DNA

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In many ways God and I have very little in common. The narrow gateway of our commonality is not the DNA I share with other humans, fruit flies, bananas, trees, or goats; not my uncertainties or my short journey in this limited body. And absolutely not my tendency to bite my thumb when I sense God is close. God doesn’t have thumbs. But sometimes, she borrows one and bites it while I write, just to demonstrate her solidarity. It’s a transparent solidarity. I slip my hand through and watch the world turn to fire. I am intrigued by the godness of fire as mass gives way to energy.

Often the godness around me is so dense I can hardly breathe. Billions of people seething and searching for the right ways to live their lives, afraid of all the wrong things. Even the stars are born and die, so what do we have to fear? One form godness takes is joy, a flower with roots that run deep in dark places. Another form of godness is suffering, and it will be with us until the end.

“Yes,” God says, affirming my pondering. “Maybe not DNA, but joy and suffering. Yes, these we have in common.”

“God,” I say. “I don’t always love it when you show up and agree with me.” I turn my gaze inward, where of course, I find God smiling between the strands that define who I think I am. I slide my consciousness back out, trying to think of other things. Deadlines. Vitamins. Bad travel conditions. Entropy. Anything but You-Know-Who.

“Okay,” God says. “Let’s play hide-and-seek. Shall I find you, or do you want to find me?”

“What does it matter?” I say. “It’s one and the same.”

God pretends to ring a bell. “Ding, ding, ding,” she says. “Folks, we have a winner.”

I can’t help but laugh. What a chump. I shrug. “Fine. So you’re here. What’ll it be today? Compassion? Sacrifice? Slippage? The mundane grip of reality? Painting sticks? Rearranging my rock collection? Maybe a small skirmish with the dark forces of hell and selfishness?”

God mimics my shrug. Then she leans over, examines my thumb, and kisses the bite marks away.

“All better,” she says, her voice tender and soothing. I stare at my thumb.

“Maybe,” I say, tears welling up. “But I don’t see the point. You know I’ll bite it again.”

“Exactly,” God says. “Exactly. Maybe that’s why I love you so much.”

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.”

Followers

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“Hey God, look,” I said, pointing at my email. “We got another follower.” My coauthor feigned deafness and pointed east toward the rising sun.

“What?” I asked. “You want the blinds up?” She nodded. I complied and continued, my voice less certain. “You know we have people who read about our chats, right?” God looked at me. It wasn’t an encouraging look, but I didn’t let up. “We have over a hundred and…”

“So?” God interrupted, drilling directly into my own deeper questions. “And you know there are literally billions of blogs, right? If words were food, there’d be no hunger,” she said with a sigh that I interpreted as judgement.

“Yeah,” I snapped. “And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

Dust swirled in the aggressive light streaming into the room–glittering little particles of burned wood, dead skin, pulverized top soil. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Words to words. Ideas to ideas. I wanted to scream and rip my insides out. This can’t be it. This can’t be all.

“It’s not,” God said. “It’s not all. It never is. Get in the old white car and drive. Find a new horizon.”

I teared up. God had called my bluff. “I can’t,” I said, sorrowful. “I just can’t. This is my life. The only one I have. The only one I will ever have. I can’t risk knowing any more than I already know. I’ve arrived too late to save anyone.”

“Of course you have,” God said. “And besides, one of the engine mounts has deteriorate. It’s not entirely safe. But the tires are new. The bread is fresh. And the bodies are broken…” She choked up. “The bodies are so, so broken.”

I rushed over, sorry I’d refused her offer, sorry I knew so little, sorry I was so limited and afraid. The way forward was obscure, but I rallied. “Don’t feel bad, God,” I said, grabbing what I could of her in my arms. “I’ll give it a try. There’s a little over half a tank. Maybe we could see where that takes us, okay?”

God looked surprised and nodded. “Nothing is as it appears,” she said slowly, in her best teacher voice. She held my chin in her hand. “There will be wind this afternoon. You can hide from it, chase it, or get out that dusty kite and fly it.”

I remembered a day at the beach, long ago. My landlubber mother admired the fancy kites and bought some for the grandchildren, but she was too timid to try one herself. I wondered how things might be different had she’d tried.

My reverie was interrupted by fast-approaching thunder. The earth was throbbing, the pulse of God coming up through my bones. I looked up. Hundreds of thousands of beggars were galloping across the horizon, their horses majestic, their tattered clothing flying like flags. They waved and cheered, the sky jagged with silhouettes. They were like ET going home. A stampede of jubilation.

Even though it was very cold, the old white car started right up. God hopped in, rubbing her hands.

I turned and faced her. “Where you headed, stranger?” I asked, hiding my fear behind a pathetic John Wayne accent. God threw back her head and laughed like that was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. This helped. I put the car in gear.

“You should never pick up a hitchhiker,” God said, still chuckling.

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “Buckle up.”