The person sitting in front of me—this person who is enjoying a luke-warm cup of Earl Grey (with a generous squirt of honey, but passing on the lemon wedge), while our barista sets down a marbled sliced of cheesecake—isn’t what I imagined. Though, I can’t say what I imagined. Or who, for that matter.
“Expecting a long, wisely old beard and a toga?” the person asks, reading my mind. It takes some getting used to, I admit. However, it isn’t very long before this person—what gender pronoun can I even use here?—continues, “Neither and both. Considering the consensus of the religiously”—air quotes—“astute in this country, you may call me him. But no capital ‘H.’ I hate that shit.”
After a sip of his tea, he adds, “Call me God, Logos, or Prometheus. Any name will do, actually. Given the opportunity, which I’ve had several times in the past, I’d call myself Lloyd. Can you imagine that, though? Going to church—if you went to church that is—and reciting, ‘All praise be to Lloyd, who all things obey?’”
Lloyd, God, Logos, Prometheus stands no taller than five-six in platform boots. His frame is feminine and thin, with slight muscular undertones which is visible beneath the skin-tight, long sleeve shirt he wears underneath a blazer. He is garbed in black with facial piercings, resembling a person who listens to the lyrical genius of Dani Filth than Amy Grant. He takes a ginger forkful of the marbled cheesecake in front of him, and makes a face when the taste registers on his tongue.
“The things you people put into your bodies,” he says taking a drink. “I’m sure Luci is going to get the rap for this one, as well.”
“Who?” I ask.
“As in Fer. Lucifer,” he laughs. “Satan. The Morning Star.”
“So he’s real, too?”
“Oh, you’d better believe he’s real, too.” He stink-eyes the cheesecake, makes a move for it, before retracting back into the lean of the sofa chair he occupies. “He’s not too bad,” he continues, “Satan. Gets a bad rap for what’s written in the second half of that book. He’s a pussy cat, really.”
“So original sin, Job, and all the end times?”
“I’ll give you Job, but he was only doing what I hired him for,” he answers. “When I found ol’ Luci, he was stuck in some middle management job over the Betelgeuse sector…” He pauses and looks me over, smirking. “Yes, Heaven is all encompassing the entire universe, not just the earth as some of you”—air quotes—“astute religious leaders believe. When I designed the big bang, I had this plan to spread out as far as possible and create as much as possible, but I couldn’t be everywhere—yeah, I said it—so I started up a franchise and hired a bunch of angels to do my bidding in the other sectors.”
“So is ours the center of the universe?”
“Of course, not. We’ll get there shortly, however,” he takes a drink of his Earl Grey and makes for the marbled cheesecake once again. After a grimace and forced swallow, he opines, “That’s me awful.”
* * * *
Satan, I learn, isn’t a bad guy. He often pops up in the real world, carries out a task that pushes the limits of a believer’s faith, and when it’s over, he goes fades into the shadows. He doesn’t live in Hell, as there is no such place. And he doesn’t live in Heaven, either. And most of the times, I learn, God/Lloyd/Prometheus/Logos doesn’t either. A photo that the creator keeps in his wallet shows the two at a fishing trip on Europa before they opted to cancel the life there—“Too cold,” God/Lloyd/Prometheus/Logs explains. “Besides, the fish all tasted funny. It wasn’t worth it. We took a couple of cells from there and dropped them in your oceans.”—and Satan resembles a young Bruce Springsteen, which validates my mother’s outburst when I purchased my Born in the U.S.A. LP in high school.
“One of the biggest misconceptions—propagated by your”—air quotes—“astute religious leaders—is that Luci’s responsible for the wrongs in the world. Truth is, people are responsible for all this shit,” motions to the marble cheesecake partially eaten on the coffee table between us, “and only you have the power to fix it.”
“Isn’t that why you’re here?” I ask.
“Funny you should think that,” he chuckles. “What a lot of people don’t understand is that Luci and I don’t do shit. If a hurricane hits the Gulf Coast, it isn’t because of the gays. If some fundamentalists crash a plane in a building, it isn’t because women aren’t in the kitchen. It’s because a lot of you have your heads so far up your ass that you’re coming out of your own mouth.” He motions to the barista, points at his Earl Grey, and smiles. Without so much as an eye roll, the barista complies and sets off to make him another cup. “Same thing with the good stuff. Whenever I catch one of those award shows on TV, and the actor/musician/director/writer/whatever gets up there and takes the golden statue of whatever and just smiles and starts shop-listing all the people who got her there and she just holds up that award and casts her eyes to the sky and thanks me, I’m just, ‘I didn’t do anything. I was playing Xbox with Luci. That’s all you, Halle baby.’”
The barista brings him another cup of Earl Grey and removes the cheesecake and his old cup before leaving. He glances at me with a smirk, “She thinks you’re cute and she really hopes you swing her way. Which, as we both know, you do.”
“Despite your book considering it an abomination?”
