“But how do we really believe what the Bible says?” I ask the Jehovah’s Witness who has come knocking on my door.
“Because it says so in the Bible.”
“Because the Bible says so?”
“Yes. It says so in the Bible for instance that people are going to be resurrected and reports eight instances of humans brought back to life on earth, and so that’s why we believe in the resurrection.”
“Let me get this straight. The Bible says to believe in whatever it says to believe in and because the Bible says so—“
“—and gives evidence.”
“Yes, and gives evidence. Because the Bible says so and supports what it says with its own evidence, then that’s why we believe it?”
“We believe what the Bible says because the Bible says to believe what it says?”
“Okay, that makes sense,” I say, nodding my head. “Where do I sign up?”
Performance-enhancing drugs are to professional athletes what God’s wife is to God. She makes him look good and perform well even if nobody acknowledges or approves of her obvious existence. But she is sent out every day in her light rain shawl, to find things for God, to gather the far-reaching rumors of war and the cacophony of praises and prayers perfumed with a variety of incense and seasoned with tears. And every evening, she returns to lay these things down at God’s feet, but he doesn’t even seem to notice. Later than this, she waits under the blanket of trees for God to come in from his brooding fits of sometimes thunderous rage, but of course he never does. Or at least he hasn’t yet. God so loves the world, perhaps, yes, but isn’t that the problem then? Too much love for world means not much room left for loving one’s wife and by extension, by reflection, as it is written, also one’s self.
In the book I was reading just now, a man, the protagonist, an author with writer’s block, was walking along a well-known promenade in Parma, Italy, when he remembered suddenly a name that had been escaping him all day. He yelled it out. Anna!
At that moment, a woman walking in front of him, turned around. “Yes?” Apparently her name was Anna. Anna had been crying.The author in the story asked her to sit down with him at a local café.
As I read that passage, I also heard, “Anna!” I read how the main character, an author with writer’s block, yelled out Anna, and the woman in front of him turned, and then I heard Anna. My name, too, is Anna.
All of that was strange, yes, but I realized then, while reading that part, that I was also crying. I had long been crying for reasons that were not very clear to me. I put the book down, and when I stepped out onto the promenade, in Parma, Italy, where I live, I found the character, the author in the story, sitting in the café where I last read he would be.
“Where’s Anna?” I said.
He seemed confused. “You’re Anna,” he said.
“Yes, but where’s the Anna in the book?”
He didn’t understand what I meant.
I asked if I could sit.
“Of course. That’s what I thought you were going to do all along.”
I knew already what I was going to say to him. And though I understood that this information was going to help him out of his writer’s block—why else would I be here, in this scene, after all?—I’d later no doubt be jumping off a building or a bridge, to land on top of bus or into the shallows of a frozen river and be swept down the falls. The Author, the real one, the one writing us here now, ended all of his stories in this way.
“But why kill off your female characters?” I wanted to ask him. “Why populate your stories with strong females that must die? What good does that do you?”
“But how should it end?” the author, the protagonist, was saying now, not realizing that I wasn’t talking to him.
“I can’t answer that for you except by saying that there are two ways of seeing life, either as a womb or as a wound.”
He was writing furiously in his notebook, trying to get this down.
“We either find ways, in other words,” I continued, once his pen had caught up to what I was saying, “to be birthed here, through our hard experiences, or else we continually bleed.”
“Dude, I think you’ve been auto-corrected.”
“Meaning that your words don’t make sense in context. Two days ago you texted me, ‘Your son is a Mongolian imp.’”
“Uh-huh. I probably meant magnificent wimp.”
“And yesterday you texted me to picket penises.”
“That’s strange—” I began to say.
“—Yes, isn’t it?” he cut me off.
“You didn’t let me finish. What I was going to say is that it’s strange you don’t know what I meant by picketing penises.”
“I understand the words, of course. I know what the words mean by themselves. I know picket and penis, but what I’m trying to figure out is the larger message here in context.”
“Let me get this straight. I’m telling you to picket penises, and you don’t know what I mean in the larger context?” I waited a couple beats until he started getting flustered and said, “I’m just messing with you, dude. Ha, ha. You’re right, that’s really weird.”
I understand when I wake up that I’m still drunk. I check my feed. I get a private message via my Twitter account. I learn in this DM that today I am to kill somebody. I get ready to go. I make myself a Bloody Mary. I sip it slowly in my coffee travel mug as I take the subway and get off at the third stop. I kill a man in a laundry mat. I smash his head, barbarian-like as it sounds, beneath the lid of one of the washers as he’s loading in his whites. I get rid of the evidence. I wash my bloody clothes afterwards, dressing in other, random clothes that I find spinning in an unattended dryer. I’m completely sober now. I’m at least 85% sober now. While waiting for my own clothes to dry, I buy a double espresso at the nearby café. I sip it at a window seat by the door and tweet, “Just killed somebody.” I get a few favorites, a few Retweets. A man, then, at the next table over says, “Excuse me, but are you wearing my shirt, and my pants?” I give him one of my looks, one of my famously cheerful (if not quite smug) emoticons. I look at him in this particular way. Meaning: “If you were smart.” Meaning: “Don’t ask another question.” Meaning: “If I were you, if you were smart, I would not ask another stupid question.” I look at him like this until he understands, until he seems to understand, and looks away.