On the Other Hand

I’m currently staying in an inexpensive motel in the ‘limbo’ section of the town. There are no stores around, but there are plenty of Asian restaurants, which would be fantastic if I had the money to patronize them. I love Asian food, especially salt-baked squid (which I haven’t found in years). Instead, I can get lots of noodle dishes.

My motel room has a microwave and a tiny refrigerator, the kind I used to have in my office in Philadelphia. Like the one in Philadelphia, it is stocked with Diet Coke. My meals are microwaved, and usually are noodle dishes (which is getting awfully tiresome!) The room itself is positioned relative to the highway so that there’s a constant blast of cold air. Even the heater seems to blow cool air although the thermometer says 72F. I’ve been here for three weeks (I think) and the warmest place in the room is the shower. The bed is nice and firm, the blankets are nice and thin, and there isn’t a single article of furniture that has a drawer, so I’m living out of my suitcases, as I have been doing for months.

The place is incredibly quiet for the most part. Nameless, faceless, silent figures wander up and down the halls occasionally, and if you meet one, it will say ‘hello’ and move on, forgetting and forgotten.

In addition to there being no food stores within walking distance, there are no other points of interest, unless I want to hang out at the dry cleaners or the liquor store. The motel room has a large television, which has been a unique element in my ‘limbo life’. Until last October, I hadn’t seen a television in years. As of last October, I was pleased to find programmes I’d enjoyed in the past, but after the first week, dismayed to find that now they only run on ‘cable marathons’. I’ve also discovered that with very few exceptions, television programming has not improved since I saw it last in 2011. Quite the contrary.

There’s no doubt about it. This is Limbo.

On the other hand….

During my stay in Nowhere USA, there has coalesced around me a small circle of support from unexpected sources. The reception staff here is very pleasant—that is their job, because if you give arriving guests the impression they’re taking their lives into their own hands, you get very little repeat business. However, they actually are nice people, and there’s one in particular who seems particularly concerned. She is supportive, she listens, and she does whatever her job will allow to make this stay as easy as possible. Her boss receives constant praise about her.

There is a gentleman who has more than enough concerns of his own to be getting on with, who has read some of my recent postings and has gone out of his way to send me messages of encouragement, support, and the assurance of prayer (I believe quite firmly in the power of prayer). He belongs to the same web group of pipe smokers I do—I believe some of his friends have been praying as well.

Yesterday, my long-suffering (former) neighbour invited me to attend church with her because the school choir (which includes her daughter, about whom I have written several times) was singing the 11 o’clock Mass. Almost as soon as we arrived, a close friend of my neighbour’s approached and embraced me, and said it was good to see me after so long. Later I discovered that she has been concerned enough about me to keep me in her prayers as well.

The aforementioned neighbour (type: former) has done just about everything except offer to donate a kidney to help me out. She has, over the months, been caring and generously supportive, regardless of where I have been.

At the independent urging of many people, I mended a rift in a relationship from many years ago, and I discovered that I missed out on a great deal by letting it last as long as I did.

So, I have to draw a conclusion. ‘Limbo’ is generally considered to be an awful thing, and ordinarily I would agree. I’ve been ‘here’, or ‘nowhere’, many times in the last five years. It’s painful, it’s lonely, it’s empty, and it has all the seeds of a best-selling nightmare, one from which no one will awaken unscathed.

On the other hand….

Limbo makes room for the good stuff.
Paul TN Chapman
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