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Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014

His God Has No Legs

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I often look at my husband’s face and attempt to reduce the world to good, bad, black or white. I do this in restaurants and on Christmas morning, at our children’s soccer games and in the car, while my life goes by in one big blur out the window. I think: Is this the life I was meant to live? Is this even my life?

“But why?” Shelley says over coffee. I tap my foot four times. She’s been my friend since our childhood in White Plains. “Why waste your time on such trivial thoughts?”

“I want to control my destiny,” I tell her, because it sounds abstract and it’s easy to say. 

“Destiny?” Shelley slurps her coffee. “Well, welcome to it. You’ve arrived.” 

The truth is that I was in love with a man called Henry, but he died. It was sudden and grim, but that’s beside the point. 

You see, now, when I look at my husband (not Henry), whom I love dearly, I feel as if he’s the runner up. And truly, I do not want that for my husband, the father of my children. I want to believe he’s my first choice. Not, by default, the first living choice. The idea is perhaps vaguely romantic in hindsight, and yet I’m not exactly sure how.

Together, we have two beautiful, big-eyed children. They look up at me, with sticky fingers and strawberry jam on their cheeks, and no other thing in this world could bring me such joy. So, I think, I wouldn’t have these children if I hadn’t met my husband. Well, I’d have some children but not these, and one thought leads to the next until I realize Henry had to die in order for these children to exist. And if they’re my greatest joy, does that mean I’m glad Henry died? Do you understand my problem here? This is what keeps me awake at night. This and my tapping. One, two, three, four.            

Sometimes, when the sky is especially vast and blue, I stare up at it and say, “Are you there, God? Are you seeing any of this?” When there is no reply, I imagine a thunderous being, in the form of a man on a great white horse, coming down a cold, marble staircase. Clop, clop, clop, clop. “Linda,” God says. “You must choose: the dead one or your husband.” 

One: “Come on, God!” I say. Two: How am I to answer this? Three: Perhaps the better question is, Four: Why do I need to? 

I can’t say that I necessarily believe in heaven. But, for the sake of the hypothetical, what if I’m forced to choose my soul mate when all of us are dead? God will straddle his horse and say, “Go on, Linda. Who do you want to float in eternity with? Henry or that runner-up husband of yours?” You’ve been to the movies. You understand the weight a soul mate can have on our well-being.

Of course, I’ll probably be grey and wrinkled, while Henry is young, bloody and handsome as ever in this hypothetical heaven. He’ll pry shards of glass from his head and say, “Linda, is that you?”

I’ve expressed the concern of age in heaven to my husband, but he says this is small-minded because this heaven of his isn’t superficial with bodies, age and sex. His God has no beginning and no end. His God has no legs. He is horseless.   

“Try and see the bigger picture,” my husband says. “Heaven isn’t just a better version of Earth.”  

But who’s he to say?

This may all seem strange, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t American. America loves what if scenarios. 

“Mommy,” my boy says. “What if God doesn’t let the doggy into heaven?” I smile, tap the door knob four times. Like mother, like son. I answer these questions to the best of my ability. “Then we won’t have to worry about shedding.” I pluck white hairs from my sweater.

Speaking of the whole what-if scenario, driving the other day, I saw this billboard of the president, sponsored by the catholic church. It read, “Every twenty-one minutes, our next possible leader is aborted.” So we’re led to think, what if Barack Obama had been aborted? Then who would our president be? I wrote a letter to the church, which included a photocopied picture of Charles Manson with the same caption. I never heard back, but surely I’m on some list because of it.

“What do you want?” Shelley asks, the veins bulging in her neck. I’ve offended her. “To travel in time? See the future? You can’t control everything, Linda.”

I think for a moment, mulling over the ceaseless numbers in my head. One two three four. I don’t know what I want.