The first time we spoke about God was on a park bench in Munich. I was drinking lemon ice tea and you showed me how your dad used to pray. My dad, I explained, would not even let me watch Christmas movies as a child, as he worried the ‘religious message’ would corrupt my mind and make me join a cult. You laughed.
Later that day we walked back to my place. My apartment was a mess; blankets and cups and pizza crust all floating in a purple hue from the sun setting over the rooftops across the street. You hung your jacket over a dining chair and let your eyes linger on my many newspapers and article scraps, all cluttering the kitchen table. My lighter, the old one that barely worked, was lying on a pile of books. As you picked it up and flicked it, I asked myself if this was such a good idea. Earlier you had told me all about the commandments and the scripture and the rules and the food and the blessings and I had gotten lost somewhere between my prejudices and the thought of premarital intimacy. The last thing I wanted to do was to push you or make you feel unsafe. Still, as that weak flame danced right in front of your eyes, my doubt got lost in the thought of your hands in my hair, the sheets moving slowly beneath us, my fingers down your lower back…
“Would you like to stay the night?”, I asked without thinking, immediately regretting it and feeling both embarrassed and frightened, as if the sound of my own voice had awakened me violently from a dream. I anxiously looked at you, trying to think of something to say to not make you pick up your jacket and leave.
“Well…”, I began, “Maybe…”.
You fiddled with the lighter for a few more seconds before putting back down on the books.
“Yes”, you smiled and looked up, confidently, “I would like that very much”.
The second time we spoke about God was a sunny afternoon in March. The air outside was cold and dry, and softened to a kind chill when it trickled through the window. You kneeled on our living room carpet. I had a latte.
“What does God look like?”, I asked you when you stood back up.
“How would I know?”, you laughed and picked up your watch from the coffee table. Before sitting down next to me you glanced back at the carpet “It’s not a skype-meeting”.
We sat in silence for a moment. I rested my head on your shoulder.
“What about your God?” you said, softly.
As I chuckled I lifted my empty cup in a small wave; “Does caffeine count?”
You shook your head, pretending to be disappointed.
It amazes me, now when I look at us from the future, how our worlds never collided. Yours, with the God and the book and the carpet and the kneeling was spinning neatly, almost politely, right next to mine. I saw you pray and read and contemplate. Never did I ask you not to. Never did you ask me to join. I know we could have done it differently, if we so desired. I would have worshiped any being you deemed worthy, and you would have left any path I considered unsound. Our worlds could have shattered as they met, the fragments creating new rooms, new clutter, new carpets and new newspaper scraps.
“The divine is beyond looks, I believe”, you said, as you put your arm around me, “As far as looks goes, it is his creation we should stare at and admire”. You sighed and leaned backwards, as if you planned to fall asleep there on the sofa.
“I agree”, I said, looking at you.
The last time we spoke about God was in a hospital room. The walls were in an odd beige color, and the curtains were yellow. You sat on the bed with your sleeves rolled up, looking around with tired, but curious, eyes. The sick, feverish feeling of waiting hung in the air. You did not seem to notice it half as much as I did.
“Yellow is my favorite color”, you said, nodding towards the window.
“Huh”, I answered “I never knew”.
There were flies buzzing somewhere. It annoyed me. I got up and out in the corridor to get us some water. When I came back, you were laying down looking at the ceiling in deep thought.
I put down the glasses on the bedside table and sat down in the plastic chair next to it.
“In heaven there are rivers of milk and honey”, you said, your voice sounding distant, as if you were speaking to me from a windy place far away, “Did you know that?”.
“I’ve heard about it”, I shrugged, “Sounds uncomfortable to swim in”.
You laughed, “I assume so”.
There was a moment of silence. The only thing I heard were the flies, and an engine starting somewhere in the parking lot outside.
“Are you going to be there someday?”, you asked, turning your head to look at me.
“By the uncomfortable rivers? With me?”
I could not help but smile. You returned it, and for many seconds, you looked just like you had done four years ago, on a park bench in Munich, explaining to me how your dad would make sure the entire street was fed and happy before sitting down for grace.
“I suppose they do let some people in on good behavior”, I said, grinning.
Your eyes wandered back to the ceiling. The wind blew back into your voice.
God came to visit me last night. I went to bed early without having dinner, keeping all my clothes on as I lied down on top of the cover, and suddenly he was just there. At first I got really happy, because standing in the shadow behind my open bedroom door, the light from the lamppost outside barely landing upon his face, he looked a lot like you.