work now.”
I nodded. “I think you’re right, as usual. But my thoughts have been going in circles for days now – I need your help to get any farther.”
“I don’t know if you need it as much as you think you do,” Jerome said, “but I have something that may help. When humans think about God, whose perspective do we see Him from?”
“Ours,” I said.
“And yet who would understand God’s intentions and purposes best?”
“He would,” I said, “just like we were talking about with Emily and her parents.”
Jerome smiled, but didn’t say anything.
“Which means that to really understand God, we’re going to have to look at it from His perspective and not from ours.”
“But how? I mean, I don’t doubt that prayer works, but it doesn’t really help me know what He’s doing any better.”
“Someday you may find that it does,” Jerome said. “But there are other options.”
I glanced at Jerome. “I take it you want me to think of some.”
I thought for a few minutes before saying anything. We were in Central Park now, and Jerome was heading for an empty bench. I waited until we were seated to talk.
“I was going to comment on how many people have so many different ideas about who God is, but remembered we just vetoed men’s opinions of God, needing to go to find out what God Himself thinks.”
“Are you just saying that to make me happy, do you really think that?”
“I agree with you. But if we’re not going to people, then we have to go straight to God, which means we’d have to talk to Him, which would be prayer, but since that’s more of us talking to Him, then there’s got to be places and ways He’s let us know about Himself. I guess that’s where books like the Bible, Torah, and Qur’an come in. But they can’t all be right, so where do I start?”
“I could tell you to look at all of them and decide which is most consistent. And you may end up doing that. But for now, I would say to start with what you’re most familiar with.”
I shrugged. “The Bible, I guess. I haven’t read any of any of them, but the Bible was what we had at home.”
“Do you have one here?”
I shook my head.
“I’ll bring you one when I come in tomorrow, under the condition that you do actually read it and talk to me as you think about it.”
“Deal,” I said, but inwardly was wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into.