Dalton's nickname is Teflon Jesus. Long story I won't tell today. But here's one I will tell instead.
Teflon Jesus sits back and picks up my cup, taking a sip while raising his eyebrows at me in question. I offer a belated nod and continue to let my legs swing, bare toes feeling along the light breeze while the sun bakes the top of my head. The balcony offers little shade, in spite of the heavy coating of ornate white wrought iron icing that decorates the front of the building Jesus lives in.
Jesus smiles and continues to tune his old guitar. I study him while he does it. Slight beard, long uncombed russet curls that gave birth to part of his nickname years ago. Threadbare red shirt and charming soft grin while he listens and adjusts and thinks up questions for me. I pick up the teacup from his side of the balcony railing and take another sip of the now-lukewarm green tea, and the soft wail of a crying baby fills my ears from somewhere below us in a building stacked with people who come and go almost as much as we seem to.
Jesus is one of Jacob's friends who travels extensively, one of his friends that he would press fifty dollars into a handshake for without a word and sleep easier knowing that Jesus would go and get some food and a good book to take on his next adventure, Jesus who doesn't think people should be confined indoors ever or in shoes, which is how he and Jake could see eye to eye and he frowns at my sandals discarded by the door.
He tells me that I'm young, that I should see the world, that I have seen a lot of the bad and it's time to go see the good. That I could go with him and we could hang out, I'll buy postcards and he'll spend all of his charm, buying girls with open rooms where he can get company and a hot shower and then make his heartbreaks and move to the next city, somehow marvelling that he has not had to purchase a hotel room to sleep in since the early part of this century and still his friends give him cash because he's the technical hobo of the group.
He asks me if I'm going to continue Jacob's traditions and I say no. He smiles again, broadly, for usually he just preaches, kind of like Jake and I listen, kind of like Bridget used to, but my world is different now.
Jesus is leaving for the summer and fall, heading down some other coasts to pick up girls and do the job he loves. He says the people are kind on the road and the weather never changes. I'm here to get the keys to his mailbox downtown and a raff of cheques and instructions so that he can sublet this beautiful place and make more money while he still does less work. I have four interviews this week to find a suitable renter. His requirements are few and it should be easy, like it is every year when he goes again.
If it wasn't for the spiral staircase made of iron that ascends to heaven, he would have given this apartment up years ago. It's cold, there is no water pressure and his kitchen is a five foot long one-piece unit with a three-quarter fridge, a chipped porcelain sink and a stove that works for lighting cigarettes and boiling water if you have the time, but not much else. I used to want to live here, but Jesus always told me I deserved better.
I take the envelope full of his important papers and wait for his arms to close around me, the scratchy hemp of his red shirt and the fresh honey smell of his hair invading my space long enough for one of his rare hugs and then he stops and puts his hand around mine. I look into his dark-pine eyes and he smiles.
Is Ben going to be okay?
Good. I'll see you for Christmas?
You'd better. You haven't made it to a Christmas dinner in five years.
He smiles at the sun but says nothing, and within hours he is gone again.