What God Looks Like

“Mommy, what’s God look like?” My mother put down her pencil and thought. “He’s like…an umbrella.” She motioned her hands in order make an umbrella shape above her head, and she continued. “He’s useful in the rain, when you want to curl up under a rock and wither away, or have no roof to hide under.” “But…what’s he look like?” She scooped me up on her lap and said, “When I meet him, I’ll let you know, okay?” Then she tickled me a little and kissed my cheek.
I was 6 that day, and I was 8 the day she left. She had cancer for three months, and then it went away for a while, and when it came back, she was around for another six months before God finally took her. That day I learned that God is not in hospitals, ambulances, IV machines, doctors, needles or even the occasional 90’s movie used to entertain half-dead patients. We buried her in a blue dress, the one she wore to my kindergarten “graduation”, and the Christmas Pageant. And the one she’d wear to my wedding, she said. “I’ll even watch my weight, and take extra good care of it for that day, and then you can have it.” I never got that blue dress, and by now, some worm had eaten it and took it to it’s underground lair of decay and death.
When we buried her, she was too small for the dress, her eyes were sunken, and she didn’t even have her hair to die with. She had the prettiest hair, the kind you see in shampoo commercials where she’s in the shower, or they tie her hair in a knot. It was blond, and it was so lovely in the sun, like a goddess. Her nails were painted blue, to go with the dress. I don’t why they painted over the pink she’d worn in the hospital, it was much cheerier than blue, which is so sad. That day I learned that God is not in the color blue, or wavy blond hair, or mothers, or pink nails, or shampoo, or wedding days, or Christmas Pageants.

When I was 10, I went to a Catholic school with ugly uniforms, and girls with “Lisa Frank” folders, and boys with basketball dreams even though they can’t jump without tripping over their shoelaces. I became friends with a girl named Lucy, and one day in Religion class, we were told to draw what we thought God looked like. Most kids drew a shepherd or some old man. I drew lots of things: a polka-dot umbrella, a bolt of lightning, a wilted flower, a cross, a coffin, a child, a skeleton, a lady with blond hair in a blue dress, the devil, the sun, stars, a tree, and a broken heart fixed with tape. Lucy asked, “She told us to draw God, what are you doing?” “Drawing God,” I said, not looking up from coloring my umbrella. Lucy rolled her eyes, and went back to her shepherd scene. “If you say so…”
Sister Eliza was her name. Our teacher, I mean. She came to collect our papers, and when she got to mine, she made a face. Then she looked at me. Sister Eliza shrugged her shoulders and walked on. When I got my paper back, written in red pen, with Eliza’s illegible cursive writing, said, “Did not take assignment seriously. Come in for conference 10/3/03. Sign and return.” That day I learned God didn’t exist in classes, plaid jumpers, nuns or red pens with scribbly handwriting.

I was 13 when I learned there is no Heaven or Hell. Or rather, they’re not a place. They’re “the state of being with/out God for all eternity.” There was no Adam and Eve, no Noah, no Tower of Babel, and they’re all myths. This has always plagued me as being the most perplexing thing in all my history. That day I learned that God is not in the Bible (or some of it), or in angels, or even Heaven.

I was 16 when I first fell in love. His name was David, like that Biblical king who slept with Bathsheba and killed her husband. He had curly brown hair, freckles painted on like stardust, and big blue eyes. He was like a giant puppy that could hold your hand properly, and kiss your temples when you’re upset. And your legs, and neck, even when you say no. “You know you want to, now let me prove it,” he’d say. And boy, how he’d prove it. The next morning I’d wake to see him in front of me. That stupid brown hair, and those annoying blue eyes. His hideous freckles, and those putrid dimples. I hated when he laughed, and cried when he smiled. During those three months, I learned God is not in bed, once so sacred, or white sheets, now blinding and painful. God wasn’t in my wrists, covered with blood, or in my clothes on the floor, rumpled and sweaty. He wasn’t in David, and He wasn’t in me.

