When he asked me if I believe in God I got suspicious; like a sales pitch was coming on or something. So I approached it slowly and cautiously like a rabbit in the jungle grass.
“Well, it’s something I am considering, “ I told him. And wouldn’t you know it? He let it lie. He didn’t come at me with attempts to convince me or tell me what’s what. I liked this. So I decided to rustle the grass a bit, to see if the lion was sleeping.
“Mama says that God’s just a figure of our imagination,” I told him. “Like the tooth fairy or Sponge Bob or Moses.” He looked at me deeply then, like he was trying to decide if I was worth his time.
“Does she?” was all he said, still looking right into me.
The lion was awake, but seemed content enough to let a rabbit pass. So I asked him, “Is she right, Father? Is God just a Saturday morning cartoon dressed in a newspaper, like Mama says? I mean, is he – or she – is God real? I think I really would like to know. Does God hear me when I talk? Because I talk to him sometimes, but Mama laughs, she calls me a sheep-follower, says I’m barkin’ up a plastic tree. Mama says that I can pray all I want and it won’t make one spit of difference. So, Father, please tell me. If God is real then where is he? Why can’t my Mama feel him?”
I can feel his stare burning into me right then. The heat was enough to make me squeeze my eyes shut and hope for a breeze. I imagined what his voice would sound like when it came. Deep and powerful, like a garbage truck pulled up next to you at a stoplight with all your windows open. I tried to feel my insides working; the blood pumping through my heart into my veins, and back again. I pretended that I had never opened my mouth, never said a word.
“It’s ok,” he hummed, sounding like a swirling fan in summer. “It’s ok if your mama doesn’t know God. God doesn’t mind. God knows Mama.”
His deep red lips barely moved as he talked. I wondered if he had even spoke at all. Now I looked right at him with my squinty eyes, making sure no one was playin with me. But I could see. He knew.
I inhaled the light aiming through the open window. I saw dust dancing in the glow. I felt my toes, curled up inside my worn-out shoes. And I quietly exhaled, slowly, “Thank you”.