“I never said that. Hell, I never signed on half of what that book says. You know they say I created you out of dirt, as if that’s more dignified than the truth?” He shakes his head and takes in a breath, “Truth is, you’re all just pet projects of mine, but I like this location better. That’s why I took this sector, not because this is some center of the universe. You know how big the universe is?” I shake my head. “Well, neither do I. Not really, because it’s ongoing, an eternal loop of patterns and mash-ups. Did you know that there is another planet identical to Earth in every single way? Well, thus far. They’re still a century behind you, but in a hundred years you and I—well, the you from that planet—will have this exact same conversation and by that time, there’ll be another planet with an identical history to that one. It’ll just be mirrors bouncing against mirrors.”
“The universe is vast, and every sector has its creation myths and every sector has the idea that I made them in my image—which is ridiculous as I don’t have an image to begin with, not really. That defeats the whole purpose of metaphysical, if you ask me,” he continues after a drink from his new cup. “This one’s just happened to be written by a bunch of misogynistic homophobes who couldn’t get girlfriends so they thought to even the dating field by outright stating that sexuality is a sin if it goes against procreation.” He shakes his head, “Let me ask you, does it make sense that I, an all-loving, all-knowing being, would allow a world to overpopulate itself to death? It’s downright ludicrous. So, no, you’re not an abomination. Your love is not an abomination. The freedom to marry who you love is not an abomination. What’s an abomination is how your religiously”—air quotes—“astute leaders are putting words in my damn mouth.
“Truth is, you’re all my children, regardless of your religious stance or how devout you pretend to be in the mosque, temple, or church. And I love you all. Well, not Rick Santorum. He’s not really one of mine. He’s adopted.”
“Rick Santorum, I’m glad you brought him up…”
“I knew you would be,” he interrupted. “Which is why I brought him up.”
“He’s one of many who think that religion is key to the political system, going as far as calling this a Christian country, or a country under God. Where do you stand in politics, really?”
“It shouldn’t matter if a person believes I exist, or not,” he laughs. “People have the habit of measuring their faith like high school boys measure their dicks. The amount of times you attend mass isn’t proof you’re a good person. Keeping track of how many times you pray in a day doesn’t make you holier than your opponent. You only come out looking like an asshole.”
“On several occasion, during his presidency…”
“Let me stop you there. I know what you’re going to ask, and I’ll just say this. There has never been a time when I ever—not one single time in the history of this planet or the history of the identical planets—spoke to some alcoholic or an Alaskan redneck or a cockeyed, bat-shit crazy Minnesotan bitch. Not once did I instruct anyone they should run for political office. Not even Luci would do something that cruel, and he kills innocent people bi-monthly in order to prove someone else’s faith in me.
“Thing is, I’m not a politician. I’m not political. I’m not aligned with any party. Or country. Or planet. And I hate the way people and the Sherbiathains of Sigma Theta use my name to invoke fear in others in order to get elected.”
“Sherbiathains. From Sigma Theta, a planet you’ll learn about in ninety years. Spoiler alert people.”
“It’s nothing to worry about. They won’t even make it to this planet as they’ll forget to carry the two, or something, and Jupiter will suck them into her orbit and the gravity alone will crush them. The only thing you’ll get is a distress signal about how they were going to kill you, but if you be as kind to help them, they’ll spare your planet and focus their attack on the Grimlaibeths of sector Omega Proxy, or what you people may call, the center of the universe. Even though you’d be wrong because, as I’ve said, it’s hard to pinpoint a center on infinite space.”
“Agreed, next question.”
My final question relocates us outside. We’re walking through the park, following the path I use every morning to jog. The path that, during the spring, takes you right into the center of nature’s beauty as the flowers of every bush and tree bloom with promise, calling life to drink of their nectar. God/Prometheus/Lloyd/Logos stops in front of the harbor at the path’s edge. He waves his hand, motioning the lush greenery and beautiful waters as two sail boats drift by, carried by the currents of the water of the air ballooning their sails.
“There is no simple answer,” he tells me as he takes a seat on a bench. “There isn’t just one, but millions upon millions. And each answer belongs to a single individual, animal, plant, cell, or rock.”
“Then what’s mine?”
“You asked yourself the question forty times in our conversation, to yourself. And you asked yourself twice this morning before going to the café. And you’ll ask yourself the question several more times for the years you have left on this planet. And the question will nag you until your death, and it’ll nag you—the you from that other planet I mentioned earlier—just as much.”
“Why me? Of the devout or the religiously”—air quotes—“astute people in this country, why did you pick me?”
“Would an answer to that question bring you anymore comfort as the answer to the purpose of humanity?” he asks.
“Probably not,” I respond.
“Then why not just accept that you’re not to know? Why boggle yourselves with purposes you’re never meant to know? Why not just accept the lives I have given you and live them for a change rather than figuring shit out?” And with a blink, he was just the air around me once more.