When I was 17, I skipped my Confirmation. I didn’t deserve to sit there, with newborns in white dresses to be initiated into this blissful cult, or teens who’d stop coming after that day, or little old ladies who donated whatever cash they had left to charity. When I’d started classes, I already knew what name I wanted: Mary. How ironic.

I was 19 when I didn’t have a birthday. My father ignored me now, and I didn’t want him to see me, anyway, I just wanted to leave. I was hoping for the world to end, and killing me first, but the closest thing I got was rain. Close enough, I suppose. I walked outside with my polka-dot umbrella and box of Camel cigarettes, but I didn’t bother wearing a jacket. I would have walked to the cafe, but I felt I ought to die on a bench, less people, less attention I know I don’t deserve. I lit a cigarette, and let the nicotine toxin fill my lungs before I exhaled, and repeated the process until it was gone, and at each breath hoping “This one will kill me, finally.”
I don’t know why I didn’t just get it over with. It’d be so easy. All it takes is a pill here, or an injection there. And they’re so easy to get around here, anyway. I was already on antidepressants (which didn’t work), so why don’t I just overdose? I lit another cigarette, and realized it was soaked, and so was I. I already went to the trouble of dragging my mushroom umbrella here, so I might as well use it. I still tried desperately and frantically to light the stupid thing, though I knew it was useless. I cursed as I threw the box in the grass somewhere, and didn’t bother to pick it up. I lied down on the bench, letting the rain get whatever wasn’t already soaked, and fell asleep, praying I wouldn’t wake up. But I did. Some idiot interrupted my demise, to talk. “Hey, you’’ll die if you stay out here! Come on, where do you live?” That was kind of the point, dummy. I sighed. Why the heck would this guy stop to “help” anyway? Surely he’d take me to some alley to take my wallet or whatever innocence I had left. Not like I cared anymore, it was all the same.
“Mommy, what’s God look like?” He looks like the taxi driver who ran a red light.
“Mommy, what’s God look like?” He looks like that dog who won’t let you near his scraps.
“Mommy, what’s God look like?” He looks like that stupid girl you find in the morning every morning, hoarse from screaming, eyes red from crying, makeup smeared, clothes rumpled, and hair messy. And in the reflection, you see that boy who you want to die in the most painful way possible, and can’t bring yourself to kill him. God’s just some selfish old man looking out for number-one, the head honcho, the big cheese. And He doesn’t exist.
“…Miss?” I snapped awake from the self-hating storm in my head, to answer his question. “What?” “I said, ‘Are you alright?’ You look flustered.” “Yeah, I’m fine.” Why would I tell a stranger what I’m going through? Let alone, a man? How would he know how I felt? “No, you’re not, if you’re sitting in the rain, smoking. And shouldn’t you be in school?” I hated this guy. I didn’t even know him, but I hated him. I didn’t say anything, but I stayed for his amusement. “No, I’m much older than I look, and what’s it to you, if I sit in the rain, and smoke?” “Well, you have an umbrella in your hand,” he said, “yet you’re just dragging it.” He took the umbrella gently, and held it over my head. He held my hand protectively, and walked on the outside of the sidewalk, so that I wouldn’t be terribly splashed if a rude car passed by. He did everything like…
No! She’s gone, and I’m alone! That’s it. Alone. Abandoned. Solo. And nothing more. He brought me to a bench where there was a canopy overhead, and no need for mushroom umbrellas. We began chatting, and though I wasn’t really interested, he had this vibe about him, so I decided to humor him.
He eventually forced me to eat a huge cupcake as he had pried the information that it was my birthday. Heck, he pried the information about everything. Funerals, blue dresses, broken hearts with tape, bitchy nuns, parent-teacher conferences, dropping grades, cutting, David, sex, his hideous blue eyes, even stupid things like my favorite color, or my dead butterfly collection. He told me that he lived in a nearby apartment, and I should visit sometime. He was very nice, and I felt I could talk to him. I visited every day, it was too late to go back to school anyway. He was 20 years old, and seemed to be doing well, despite the mess. I offered to help him clean up while he worked on his stories and novel. (He was much better than David, he wouldn’t pester to nibble your ears.) Sometimes he would ask me to read it, and it was very good. One day he took me to lunch. “You really don’t have to and besides, I haven’t been to a restaurant in years!” “All the more reason to go then!” Roger smiled, and we walked to a small Italian restaurant. I tried to get cheapest things possible, I didn’t want to bother him, despite his protests. I wasn’t used to being spoiled, after all. We went outside, and it was raining again. I didn’t bother with the umbrella this time, the rain felt so nice against my face. Cool, and refreshing…
…And painful. I thought of my mother. God, what would she say if she found me like this? I thought of David, of bed, of sex, of Dad, Sister Eliza, of umbrellas, and of Roger. I lost it. I fell to my knees, curled up in a ball, and just sobbed in the sidewalk. Whoever was outside either stared or tried to help, but then walked away, I think Roger asked them to let me be.

