I opened my eyes feeling somewhat serene—and immediately faced my old friend, Eddie the bartender, in Wonder Bar, Asbury Park, New Jersey.
He looked at me with sore eyes, flicking them back and forth between a person to my left and myself.
I turned. “Whoa! You’re really here!”
Jesus looked around Wonder Bar in, well, wonderment.
The bartender shook his head crossly at me. “You can’t bring him in here!”
“Are you kidding?” I said with incredulity. “Do you know who He is?”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m under strict instructions not to allow homeless people in this bar, under any circumstances. I’ll lose my job, boss.”
"But... but He's mot homeless. He's..."
The bartender cut me off. “Where do you live?” he demanded of the figure.
“Wherever the will of God takes me.”
The bartender glared at me. “Ya see?”
“Go ahead, “I said to the figure. “Introduce yourself.”
“I don’t have time for this!” snapped the bartender. “Okay, I give up, who the hell are you?”
“I am Jesus of Nazareth.”
The bartender rolled his eyes. “Okay, Jesus—time to go.”
“But He really is,” I said. “I just brought Him back with me.”
“Oh, really? From where?”
"The Last Supper."
“I give up.” Eddie turned to grab something and plunked a pitcher onto the bar. “If you’re really Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, turn this water into wine for me.” He poured water into a glass set it before the bearded figure.
Jesus closed his eyes and moved his lips in prayer. He opened his eyes and nodded.
The bartender put the glass to his lips, sipped. “Water.”
The figure shrugged. “I guess I’m a little rusty.”
“That’s good.” The bartender snickered. “A little rusty. You could do stand-up, man. The ocean’s that way.” He pointed with his thumb. “So please leave quietly and go walk on it.”
A minute later, Jesus and I stood on the corner of Fifth and Ocean. It was just past three in the morning. He plucked a shot glass from his robe.
“You took that?” I said.
The figure nodded. “I always said I’d arrive like a thief in the night.” He looked up. “Thank you, Father.”
I looked up and saw a moon face with a toothy smile, a cross between Howdy Doody, blue eyes and high arched eyebrows, and Alfalfa—the middle-part haircut—from The Little Rascals.
“I’d like to take you to meet Dr. Stendahl, my psychiatrist.” I said.
“You think I’m crazy?” said the figure.
“No. He thinks I’m crazy.”
“What do you think?”
“I’m not sure what to think anymore.”
“Do you believe you are real?”
I looked down at my feet, checked the palms of my hands and held them to my face, not unlike Bizarro in The Scream. “Yes.”
“Do you believe that what you have done is real?”
“Without you, I would not have arrived here."
“Does that make me sane?”
“Maybe, maybe not. There are principles of the universe we are not clever enough to understand. You should look at this—you bringing me here—as a miracle that cannot be explained.”
“But what if you’re not real?” I said.
“What if you’re not real,” He replied, “but just a character in a book that’s supposed to guide me to my Second Coming?”