After he left the hectic election suite, he rode the elevator down to the parking lot. He found the door in the alley and walked down it, past dumpsters and trash to another door which he opened. He walked past the kitchen staff who had seen him make this trip before.

“Hola, Jorge,” he said.

“Hola pendenjo,” he said.

They bumped fists.

“How’s the familia?”

“Same,” he said. “Y tu bieja?”

“Same,” he said. “Same.”

He walked into the bar.

“Hello,” the bartender said. “What’s the good news?”

“You have CNN,” he said. “You know the news.”

“She’s gotta point.”

“She does,” he said. “And it’s giving me a fucking pain in my ass, that point.”

“You need a drink.”


“What will it be?”

“I’d like a little glass of Pineau Des Charentes.”

“Hmmm,” the bartender said. “Let me see if we have it.”

He reached down an pulled out a bottle.

“Amazing. We have it,” he said. “Pour you one.”

“Yes,” he said. “Please. I’m stunned you have it.”

“We have the case you sent us.”

“Play along, wouldja?”

“Of course.”

The bartender filled a small glass.

“It’s pretty hot out there,” the bartender said pointing at the television trucks.

“Yeah,” he said. “I think I’m dropping out.”

“Really?” the bartender said, “I thought you’d make a great President.”

“That is what I needed to hear,” he said. “You’ll be my secretary of defense. Thanks for being discreet.”

“You paid us for it.”

“And for being unsentimental about it.”


“Could you please send Jorge and the crew in the back shots of Dos Chingadores?”

He would always call Cazadores, “Chingadores.”

“Yes,” he said. “Cazadores. I’ll water them.”


“Anything else.”

“I need some Chingadores too,” he said. “Keep them coming.”

He walked to the jukebox and flipped through many songs. He picked some. The first one was Somebody Have Mercy by Sam Cooke. By the time he got back to the bar it was playing.

“You’re getting an early start.”

“I don’t pay you to be a clock.”

“You do not.”

“Pour me another,” he said. “I have a speech to write.”

He took out a small notebook from his pocket. He opened it to a blank page.

Nothing. He had nothing.

All he could think of was, “Good evening, this is the 37th time that I have spoken to you from this office.”

He drank what was in front of him. He wanted more.

“I would have preferred to carry through to the finish,” he said to himself. “I have never been a quitter,” he said out loud.

The next song he picked started playing, Sufriendo Penas by Los Relampagos started playing.

Aquie estoy en la taberna de mi barrio

mas querido platicando yo solito

y tomandome un mezcal.

Playing Cornelio Reyna songs was how he won over the kitchen. There were speakers back there.

Another shot of Cazadores was in front of him. He drank it. And then another.

After that, everything went dark. The next day he woke up in his apartment. He had a deep burning pain in his side.

Every time he took a breath, it hurt. In bed, he felt around his chest. It was his ribs.

“Fuck,” he said out loud.

The last thing he remembered was someone walking in and sitting next to him at the bar. As he lay there, he looked at his phone at all the missed calls and messages.

He checked The Drudge Report. He wasn’t there. That was a good sign. The newspaper. Nothing. He Googled himself. Just the usual.

He messaged back key people letting them know he was fine as he tried to piece back the previous night. He Googled, “bruised rib.” That seemed about right. He traced his ribs on his left side. It almost felt as if one was missing. He felt fine, hung over, but there wasn’t any sign of bruising at all, just an intense pain from one spot.

It hurt to move be he swung his feet on the floor and mulled over what to do. He needed to know what happened. He felt motivated. Getting dressed, he looked out the window. It was a dead quiet morning. The bartender was always at his post early, so he decided to head back as discreetly as he could, order a cup of coffee, and ask him what he saw. Did he get into a fight? Did he fall of his bar stool?

As he walked, he looked through the small notebook. All that was there was a question mark with a circle around it.

“That doesn’t help,” he thought.

“Good morning sunshine,” the bartender said. “I was a little worried you were going to be on the front page this morning.”

“Not yet,” he said. “Soon.”

“I actually felt bad letting you walk out of here like that,” he said. “Some coffee?”

“Yes,” he answered. “So, who was that sitting next to me last night? I feel like I got punched in the ribs.”

The bartender looked at him with mild surprise.

“You were here alone until you left,” he said. “Are you ok?”

“C’mon,” he said. “Don’t fuck with me. Who was that? I’ll double whatever he gave you to keep it a secret.”

“I’m telling you,” he said. “Nobody was sitting here with you last night.”

“Really?” he said. “I remember leaving with someone.”

“Hey, let’s look at the security camera for the back door.” He walked over to a monitor that was behind the bar. “Come around and let’s look.”

There was nobody in the frame which was a steady shot of the back door. Then he saw himself walking out, holding the door open like he was letting someone out and then following them.

“That’s fucking weird,” he told the bartender. “That’s fucked up.”

“Maybe you need to see a doctor,” the bartender said.

“Yeah,” he answered. “Maybe I need an x-ray,” feeling his ribs.

“Not that kind of doctor.”

“Shut the hell up,” he said giving him a gentle nudge, “Ow! Even that hurts.”

