What you see is what you get.

Apologies: Micah

Micah Jeremiah used to be a Quaker.

Micah says: “Once you’re a Friend, God knows where you live. Don’t become a Quaker.”

Meaning that he lost his religion and found his god.

Micah says: “I’m not an atheist. It’s not for lack of trying.”

He stands at five-foot-eight; habitually combs his short, brown hair with his fingers; talks when he has something to say; has something to say roughly every two minutes; wears black, a lot of black, looks good in black; and doesn’t exist.

He and I kissed once, to see what would happen.

Micah says, “Serious business with God.”

I blink. “What?”

Every murmured word sounds obnoxious. 4 AM is a dead hour. Sitting in a parked car and awake feels disrespectful. The silent highway is in sight; prickly spikes of weeds poke through the dry desert ground surrounding us.

Micah says, “When there is no more religion, there is nothing left but serious business with God.”

California’s dark hills swell up against the sky like the shadows of demonic giants.

I cross my arms. There’s nowhere to look that can settle my uneasy feelings. “Can we get back on the highway?”

“We’re not trespassing.”

“Yeah, but.”

After a while, I elaborate. “This kind of place just dredges up bad memories for me.”

After another moment, Micah is eyeing me. He combs his hair with his fingers.

I clear my throat. That makes my breath stickier. “When my dog died, my parents and I drove him out to the desert to bury him.”

“The dog before the one you have now?”

“Two dogs before that. Sugar was my first dog.” My nose itches. I rub it indelicately. “He was too big to bury in the yard. We drove way the heck out there. We pulled off the highway and dug a grave, the three of us. Deep enough so that the coyotes couldn’t dig him up. Just dug a grave in the desert in the night. It was freakin ghoulish.”

Micah pushes a button to turn on the radio. Before it can shout he switches the noise level to nothing. Gradually, he raises the volume until Katy Perry is mumbling.

I continue. “When we got home, I found myself wanting to read about the afterlife.”

“The afterlife, JoJo?”

“I haven’t known a lot of people. Anybody who died didn’t mean anything to me. That dog was the first one to die who meant something. I suddenly wanted an authoritative statement on the afterlife. I have this book on Judaism. Because I’m interested in Judaica. It’s a thick hardcover, with a blue and white jacket. I call it “the big blue book on Judaism”. It’s about the Jewish religion and history and culture. I was Christian and already knew what the Bible said about the afterlife. When I got home from burying my dog I couldn’t buy all that stuff about jewels and gold and gates made of giant pearls. I read in the Big Blue Book what Jews believe about the afterlife. They don’t claim to know what’s on the other side. Only that there is an other side.”

I stop. I cough.

It’s a small, undramatic cough that reminds me of how dead I am not.

The world outside the car couldn’t be any bigger or more open. The sky waits for light to rise.

I am not alone in the night. The radio mutters, and there is the random humming of a man whom I kissed once.

Micah says, “Serious business with God.”

His kiss had tasted like the clean, gentle side of humanity.


October 6, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Talking About Fight Club

May I never be complete.

May I never be content.

May I never be perfect.

Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete. – page 46, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

It would probably sound odd to you if I were to tell you that if there were such things as fight clubs, I would have to think- really think- about whether or not to be involved.

It would sound odd to you for a fairly obvious reason.

Well, I told you. And it sounded odd, didn’t it?

It’s not Ikea furniture that makes me weary and restless.

Anatomy isn’t destiny, let’s not be silly. I don’t believe I have a role to fill, a divine obligation to fulfill certain duties related to home and hearth. I don’t want kids, and I don’t buy Ikea furniture.

But in a relationship, if it’ll be anyone’s job to see to it that the house smells nice and the pillows are fluffy, dollars to donuts that job will be mine. I can’t feel trapped by those little nice things even if I wanted to. And I don’t want to, at the risk of sounding too much like a traditionalist. Any man of mine will come home to a pleasant and comfortable environment, if I have anything to say about it.

It’s not Ikea furniture that makes me weary and restless.

It’s the fact that the thought of being hit scares me witless.

And fear- now that wears on you, that wears out its welcome very fast. I have not been struck since I was a little kid being spanked and I have never had to strike someone else. Violence frays the edges of my world ; I’m extremely aware of it because it’s going on in the world right now as I type and you read.

Violence seems to me a matter of probabilities. Every day, there are certain odds that it will come and get me. I live in a low-crime area, which lowers the odds and I am most grateful to God for that. The probability is never 1 but it is never 0, either. That fact unnerves me. Especially when I consider violence’s wondrous variety.

If there were such a thing as a fight club- as imagined by Chuck Palahniuk- and you walked through the door, the probability of encountering violence would shoot up to a solid ONE.

But it would be because you made it so.

Control and fear can’t exist side by side. If I could take control of a very serious thing and decide that there was going to be a fight- me and someone else, let’s make it another woman, let’s be realistic- and I was going to get hurt but not as a victim, not as a victim, and I couldn’t be further from feeling like a victim-

Would it feel good?

I fear being punched because it’s never happened to me.

I fear being attacked because I’m not certain I could fight back.

But in a fight club, as imagined by Chuck Palahniuk, punching happens to you and you fight back because in a warped twist on love and trust, the fight is anything but violence.

Give me control and I will not fear anymore. Give me a fair fight. Give me a microcosm where the term “innocent bystander” does not exist.

I would have to think- really think- about whether or not to be involved.

Because to pretend that my fear isn’t important… to aim for completion, contentment and perfection… would be embracing complacency and nothing offends the universe more than that. Nothing will get you killed faster.

But I do aim for peace and that is why I would have to think about about it.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | Personal Essay | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment