On those nights, the silence of the street is swollen, It's scared and slippery as I wait for something to happen. (1.6.6)
That pretty much sums up Ed's philosophy in life at the beginning of the novel. He's always waiting for something, and he's not afraid to show it. For all the soul-searching that Ed is asked to do in the novel, you might think he wouldn't be in touch with where he's really at in his life, but it's quite the opposite. Ed is brutally honest with us about who he is and what he's about.
Finally, I recognize them and say, "I've been looking for you." I speak that sentence as if it's the one great truth I've ever known.
She returns my conviction, nodding. "I thought so." She pulls my hands over to her, leans over, and kisses my fingers. "You always did know what to say, didn't you, Jimmy?" (1.8.40)
When Ed first meets Milla, he's not sure what to say yet it comes to him pretty easily. His encounter with her suggests that there are some universal truths in life that Ed just knows without being told. Top of the list? Take care of old, lonely ladies.
The old lady did something to my heart. When her hands reached out and poured the tea, it was as if she also poured something into me while I sat there sweating in my cab. It was like she held a string and pulled on it just slightly to open me up. She got in, put a piece of herself inside me, and left again. In there, somewhere, I still feel it. (1.8.68)
They might only spend a short time together, but Milla and Ed (a.k.a. Jimmy) have a connection that is palpable. This isn't like playing a game of cards with his friends or even spending the night with Audrey; there's a moment of truth that Ed shares with her that he doesn't forget or let go of.
A while passes until he knows I have very little else to say. He then speaks very calmly and clearly. He says, "Don't worry, Ed. What you need to do will certainly arrive in you. I've got a feeling it has in the past." (2.7.76)
Somehow this always ends up being the way Ed figures out what to do—it just comes to him, just like that. The fact that the Priest knows this tells us that Ed knows what's right and wrong with these messages long before he even admits it to himself.
He moves a little further away as we stand in the dark. Behind us, the lights still glow proudly in the night. This is the moment of truth. Lua says, "You never lived in our house, Ed. Did you?"
We observe each other, and I can see there are many things that Lua wants to know. He's about to ask when I see him pull back. He prefers not to ruin things with any more questions. (2.7.40-41)
In talking with Lua, Ed figures out that he's in the same position as this guy in some ways, not completely understanding what's happening, but not sure if he even wants to either.
We'd look back and he'd be sitting there, happily smoking, maybe dreaming. My first memory is of being four years old and getting a piggyback from Gregor Kennedy, my father. That was when the world wasn't so big and I could see everywhere. It was when my father was a hero and not a human. (3.9.29)
Ed's memories of his old man are conflicting. On the one hand, he's a loving guy who was a gentleman, but on the other hand, he's a drunk whose liver gave out. So which version is true?
He says, "No, Ed, as a matter of fact, I don't. I only know that this is your next message and you still don't seem to be thinking clearly about what you're supposed to be doing."
His voice is so casual, but so heavy with something else. Truth, I think. That's what the voice weighs in with. He's right. I really don't know what I'm doing. I'm still guessing as I stand here hoping that the answers will simply come. (4.4.101-102)
Leave it to a couple of clowns (Daryl and Keith) to help Ed figure out what he's really doing. It's interesting that Ed comes to this conclusion after he's received the final ace. It's as if he's just been flying by the seat of his pants up until now, which makes us wonder how much truth he's really delivering.
It's impeccable how brutal the truth can be at times. You can only admire it. Usually, we walk around constantly believing ourselves. "I'm okay," we say. "I'm all right." But sometimes the truth arrives on you, and you can't get it off. That's when you realize that sometimes it isn't even an answer— it's a question. Even now, I wonder how much of my life is convinced. (4.5.97)
When he tells Ritchie to get real and do something with his life, it's a little shocking, but it also needs to be said. That's the funny thing about truth: it comes when you least expect it, and sometimes it hurts to hear it. Ed gets hurt when his mom tells him her truth, but Ed does the exact same thing to Ritchie.
Quietly, he stands up and looks back at the couch. There's a faded yellow folder sitting on a cushion. "It's all in there," he says. "Everything. Everything I wrote for you. Every idea I scratched around with. Every person you helped, hurt, or ran into."
What the mystery man tells Ed is that he's written down the truth about what took place… so why can't he just come out and tell us? Ed's been searching for answers the entire time, and in some ways, never really gets them.
And that's when I realize. In a sweet , cruel, beautiful moment of clarity, I smile, watch a crack in the cement, and speak to Audrey and the sleeping Doorman. I tell them what I'm telling you: I'm not the messenger at all. I'm the message, (5.the message.21)
At the end, Ed figures out that the entire journey was really about him, not about the people he helped. So what do you think those last words mean? Is that what the mystery man intended Ed to discover?