God Lay Dying
Before I tell you this, you have to know. I’m not a religious person. I was brought up Christian, but just about everyone I know was. Doesn’t mean I believe any of it. It’s just one of those things. I don’t think I believe in Christianity or angels or any of that even now. I have to say this so you don’t think I’ve had one of those Baptist conversions, “coming to God.” Not me, didn’t happen. At least, not like that.
I found God. He was sat in the parking lot of a 7-11, looking for the world he’d lost. He looked like one of those movie stars, you know the ones. Tough-guys who’ve gone grey. Tommy Lee Jones, or Clint. Yeah, he looked a lot like Clint, now I think about it. I looked at him, and there was this sudden thought, right here in my head. “Holy shit, that’s God.” Not scary, no thunder and lightning or choirs of angels. Just a guy who looks a lot like Clint, in jeans and a button-down shirt. I couldn’t think of what else to do, so I sat next to him.
We talked. I can’t remember what about. I do remember that he was kinda sad. He kept saying that he couldn’t find something, so I asked him what. His spark, he said. The little bit of his self that he put into the world, the shard of divinity that he left here long ago. But, he said, he couldn’t find it any more. He didn’t want to talk about it, so I asked him about the Red Sox, and he told me it was their own fault. They shouldn’t have let the Babe go.
I didn’t see God for a while, though I did go back to that 7-11 regularly. A pack of Marlboro each time, same as I got that day. it became a little ritual for me. I’d sit outside and smoke one, thinking about baseball and the state of the world.
The next time I saw God was three months later. He was older, his hair had almost all gone and his body was thinner. I had to ask him what’d happened. He told me how he still couldn’t find it. The spark had gone, people had taken the world he had made and put so much of himself into, and they had made it theirs. None of it was his any more. This was the world humans had made for themselves. The churches, temples, every religious institution going was just a vehicle for humans to keep doing what they’d always done. The only thing that was keeping him going was faith. Not Christian faith necessarily, but the faith of the very few who cared about the whole world, who lived lives of kindness and tried to do their very best for everything and everyone and held on to their faith in everything no matter what happened. Even that couldn’t keep him going for long.
He coughed as he spoke, like a sixty-a-day man with a tumour the size of a softball in each lung. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him, but he waved me away. Not my fault, he said. Not anybody’s fault. Faith was and is a choice, after all. I said I was sorry, that I would try to find that spark of his, and I got up to leave. Tell the truth, I felt ashamed. Of myself, and of humanity. We get this glorious planet, and we ruin it. We exploit a giant living organism for our own benefit. I had trouble sleeping for a week after that.
I stopped going back to that 7-11. Not all at once, but after the first month I was too scared of what I’d see to make the stop. Six months later, I found myself driving over to a friend’s place, and I had to stop off for a pack of cigarettes. Feeling like an idiot, I pulled my car into the parking lot, went inside, bought a pack of Marlboro and a cheap lighter, and left.
I was halfway to my car when I saw him. Sprawled on his back on the asphalt. God lay dying in the parking lot of the 7-11 where I’d first met him. I had to go see him, talk to him one last time.
The planet was ours, he told me. He’d been living off the faith of people but that wasn’t enough. He told me over and over that he didn’t blame us for it, and I knew that to be true in my heart with the force of the Eleventh Commandment. He really, truly did not blame us. We had done what he had wanted us to do. But, he said, that wasn’t any reason for people with faith to give it up. They were doing good not just for him, but for everyone and everything on the planet.
I had a hard time taking that in. In the end, I stood and turned away, tears welling up in my eyes. I couldn’t stand to see God die. When I turned back, he was gone. No note, no parting words I could share with the world to become a prophet, no last reason for me to forego my sinful ways and have faith. Just a cigarette lighter, a silver Zippo, with a cross embossed on it.
I can’t say I have faith now, no more than I did before meeting him. But I go to that 7-11 every single chance I get, and I try not to be so much of an asshole. I like to think it means something. Maybe not to anyone up in Heaven, but maybe they don’t matter so much as the guy down the hall, y’know?