*I was unable to reach God for comment on preferred gender pronoun, so I am using 'they'
God keeps approaching me: twice in Washington Square Park, on the 4 train toward the Bronx, at the dog park, the new doctor's office while waiting to have my blood and urine evaluated.
God keeps insisting I read their book. Tells me it's a best seller, but I much prefer the kinds of books no one yet appreciates. I am courteous and never dismissive, but I always explain that though I appreciate God's conviction, I have a difficult time believing in anything these days.
It's not that I don't know what to believe in, it's how. I don't know how to believe when there are so many bullet holes and bones around me.
I meet a sailor on a Saturday night and he tells me he prays to the waves of the water. He rubs salt into his skin, as though they are rosaries with tiny prayers sucked into the crystalline. This sailor has eyes bluer than any body of water I have ever seen and I want to dive into them to drown in his dogma. I tell the sailor that when I was a kid, I only believed in God for the desserts. I explained that when I was young, my parents took me to synagogue. While everyone prayed and sang, I braided the fringe on my father's tallis, waiting for the end where everyone convened toward the giant table with cookies, stale pound cake and Jewish wine (Manischewitz). At that time, to me, God was a pastry. God was a rainbow cookie, which I ate slowly to make it last longer. I didn't understand the meaning behind the prayers. In Hebrew school, I was restless. I wanted to be a Jehovah's Witness (because Michael Jackson was). I wanted prayers to emit more miracles.
My mom got sick when I was barely a teenager, and I gave up on God. Desserts still had meaning to me, but were no longer sacred. Just sugar, flour, butter, eggs.
I ingested drugs instead of prayers because they lifted me out of life, into the clouds, out of my body, away from the shrieks of my mind.
I ate books. Hid inside my closet and listened to old radio shows on tapes given to me by my father. I gave up on the word God and no longer frequented buildings where God could be found.
On a different Saturday in Washington Square Park, I sit on a bench, shaded by skyscraping trees, writing a letter to my pen pal in Seattle. Two young ones approach me in crisp white button down shirts, dark pants and name tags. Mormons from the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this park full of humans being human, I feel utterly alone and invisible. Though I don't quite agree with their word, I listen, telling them how much I appreciate the bravery of their faith. I ask them: Do you ever have doubt? What happens when you just can't fathom believing anymore. I mention the massacre in Florida. People just trying to celebrate who they were and losing their lives for it. How do you believe after that? I ask.
The youngest one tells me that we are the children of God, but once we are here, it is up to us to make room for everyone. I listen as he tells me that God can't stop bullets, only we can.
I feel all the salt bubble in me. I ask them how old they are: 18 and 20. I ask what they want to be when they "grow up".
An entrepreneur , says the 18 year old.
A husband and father, says the other.
When they walk away, I continue writing my letter, thinking about all the ways in which a body can be depleted, as I frantically search for ways to keep my breaths from dissolving.