We were at the apartment, and I was half-asleep on Roger’s lap (well, a pillow on his lap), and I had a blanket on me, with him stroking my wet black hair. There was some tea on the table for me, but I just let it sit, it was too hot anyway. “Why, Roger?” I asked quietly, almost a whisper, when I could speak again. “Why, what?” he asked. “Why go to all this trouble for me? I don’t deserve it.” “Everyone deserves kindness,” he replied. “But I’m not kind.” “Especially those who can’t see that they are.” “So this is like the therapy I never got,” I said, “to see if I can be normal again? I don’t think I can ever be normal again.” He sighed. “You might never be normal again completely, but we can try.” I thought of broken hearts fixed with tape. “So what happens after I’m ‘mostly normal’? We both go our merry ways?” There was a moment of silence. “No,” was all he said. “Then what?” I waited for his answer with anticipation. Please don’t say something stupid. “You visit again, like you have every day. I can’t love you without you here, right?” I knew it. Something stupid. I sat up, still slouching with my elbows on my knees, face in my hands. I looked at him. God, he was beautiful. Emerald green eyes, dirty blond hair, and not one stupid freckle in sight. My chest hurt, and my face grew hot. Heck, my whole body was hot. “L-Love?” I said, pulling my hair behind my ears and looking at the floor to my left. (I always do that when I’m embarrassed. Always.) “Yes, love. Do you love me too?” I gathered every bit of strength left, and looked at him. He was blushing a little. That’s so cute. “I—Uh—” I fumbled for words and after I deep breathed a few times, answered.
“I like coming here, Roger, it’s like a home away from Dad.” I didn’t say “home away from home,” because with Dad was no longer home. It was just a building. With wires, cement, wood, furniture, and a man who now hates me, and a mother who will never be there. “I’m not sure I’m ready for…” “For what?” I said this as quietly as possible. “Sex.” I was so quiet, and I mumbled, I’m surprised he heard it. “Se—What? I don’t think of you like that.” I sat up a little more. “Y…You don’t?” The first and last time I loved someone, he simply tried to get in my pants, so I’m sure you know where I’m coming from. “No. I want to spoil you. I want to send you roses on Valentine’s, give you presents at Christmas, take you to nice places, hold your hand. I want to hold you, kiss your cheek, write you poems, bring you soup when you’re sick, hold the door for you.” I started crying again. He said things that sounded like only what happened in movies, and were to good to happen in real life, or to me. “I—” I choked on sobs and gasps for air and the right words. “I love you too!” I embraced him and he held me, wiped my eyes, and comforted me with every bit of kindness. I haven’t known such kindness since my mother, when I asked what God looked like. During that rainy night, I learned God was in Good Samaritans, in hugging, in tears, in love—real love, in broken hearts fixed with tape, and in rain, to wash away the guilt. And He’s pretty darn comforting.

What God Looks Like

Papergirl

Joined August 2009

  • Artist
    Notes

Artist's Description

A short story from last November; it won an Honorable Mention in Colombia College’s “Young Authors, ’09”. It also earned me an amazing weekend in Chicago. :)

Critiques are appreciated, and I’m sure the ending is a little fast, but I did have a limited amount of words and pages I could use. Although, it did make quite a few people cry, and some just thanked me for reading it to them. proud grin

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