Atlanta Airport

The Atlanta Airport is not an easy place to kick back and relax, but today we have passes for the United Club Lounge and enough time to use them. God is enjoying the free Budweiser and I’m happy to have found a salad bar, chips, salsa, and windows.

But liberated from the constraints of luggage, what I really want to find is my center. I sit on a worn sofa, consider the ebb and flow of travelers, and examine my life for signs of meaning. So far, it doesn’t look hopeful.

Nearby, a thin man eats pulled pork with collard greens, and a young woman in leather hotpants refills her plate, eyelids heavy with artificially thick lashes. God is busy chatting up one of the waitstaff in a language I don’t recognize.

A blown-up black and white photo in front of me features a row of women standing at attention. Shoes, hair, pigment, purses, smiles, skirts, hats, breasts, height, weight: identical. The shot was likely taken half a century ago. In geologic time, less than a split-second, and yet here we are. I have no explanation for anything I’m observing. None.

“You don’t need an explanation,” God whispers.

“Then why do I want to explain everything?” I whisper back.

God shakes his head. “Let it be. That’s what dogs do. Even the smartest breeds.”

“Then why wasn’t I born a dog?” I ask. I know he’s not serious. We’re just making small talk. Humans are forever asking why and insist on explaining even when we’re wrong. We seem purposefully designed to want to understand.

God grins. “Totally on purpose. Why do you think you travel?”

To those of us born before devices, the one-way conversations around me look like repeated singular insanities. My own device activates itself to urge me along. Time to check in. Time to board. Time to go.

I glance at God, not sure what he’s planning to do. He removes an earbud and looks up. “Hey, you think this place is open 24/7?” he asks, yawning.

“For you, of course,” I answer. “But is this really where you want to hang out?” I look pointedly at the retrograde picture of the lined-up women.

“Ah, those were the days.” God says. “Would you mind saving me a seat?”

“You know it doesn’t work that way,” I say as I gather my burdens. “See you in Montana?”

“You betcha.” God smiles and stretches his legs out so long I can no longer see his feet. “And you can leave your carry-ons with me if you’d like.”

New Year

Shadows of the year now gone stretch long in the setting sun as they strut and prance through orange willows one last time. Imposing slabs of ice have accumulated. It’s late. There isn’t much left to believe in.

“Seeing is believing,” God says in a teasing voice.

I don’t feel like being teased. Or loved. Or spoken to. The costs run too high. All around me, endings. Winter. The charred remains of fire and flood. Memorials planned, attended, forgotten.

“Fruitcake?” God asks, sliding a plate toward me. “Coffee? Beer?”

I glare.

“C’mon,” God says. “Get over yourself.”

“I AM over myself.” I straighten my spine and adjust my scarf. “And I’m over you.”

“Nope,” God says. “Neither.”

She’s right. I’ve bid the year goodbye, but it hasn’t disappeared. My body bears evidence of tenacity and time. There are debris piles chafing my soul, defiant streaks in my hair, and protests on the streets of failed and failing states. Star athletes are still on their knees. I would drop to mine in a nanosecond if it would further the cause of justice, but I’m not on the team. I don’t go to the games.

“Wrong again,” God says. “Everyone’s on the team. Even you, slugger. Here. Eat up.”

She pushes the holiday Chex mix toward me. I push back. She kneels and gives me a wide grin. Then she tips her head back and pours the entire bowl into her mouth. She chews obnoxiously loud, her tattooed hand rubs her ample black belly, and she sways back and forth, moaning as if the stale snack is the most delicious thing she’s ever tasted.

“You can stop now,” I say, laughing. “You’re ridiculous.”

“No!” she declares. “I’ll never stop.”

I shake my head.

She continues, “Honey, there will always be leftovers and reasons to drop to my knees. This is the communion of saints, the eternal transmutation, the saving of that which can be saved.”

“And what exactly can be saved?” I ask. But I know the answer. Nothing. Everything. God is energy, mass, and the speed of light. The maestro. The melody. Scientist and clown. I’ll never understand why she takes time to make me laugh, but I’m glad she partakes of leftovers with such gusto.

“Have a happy, blessed, sacred, holy, peaceful prosperous new year,” I say to God with a grin of surrender.

“Thanks,” God chuckles. “You crack me up.”

We link elbows, and the Magnificent, Unattainable God of Now waves the billions in. Together, we bid a sad farewell to that which will not come again and bravely greet that which is coming but will not last.