“WHEN I MEET GOD”
WHEN I MEET GOD
7:04AM: I’m dreaming about dreaming when Lucy wakes me with a big kiss on my nose, my cheeks, my chin too. Lucy’s walleyed and her tail cuts the sun that pours in from the window that faces the airport. 7:14AM: On the morning radio, while the coffee drips, a woman explains that “Identity is a billion-dollar industry.” And her voice is bad. Bruising. Insistent. It seems–to me–to be the kind of voice, one imagines, that hates its mother. And probably hates its father too. It’s dumb pudgy hard voice. Yes, I hate it. 7:55AM: Now, on my little radio, a flight-attendant-friendly voice (a much better voice) reports that a chess champion was found dead in the spray-painted part of the city last night. And, well, I think that sucks. Because beyond someone being dead, it reminds me the world can be fully unfair. And while I do know that the world is like that–unfair –I sometimes like to pretend that it isn’t. 8:20AM: My son comes down the hallway rubbing his eyes, his pecker. Like most mornings he’s ready for me to play cars with him. 8:31AM: We move to playing with trucks. 8:39AM: I suggest we play with the cars and trucks together, but my son doesn’t go for it. “They have different towing capacities,” he says. “They shouldn’t even be on the road together. They’re very different machines.” 8:40AM: “That’s okay,” I say. “That’s okay,” I repeat, worried about the way he thinks about the world. 8:47AM: I walk my son to the bus so he can go to his Lewis & Clark summer camp. This is an odd week, as in not an even week: it’s a Meriweather Lewis Week. He’s wearing the otter cap we made from waxpaper and there’s a yellow bath towel over his shoulders that I pinned up to look like a hunting frock. 8:50AM: This bus comes down the street. 8:51AM: The bus turns left with my son onboard and I’m alone on the street. 8:55AM: I walk with a hilarious slowness down the sunny sidewalk and think about the endocrinologist that won’t return my calls. 9:17AM: Back in bed, I watch a video on my cellphone of a horse in the Catskills that’s been struck by lightning, rendering him blind, and now the horse’s best friend is the farmer’s dog, who barks to tell the horse when he’s close to the waterspout or the food bucket. They are best friends 9:18AM: Overwhelmed by the connectedness and tenderness of all living creatures, I cry myself back to sleep. 11:19AM: Lucy wakes me from another perfect dream because it’s time for her walk. Her eyes admire separate walls as I pat her on the head and pull back the covers. “Good fucker,” I say. 11:33AM: Lucy walks me past the green yards of our very nice and clean neighborhood. Eventually she stops to do her business against a tree. Out of respect, I turn my attention towards a salmonberry bush, swaying stupid-style in the summer wind. 12:01PM: We walk All the way to a new school, I watch a construction crew jackhammer where a gym will be. 12:03PM: I hear these footsteps between the jackhammer and turn around to see a woman I can’t understand coming towards me in the parking lot. 12:04PM: “I won’t,” she says, her mouth foamy and wild, her forehead sweaty and her elbows bloody like she spent the morning falling down the big stairs at the big library. “The governor’s team came for my children and tried to make me write about it. But I won’t. I won’t write about it.” 12:05PM: “Okay,” I say, reaching for the keys in my vest and spiking them between my knuckles the way the self-defense instructor on Channel 7 had demonstrated a week prior. 12:07PM: The woman’s hair shakes as she drops her grocery bag and pulls out the only gun I’ve ever seen in real life. 12:08PM: A small and urgent thing occurs in my small and urgent life. 12:09PM: Two construction workers–one of which is waving a wrench over his head–run towards me screaming; Lucy runs towards the bright sun, barking; and the woman with frizzy hair and bloody elbows runs towards the tree line, away from the mess she’s made. 12:12PM: Lucy comes back and licks my face. The men have their shirts tied around my stomach. 