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