He retraced his steps out the back door and now he was standing in the alley. He looked around and didn’t see any signs of struggle. Nothing.

“You again,” he heard a voice say.

He looked over and there was disheveled young man sitting next to a pile of cardboard.

“What did you say?” he answered walking toward the young man.

“Last night,” he said. “You and your friend were arguing and it woke me up.”

“Wait, you saw me here last night with someone,” he asked.

“Yes,” he said, “And you were going at it. You were even wrestling. And you guys are always saying we’re the problem. I live here, man.”

“Was I with a man or a woman?”

“It was a man,” he said. “Strange looking guy, but it was a guy. Anyway, it looked like he ended up winning the fight. It didn’t last long, and then he walked off.”

“You’re fucking with me,” he said.

“I am not,” he said. “If the guy was robbing you or something, I would have stood up and helped you out, ok. But I thought you knew each other or something. But you did keep asking him ‘Who are you?’”

He wondered if maybe the “friend” was really this homeless guy. But it’s true, nothing was taken. It wasn’t a robbery. And he distinctly remembered being with someone.

“Why would I ask that if he was my friend?”

“I don’t know,” he said loudly. “Why are you shouting at me. And you people say we’re crazy.

He thought maybe he should give the guy some cash. But he didn’t have any. As usual, he wasn’t moved to the feigned sympathy most had for the homeless guy. That, he always thought, was a cover for what most people felt: “Better him than me.”

Instead, his mind played his usual argument about the marginal rate of substitution; for people to give up the freedom of living in the open, the alternative would have to be worth it. People either didn’t understand the point, or thought him cruel for not agreeing more money would solve the problem. Then he marveled that even he, in the moment, felt himself reaching into his pocket for cash he didn’t have.

“Hey, listen, you’re right,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

As he walked away, he felt his side.

“Damn Chingadores,” he muttered as he walked home.

He kept walking and then he stopped and looked around. He looked down at his feet. He felt his side. He took out his headphones and scrolled through his music. It was there, he knew it. There it was. A collection by Maddy Prior singing old Charles Wesley hymns. He hit play. A haunting violin began, then her iconic voice.

Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with thee;
With thee all night I mean to stay
And wrestle till the break of day.

He hit stop and stood in his tracks. People were now on the sidewalks as the morning traffic picked up. People looked at him sideways and walked around him.

“Jesus. Jesus. Jesus,” he said under his breath. “I’ve finally lost my mind.” People were now looking at him as if he had. He played the rest of the hymn, and by the time he walked up his stairs, he’d listened to a dozen times. One verse stood out to him. Something was wrong.

He went to his book shelf and found a hymnal. The verse he wanted was there, but it was wrong. The United Methodist Hymnal, page 387.

‘Tis Love! ‘tis Love! thou diedst for me,
I hear thy whisper in my heart.
The morning breaks, the shadows flee.
Pure Universal Love thou art:
To me, to all, thy mercies move—
Thy nature, and they name is Love.

“Fuck,” he said. “That’s not what you’re saying, Maddy. That’s wrong.” He searched some more. It was there. Somewhere. He found it in another hymnal, the rectangular shaped, blue covered B.F. White Sacred Harp hymnal. The Sacred Harp version of the hymn, much abbreviated, was number 416b and called Vernon. Folded up there, between the pages, was the article explaining the difference, the word “bowels.”

‘Tis Love! ‘tis Love! thou diedst for me,
I hear thy whisper in my heart.
The morning breaks, the shadows flee.
Pure Universal Love thou art:
To me, to all, thy bowels move—
Thy nature, and they name is LOVE.

This was the version Prior was singing. Any other time that word, that image, that idea would have seemed strange. He remembered that the bowels were where pity, compassion lived, at least among hymn writers of the 17th and 18th century. It was the deepest part of the body; it was used the same way moderns would use “heart.”

But that wasn’t the word that made his ribs and head hurt. It was the word “all.”

“Fuck,” he said. He looked around the room, holding the book in his hand. “That’s not what I want. That’s not what I want.”

He threw the hymnal across the room. He looked around apologetically. He retrieved it and sat down his desk and cleared space. He took out one of his pencils and clicked it three times, took out a sheet of plain white paper and started writing.

“Dear professor,” it started. He kept writing, steadily, confidently.

His professor never adapted to the internet and didn’t have email. They wrote letters. There were only two people on earth that could read his cramped, twisted, and damaged handwriting, and he was one. He folded the letter in three, and put it in an envelope, addressed it and pulled a stamp out of his wallet from a book he had just for these letters. He held the letter to his face and closed his eyes then set it by the door.

He picked up his phone and dialed a familiar number.

“Where are you?” the voice answered. “They’re saying you had some kind of incident last night. What the fuck is going on?”

“I’m quitting. I’m dropping out. It’s early enough the others can jump in. I’m out. I’m not running for President or reelection. I’m not running anymore.”

There was silence.

“Are you ok,” she asked uncharacteristically.

“No,” he said. “Of course not. How the fuck could I be ok. Jesus, you’re not stupid.”

“But I mean you’re not being held hostage.”

“Well, now that you mention it, yes I am.”

