god versus the novelist
i. let’s say god teaches math to thirty-two teenagers. he says: to divide fractions, take the reciprocal of the second fraction and then multiply. tell me about the circulating fire encoded into their DNA, tell me about the human heart a boy ripped from his own body and ate with a rusty fork, tell me about the voices that convinced a girl to burn each damned limb to dust, tell me about the wheelchairs and the hospital beds and the bodies dropping to the floor. i am one of three sisters. when i ate sliced skinless apples and celebrated halloween with princess costumes, i thought the pine boxes in our driveway were my playground. let’s say god called in sick while we were learning our vocabulary. c-o-f-f-i-n. noun. i suppose pine boxes can be both, for the daughter of a walking dead woman, the sister of two dead girls. tell me about the middle sister’s calculations. two-thirds. tell me about the second fraction, tell me about what happens next. listen, i don’t blame you for killing yourself, but i want my doc martens back. you couldn’t pull them off anyway.
ii. let’s say god wears a suit and tie every day. his beloved students place an apple on his desk: whole, red, skin intact. there is no worm in the apple, that is much too cliche. let’s say god has moved from fractions to percentages. tell me about the hapa boy raised by his german mother, tell me about the black twins with two white fathers, tell me about the cherokee child living in new york city, tell me about the muslim american and the abc and the italian immigrants. let’s say god teaches spanish. he says: your last name means iron. your last name is the earth’s life force. tell me about the irish girl measuring her blood over and over again. 25%. let’s say god gives you a pop quiz: is 25% enough to wear your last name like a badge of honor? a) yes, b) no, c) it’s fake blood, you know, you’re wearing a costume that you can’t even take off. you are no longer a princess.
iii. let’s say god teaches sex ed: when a man and a woman are married and love each other very much… stop. the man behind the curtain wants to crush your misconceptions beneath the heel of his boot. let’s say god is infuriated that the student journalists have twisted his words so much. tell me about the force of nature who refuses to pick a gender, tell me about the girl dating three people at the same time, tell me about the boy making out with a man twice his age, tell me about the difference between asexuality and asexual reproduction, tell me about the queer children and the loveless but happy and the twenty-somethings having wild sex and the HIV/AIDS support groups. let’s say god is the mayor of minneapolis, and he’s marrying same-sex couples. he says: you are now pronounced wife and wife. tell me about a family with adam and adam or eve and eve. we drove thousands of miles to hear church bells on my mother’s wedding day. god blessed us, but the state did not.
iv. let’s say god sells apples at a roadside stand. he used to teach high school, but god doesn’t belong in hell. now god sells apples at a roadside stand. he can’t stop thinking about his former students. tell me about the boy who sells drugs to help pay rent, tell me about the children who sleep on benches, tell me about the desperation in the teachers’ eyes and their paychecks of pre-packaged ramen and cold showers. let’s say god is feeling guilty: i’m so sorry, he says, i’m so sorry, how do i fix this, what do you want, you’re choking on your own damn blood, what can i do. tell me about the inner city kids who eat but two measly meals a day, both at school, inhaling mystery meat and wilted cabbage like it’s a gift from- you guessed it- god. god is afraid to admit how powerless he is, so he sells apples at a roadside stand and eats all the rotting ones himself.
v. let’s say god is a novelist. what do you think he writes about? god and i have had our differences, but he is a much better novelist than you. your novels are walls; his novels are mirrors and doors. if you had created the world in seven days, would i even exist?
vi. there is nothing wrong with financially stable straight white boys- in fact, i’m dating one. he did not rescue me, he is not a gorgeous plot twist, he will not save the world, he is nobody’s hero but his own. in short, he is a boy and he deserves an honest story. when i kiss him hard enough, i can hear angels sing. but he is not god.
vii. to the novelist: you don’t have to write true stories, but please write honest ones. channel god.