I wrote this as an answer to “If God asks you on Judgement Day, “Why didn’t you believe in me,” what would you say to him?” on Quora. It is the companion piece to this. Enjoy.
I shove my chair back and stand up, enraged. The drink in my hand becomes a missile: I launch it across the room, over his head, and the glass shatters against the wall opposite me. Whatever had been in it, I could not remember now, sprays the wall, dripping down. I stare at it, watching it change colours as it slides towards the floor.
I could not remember what I had ordered, how it tasted, even if I liked it. But, it sure was beautiful on the wall.
I had been sitting across from him for what felt like a moment, but also forever. Ages had come and gone, civilizations risen and fallen, while we sat across from each other, conversing.
Or just a moment.
Maybe I had been a baby in my parents’ house in the eighties but a blink of an eye ago.
Maybe the planet had froze, melted, froze again, melted, froze again, melted, and was nearing another ice age in the time we have talked.
I watch my drink creep down the wall.
“You’re a fucking asshole.”
“You fucking heard me.”
“Chelsey, sit down.”
“No. I prefer to stand.”
He sighs. crossing his legs. He did it just like my dad used to: he would cross one ankle over the other knee and lean back, locking his fingers behind his neck for support, and usually smile, or at least look soft in the eyes.
God looks like my dad, but not the way my dad looked when I saw him last. He has a darker, fuller head of hair, and an older style of glasses that is trendy in the late teens of the 21st century, again. They were sitting low on his nose, but his warm brown eyes were still looking through them with his head tilted back like that. His shirt was a baseball shirt that he had made with iron-on letters that said “Still Awesome”.
Not God, my dad had made the shirt.
God was wearing my dad’s shirt.
He wears athletic socks. The coloured bands at the tops could be seen on the leg raised, uncovered from where his jeans rode up.
He looks like my dad used to look when I was very small.
I think he did that so I wouldn’t be afraid of him.
“I did it because it was an easy, comforting image in your memories. I like how your dad presents.”
“That is super creepy.”
“Omniscience is pretty creepy, yes.”
“I’m not buying the relational pitch.”
“So, back to what I was asking you, if we could? Why didn’t you believe in me?”
“Have you seen what it’s like?”
“Well, forgive me for my skepticism when my understanding of your conceptual existence is based on principles of unconditional love and shit, because like, I’m serious, have you really seen what’s going on out there… down there? Here? Where are we?”
“Unconditional love, you say. We’re in a bar. I thought this would be an easy, comfortable space for you.”
I look around the room. It has metamorphosed from an indiscriminate room into a more intimate space. The lighting is warm, and the furniture looks soft and inviting. There is a fireplace where the wall my drink was decorating had been. The technicolor liquid now drips off the mantle, pooling near the bases of candle holders. There are beautiful moving pictures in ornate frames on the walls with little signs next to them indicating titles, artist names and prices.
God is an art dealer, I think to myself. As if he’s got nothing better to do.
“I know what would be better for me to occupy my time with, Chelsey. Back to the question at hand.”
“No, but… never mind, don’t distract me,” I took a few breaths in an attempt to calm my nerves; talking to God is stressful. “I think probably because I don’t get it.”
“What do you not get?”
“I don’t get why we exist, what we’re supposed to be doing, why we are so prone to the destruction of others but ultimately also ourselves, what we’re supposed to do now that “judgement day” has come. Honestly, can you come up with a better name for this? Whatever this is? We people have made bad art about it for too long and it is totally loaded.”
I looked around for a bartender or wait staff to get another beverage. One happened to be sitting in front of me already. I don’t know when it got there, but it may have been immediately after I threw the last one at the wall. The mantle?
I pick it up and gave it a stir with the little drink stick poking out the top. It has cherries skewered on it. When I put it to my lips it tastes like almonds and strong, complex whiskey.
“Did you just make this drink appear?”
“Yes and no.”
“You made it appear, but it’s the same one you had before, so, um… do we need to have a time-space continuum science lesson right now?”
“Probably but I don’t really have time for that.”
“I assure you that you do.”
I take a breath to cry out and start to raise my drink-hand to a throwing position; I pause. I wonder how many times I have thrown drinks at the wall since we’ve been here.
I can’t remember.
“That was the time-space continuum lesson.”
“Oh for fuck sakes. You’re impossible.”
“I assure you I am not, nor have I ever been.”
“Well, you are obviously devoid of compassion, because we are suffering! All of us! Existential pain is universal, and it is relentless.”
“Is it, now.”
“YES. Every single person that is in existence on Earth is hurting, one way or another. And it is because of YOU.”