12:13PM: I die, okay. Now: A piece of my soul refracts with unlimited grace towards the giant doors of a European-seeming soccer stadium; everything, of course, is built out of perfect white light. The walkways and parking spots are perfect white light. The turnstiles. The unbent umbrellas that rise from the heavenly hotdog stands. And like any good heaven: everything seems to be forgiven and handsome and walkable (with the exception of the running track which goes on for forever, but that appears to be by design–an architectural statement.) Hereafter: A small mother opens one of the giant doors of the stadium, but there’s no creeeeeeak sound. I smile at the boney angel, but my smile isn’t working quite right. Also: I can feel myself not being able to think as well as I could think in the moment before this thinking moment. (When I was still alive thinking was easier.) I think all the white light is getting to me, sadly. Sanding me down, sadly. Slowing me up as the hero dog I recognize from the cover of People magazine, Caine, has me follow him down the mezzanine. First: going here. Then: going there. We meet all the other boney angels. And then we walk sideways for a while, down another long hallway, before we take the short short elevator ride up to the door with the privacy glass. Knock. Knock. (I hear God shuffling before he says come in.) But then he says, “It’s open.” And we are in. We’re in. And his chair turns slowly as the hero dog trots out the room. And I. Me. Am with God in his all-white office. In the presence of God: I say, “I’m sorry for everything. Apologies for my narrow, wham-bam thoughts and my–my tailgating ways. I take it all back.” Then I do pray: to take back my divorce, oil, golden temples and my general use of money for fun. And–Oh! Oh yes! I certainly do regret the molar I crushed eating too hard. Or. I mean, yes, the tooth I broke of my sister’s, telling her an earth rock in 1988 was a moon rock. In a time before or after time: God is quiet. He’s too quiet. Then he does a small little smile and he tells me I’m fine. Actually, better than most. He makes me pinky promise to be a good girl. In the time before or after time (cont.): “Me be a good girl in the pavilion,” I tell God. “I will, I can, I promise.” With God at my side: We walk the stairs a bit. And talk. Well, I try and talk. I tell him about my beautiful son and dumb-eyed dog. He laughs and lets me change the color of the sky to make it the way I always wanted to make it. It’s all very nice as we get near the white white pool. Then he gets all quiet again. He gets slumpy. He does this whole slumpy God routine. “I love swimming,” he says, taking my hand, holding my hand. “…just sometimes I wish that I had someone fun to swim with, you know? A person that knows that knows how to have some fun. The kind of girl that knows we’re running out of the good times.” I shake my head like I understand what God’s talking about and then I tell him another awful story about my husband who never took my stomach issues seriously until something inside me exploded and I had to be driven to the hospital in an ambulance and the ambulance was being driven by a guy I went to high school with and who lied about sleeping my friend Veronica just because they used to both workout at the same Planet Fitness. “Interesting life you had,” says God. And I’m so embarrassed about how my brain is working slow, I just cover my eyes and collapse into one of the lounge chairs. “Oh no no no,” says God, wrapping his arm around me. “Don’t cry. Heaven is supposed to be fun.” “I know, I know, I just miss my son, I think.” I say. But now God is breathing hard against the crook of my neck, his dazzling white robe now split over my shoulder, the extra fabric hanging like pool towel. He is on top of me now. Top God. I wipe my tears away as he lowers himself down into my hand. With God in hand: I hear only deep breathes. Then. “Please. Just hold me for a minute,” says God, his penis laid simply in my hand. “Just please don’t let go. Please. Please. Please don’t let go for a while.”
SAM BERMAN is a short story writer who lives in Chicago and works at Lake Front Medical with Nancy, Andrew, and Reuben. They are terrific coworkers. He has had work published in Maudlin House, Northwest Review, The Masters Review, D.F.L. Lit, Hobart, Illuminations, The Fourth River, and SmokeLong Quarterly, and recently won Forever Magazine’s Unconventional Love Stories Contest. His work was selected as runner-up in The Kenyon Review’s 2022 Nonfiction Competition as well as shortlisted for the 2022 Halifax Ranch Prize and the ILS Fiction Contest. He has forthcoming work in Expat Press and Rejection Letters, among others.