Envisioned but Unexpressed

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I have a lot of sway-backed shelves sagging under the weight of my various anxieties and accumulated supplies–tins of sardines, bags of rice, quinoa, pasta, and popcorn. My internal ambiance closely resembles my outer surroundings—disorganized abundance within and without. For instance, you would not believe my hoard of art supplies. Found objects. Brushes. Half-used, mostly dried paint and ink. Reclamations and creations at the ready; envisioned, but unexpressed.

“Nice,” God says as she surveys the scene. “Envisioned but unexpressed. I like that.”

“I don’t,” I say. “How many recycled canvases, wooden boxes, odd-shaped bottles, and smooth rocks do I need? What I need is time. Inspiration. Discipline. Not more words, and definitely not more clutter.”

“You sound like your own mother,” God says. “I’m a little jealous. Isn’t that my job?”

“Maybe,” I say, in breezy tone. “But I don’t mind. I’m highly skilled at self-denigration and shallow despair.”

“Oh good grief,” God says. “Some days I don’t think you’ve even made my acquaintance. Shut up already.”

I’m a little startled. Who wouldn’t be? But after I get over my surprise, I feel honored. How many people does God tell to shut up? Maybe I’m special. I wait, respectfully silent. Expectant. Ready to hang on every word.

And…you guessed it. Silence. Utter silence. The kind of silence that waits on the other side of the mirror. If you’re brave enough to hold your own stare, you’ll learn a great deal from the pigment in your irises and your soulful black pupils steadily pulling the outer light in. We’re momentary shades of inherited longing, hoping for an impossible permanence.

Oh so gently, God takes away the mirrors and windows. The shelves and drawers are bare. No canned milk, no lentils, no cereal, no chocolate. My closet echoes in its emptiness. My art supplies are gone. I have nothing left. Even the walls are gone. I stand stark naked, unable to move or see.

“God,” I whisper. “What color am I now?”

“Baby blue,” God whispers back. I can see it in my mind; the delicate color of untouched sky.

“And God,” I add. “Are there any words left?”

“One,” God says. “There’s one. There’s only ever been one.”

“It’s my name, isn’t it?” I ask, stricken. Terrified. It’s the name I can’t remember. God shakes her head.

“Not now, sweet thing,” she says, handing me my T-shirt and jeans. “But someday. And when the time is right, you’ll remember.”

Hair

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“Hey, God,” I said. “If you waited tables at a pub, and you’d been hired for your beautiful breasts outlined by your tight tank tops, would you shave under your arms or let the delicate curls of dark hair define that space?”

God raised an eyebrow and shifted his weight. He was posing nude for a crazed-looking Italian painter. “Depends,” he said.

“On what?” I said.

“If you were a burly guy would you grow a long beard?” God asked.

I recoiled. I don’t like long beards. “Why is body hair…I mean, why did you even…why do we grow it? Shape it? Color it? Add more? Why do we shave it off?” I wasn’t sure what I was asking exactly. Back when I was a hippie chick, I didn’t shave anywhere. This bothered my family tremendously. I’d jokingly blame God, saying that’s the way we were created. My sister would counter with “And that’s why God gave us razors.”

“Things evolve,” God said. “Your fur used to have a different purpose, but now, with all that creative energy and your nascent consciousness, you play with it. I get a kick out of the wild ways you decorate yourselves.”

I thought about my chemo-baldness and how it felt to have my hair come back. I thought about Afros, Mohawks, gray hair, purple hair, plucking, waxing, chemicals, wigs. Lately, I’ve been favoring blue.

The painter handed God a silk robe and signaled it was time for a break. God sipped his tea and stretched. “Hair is a way you express yourselves. Like art. Like words,” he said. “I haven’t run the stats lately, but I imagine most first-worlders spend more money on their hair than they do on the poor.”

This made me want to gnash my slightly yellowing teeth. God grinned and said “Boom.”

I went outside to pull some weeds, muttering. Like it’s easy to know what to do for the poor? Like it’s easy to find a balance? Go gray? Go bald? Like we can handle the shame society inflicts if we fail to contort our exteriors to look as young, faultless, and beautiful as possible?

After a while God came out and started helping with the weeds. He looked preposterous in his shiny robe, kneeling in the bright sun. I got him a straw hat and said “Do you want some sunblock?”

“You know,” God said, ignoring my question. “I fancy myself up all the time. Blankets of stars, blooming jasmine, burning bushes, spectacular storms that accentuate my cheekbones.” He glanced back at the painter, who was standing in the doorway. “I’m even thinking of cataract surgery so I can see myself more clearly.”

“That’s brave,” I said. “I’m not sure I want to see myself more clearly.”

“Takes practice,” God said. “It helps if you remember who you are.” He patted my shoulder, waved to the painter, and joined a flock of starlings circling overhead. I sat, bleach-blond among the withering weeds, trying hard to remember who I am.