“Stop fucking around,” she said. “What’s going on.”

“I told you I’m quitting,” he said. “There’s just one thing left before I make it official.”

“Jesus,” she said. “What?”

“Can I come home?”

The Letter

Dear Professor,

Something has happened that has at least refined my views about the will and salvation if not changed them completely. Or maybe I’m just pleasantly confused – again.

We live in a web of action and consequence, of debt and debtors, fences and trespassers. These social connections while efficient and even comforting, reflect our need to counter anti-social behavior. That is, when we have a debt, it is because one party couldn’t or wouldn’t pay; if someone trespasses it is because someone had to build a fence because they had been looted.

These sinews that hold the body politic and society together are the greatest indicator of sin, both the original transgression and all the resulting consequences from it. This connective tissue of contracts and fences indicates our lack of trust of each other, our need for protection from others and ourselves. Sin, like karma means all action, even those efforts to correct, only create more consequence, more action reaction all of which keeps us enmeshed in that web. We remain afraid underneath all that fascia.

There was one man perfect enough to be the sacrifice to settle the first debt and all the following and consequent debts. He has settled all contracts, paid all the debts, torn down all the fences. Finally, his death absolves us from the final consequence of life itself, death.

Meanwhile, while we struggled to understand that, He taught us how to pray. Jesus left us with the Our Father which urges us to forgive – certainly when we forgive a debt, the debtor has extra money allowing him to forgive those that owe him. In this way, perhaps, the network of codependence might unravel; as we resolve to lower our defenses the resulting reciprocity means everyone can lower theirs.

What about Toplady and Wesley. Ol’ Chuck may have done for me what Johnny never could, open my eyes to understanding of how we can be both determined and still play a part in our own salvation. I have been listening to Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown. This verse kept me stopped in my tracks this morning:

‘Tis Love! ‘tis Love! thou diedst for me,
I hear thy whisper in my heart.
The morning breaks, the shadows flee.
Pure Universal Love thou art:
To me, to all, thy bowels move—
Thy nature, and they name is LOVE.

I heard myself saying out loud, “But I don’t want that!” That word, “all” struck me like an arrow at that moment. It hurt. All. Not because I am a slave of TULIP, or an elitist, but because I realized how complacent I have become in my determinism. I’ve been letting myself be carried along. Make no mistake, I still stand with Toplady: we cannot reject God’s salvation if we are saved, nor can we change his mind with good works and arguments if we are not.

Also, as Arjuna learned from Krishna in the chariot, I still see that while the web of relations we have between each other is a consequence of our fallen nature, it forms the venue for our action; how and why we act is the basis upon which we can attain some peace in spite of the inevitability of the role we must play in society. I still see the exchange of value between people as our greatest opportunity to be free.

I still reject Rawls: the original position is a trick that leads to rejecting good things from the past, preventing us from passing them on to people in the future even though they may have failed to fully function fairly for everyone then (you remember that Rawls says that allegiance to institutions is not based on their “affirming the same conception of the good,” while he elevates fairness as a ‘good.’)

You might laugh at me for this, but I know you’ll accept my excitement over the nuance that struck me when I heard Charles Wesley’s hymn: he did die for ALL, everyone, but we still must accept the forgiveness. Salvation is latent in each of us, even like a case of giardia – we may not have symptoms once we get it, but the microbe lurks there in the folds of our gut forever, waiting to be activated. If we are all forgiven, we all have the potential energy for salvation. Perhaps this means that the elect are the ones who, however they seek the benefit, use their will to find it, to live it, to go down to the bank and receive and apply the funds that resolve the debt.

Here’s where bhakti yoga, the practice of loving devotion, is so helpful for me to understand and explain. God has a destination for me, I can resist it or pursue it but it is still inevitable. My actions, if undertake with that love and devotion, cannot be sinful and will also help me get where He wants me to go. This is the wrestling match, between His will for me and mine. And she is the one that I love, contentious and oppositional. Yet, she is, for better or worse, the object of my devotion – or should be and will be.

I’ve always known that Augustus, angry and righteous (remember he denied that farmer communion for being drunk on his horse!), and John were sharp and deadly brilliant blades on an elegant double-edged sword. My love for them is obviously connected to growing up in the middle of an argument; and arguing, win or lose, undertaken with love is what I must do. I think now, for sure, that our will was given to us to freely embrace His will for us and to wrestle with His will; but what exactly is His will for me? What exactly am I supposed to do?

Most people think this is ridiculous; a feud between two dead white guys, between a Methodist and an Anglican. Yet, you know me well enough to know that I have wrestled with these questions since I was a boy. Am I saved? Should I be? How do I know? Am I good enough?

But it is morning now, and I feel like maybe I have a new name. I’m not running from or for anything anymore. I am running to my family. I am blessed to have one, and to have her, my guide and my nemesis. I give up. Like David unraveled Saul’s garment in a moment of vulnerability, she unravels me. She is my enemy but my friend, and she has always made me better than I would have been without her. I am acting next with faith and love even though I lack faith, because if I do, I know faith will be given to me. It feels like a beginning not an end.

I take comfort in sharing this with you alone because I know only you will understand.

With respect and affection,