“I assure you it is not.”
“You do nothing to stop it!”
“That doesn’t make me the cause.”
“You might as well be.”
“That is not the same.”
“Dad… fuck, no, you’re not my dad.” I squint my eyes shut and press my fingers over them for a moment as if somehow, the image would change if I wiped it off my eyes.
When I open them again, across from me sits my wife. My heart skips and I relish for a moment just being with her, in this strange place. I allow myself to pretend nothing has changed, and we just came here, to this bar, together to get a drink. Maybe we’re travelling somewhere together, and decided to duck into this space next to the venue where we were seeing some electronic music. Maybe it was in Berlin, or New York.
That would be nice. I miss her.
She looks like when we met: bangs perfectly in place, hair swept to one side and blown straight. She is wearing a charcoal pencil skirt and sleeveless dark-toned blouse she had sewn herself. She always looks completely immaculate, even when we’re just at home doing nothing. Her eyes are soft; this is an expression I associate with her concern, because she worries about me more often than not.
“Don’t call me that! You’re not her!”
As if she had never been sitting there at all, and I had imagined it, he is now Ray.
He pulls a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket, lit one, while running his hand through his thick hair, like he used to do all the time while he drank, smoked, watched television, whatever he was doing. His moustache twitched at the corners as he smiled his strange, artificial smile at me and my stomach lurches.
Ray sexually assaulted me when I was eleven years old.
I stare incredulously.
“Yeah, great. Great choice.” I lean back and look up at the ceiling. This is incredible.
“Well, I mean, you seem to not want to speak to an image of someone you love, so how about one whom you decidedly do not?”
“This is pretty fucked up, if I may say so.”
“You are still not answering my question.”
“Look, if you’re so god damned omniscient, you know why I didn’t believe.”
“It is the only thing I cannot know.”
“I can see everything, except what you think of me.”
“That must be frustrating for someone as self-indulgent as you.”
“It is not ideal.”
“Well, that makes all of us.”
“Hm. Interesting perspective.”
“Oh, come on. You don’t think all the garbage we made up about how you made us in your image, in the context of your inability to see what we think about you, doesn’t make for a hysterical paradox? Wait, how did you even know I didn’t believe? I didn’t tell you that. Did I?”
He bounces the ankle of the crossed leg in the air, adding an air of annoyance to his posture.
“You did. And you tell me eventually what you think of me, now, but apparently not today.”
“What, did I hurt your feelings or something?”
He uncrosses his legs and stands, towering over me.
“You told me, and you’ll tell me again. We will be back here when you do.”
“Is this about the time-space whatever again? Are you seriously leaving because a little person made fun of you? What a joke. God has a fragile ego. I mean, I’m not surprised, but also, really? And like, look at you. How the fuck did you think I was going to handle facing my childhood molester? Did you really think that was going to prompt me to tell you anything? You’re fucking lucky I am more resilient than, say, clamming up or going into shock, or something, because then you’d be fucked. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything at all. You have got a thing or two to learn about how to have a conversation in which you have an agenda.”
I suddenly lean forward, snatching the pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket. I free one from the package, lighting it with a matchbook that appears in my hand as soon as I think it should, and take a long drag.
Of course they are clove cigarettes. Leave it to God to be ostentatious like that.
“You know, I haven’t had a cigarette in 5 years. That is how fucked up the world is, and you know it is your responsibility. We actively murder ourselves to cope more often than not.”
I sit back, annoyed but also smirking . I am suddenly pleased I did not throw my new cocktail across the room. I pick it up and take a sip, lifting the cherries out of their bath and sliding one off with my teeth, smug. It is amazing how ranting at God can leave you so conceited. I feel brazen, capable of saying anything.
“You know what I think of you? I am let down. Disappointed. This scene, here, you and me, was poorly executed, never mind your whole little human race project. Good fucking luck getting any references after that shit show of a venture.”
The look on his face softened. His lips don’t move but I hear him. I hear him not in the way we hear people sitting across from us, their voices projecting directionally toward us.
I hear him inside of me. His voice reverberates through my bones, as if the sound is coming out of me and also the walls around me, the furniture, the air may have even caused it. The cacophony of sound makes me want to cover my ears, but it won’t help because it is everywhere. I feel it in my hair, the individual follicles vibrating from the tone. I feel it in the blood cells that are syphoning through my heart.
Everything dissolves. Consciousness, the bar, God, it all disappears. I am sitting at a laptop, writing a short story about an encounter with a supposed deity, and thinking about whether to grab something at the grocer before going home to have dinner with my wife.