One day, in the cool of the evening, I was sitting on a bench in a city park. Kids were playing on the war monuments. Moms and Dads sat on blankets on the grass, napping, or at least letting their eyes close for a few moments. Ducks touched down in a small pond. A soft breeze blew rippled kisses on the surfaces of the water.
That's when I met God.
He was not an old wizened man in a gray frock and pointed hat as in
The Lord of the Rings
. He was not bearded and robed like in Michelangelo's
Creation of Man
. He was not an ample black woman like in
. He was not a rock star in a ballerina outfit, as in
He was not even a he. I just call "him" that because I'm a guy and it's easier.
He was just God. You'd know him if you saw him.
God had been walkong along the path that pass in front of me. He slowed and looked at me expectantly when he passed.
"So what brings you my way?" I asked.
"Nothing in particular. I just thought you might notice me this time."
time? You mean you've gone by me before?"
"Sure," He said. "Dozens of times. Hundreds even."
"You're not sure?"
"Why keep track?" he said with juist the hint of a twinkle in his eye. "It just makes you sad to think about it."
"You get sad?"
"Sure. Wouldn't you if you walked among people and hardly ever got a nod or a hat tip?"
"I guess, " I said thoughtfully. "So what brings you here today? And why did I notice you today when I haven't those many other times?
"God knows," he said.
"I do, but that's not important. Better if
knew why you saw me when you haven't before. Hey, do you mind if I sit down? I'd hate to block the path. It's so narrow."
"Sure," I said, scooting over to make room on the bench, feeling like I had missed a joke. God sat down wearily.
"So, about those other times you didn't see me..."
I hesitated, trying to reconnect the threads of my thoughts. "Well, in my defense, you do look familiar. Maybe I didn't realize that what I was looking at was you."
"That does happen a lot."
"I think I may have seen you in my imagination," I opined, brow furrowed.
And I didn't see you, but I felt you once."
"Yeah? And when was that?" God asked, with coquettishly raised eyebrows.
"That movie about the elves. They were so noble and kind. I think I felt you when that beautiful elf queen gave a magical sword to the travelers."
"Yup. I do get that a lot. Though most guys think they're feeling the hots for her."
"Oh yeah. Men can't untangle noble love from lust most of the time. Stir up feelings of nobility in them, and they want to 'marry' it, if you know what I mean."
"Sad to say I do," I said, a bit sheepishly. Talking inner feelings was going to be iffy with God. Probably no point in trying to hide them.
"By the way, for no particular reason, can you...read my mind?"
"No particular reason, eh?" God said, chuckling.
I blushed. "All right. For a good reason -- it would be weird to have someone know what you're thinking."
"It would," God agree. "Humans do spend a great deal of time hiding what they are thinking -- from others and often from themselves."
"So you can tell what I'm thinking?"
"I can tell what you are thinking, and a have a pretty good guess about what you're about to think. I can also read your memories. Even the ones you can't remember yourself."
"Really? Like what?" I said, intrigued and a bit unsettled.
"Well, would you like a cute one, an embarrasssing one or an appaling one?" God said, looking out through the tree trunks to the pond. The ducks were swimming by, a picture of harmony.
"I have an appalling memory that I don't remember?" I said. "Shouldn't I know what it is? It could be dangerous."
"Well, it doesn't hurt, sometimes, to forget. In this case, the player in the memory is long gone and no longer a threat to you."
I paused to let this sink in. It didn't take much to imagine some family member doing something unspeakable. Or a stranger at a mall. Or a nasty kid in grade school. I was disquieted by the thought of being molested -- or nearly molested. Or worse? I thought it might be better off leaving that memory dormant. But wasn't my imagination about it even more distrubing? I could think of a thousand and one things that might behind this long sleeping memory.
God cut into my revery. "You're right, of course." God admitted. "I shouldn't have brought it up. I keep underestimating the versality of the human imagination."
I paused, expecting more.
"You're thinking you had a creepy uncle or aunt, or maybe a priest who molested you. Sorry. But in your case, it was a spider. You were a year and a half old, playing in a sandbox at a park, not much different from this one. You thought it was pretty, with its shiny black belly with the red hourglass underneath. It was crawling on the back of your hand when your uncle saw it, flicked it off and crushed it before it could bite. You were furious. You howled with anger and never trusted him again."
"Uncle Mike," I muttered, half to myself. "I always hated him and never knew why. He was always so nice to me, too." I faced the Deity. "And that was why?"
"That was why."
"He's been dead twenty years. I said. "I wish I could apologize."
"A wish is good as a whisper," came God's reply.
After a moment, I realized I had forgotten what got us talking about spiders and Uncle Mike. "So where were we?"
"Whether I could read your mind."
"Right. Looks like you can. So how about my future? Can you tell me how my life will turn out?"
like Madame Esmeralda?" quipped the Deity.
"What? Who's Madame Esmeralda?"
"That fortune-telling mannequin at the beach arcade. Drop in a quarter and have your future told."
"Well, no. But are your the Lord of all time, or something? Past, present and future?"
"Goodness, where did you hear that?
"You would know, if anyone, right?" I pursued my lips and smirked.
"Fair enough, then. Sister Mary Elizabeth, who taught 4th grade at St. Michael's. It was a September morning, you were sitting behind Janey Beth Martinez, and you were picking a juicy ooger out of your nose."
"All right. All right! Get to the point!"
"Sister was droning on about the qualities of the Father." He leaned over, looked around as if for hidden spies, and wispoered mock conspiratorially, "That's me."
I rolled my eyes. "I get it. Go on"
the Deity's eyes aprakled and he continued. "And she said that God knows all of time, as though it is is laid out before him."
"And?" I interjected. "Son;t you?"
"After a fashion. I jnow nwhat has been, and what is. I also know where things are going if they don't get derailed."
"Derailed? How do things get derailed?
"Humans, mostly. You have free will, though not as much as you like to think. But that's a conversation for another time."
The Deity stood from the bench and stretched.
"Listen, it has been great, but I've taken up enough of your time."
"Seems like we just got started," I protested.
"I gave you plenty to think about for now. Plus, I have other people to visit. Or try to visit."
"Will I see you again."
"Oh yes," he said with conviction. "Now that you have seen me once, you'll have to work hard
to see me! Until next time!"
"Later," is responded somewhat dejectedly. For while a visit with God was not the lolapalooza light show I thought it wouold be, I was disappointed that it was over.
After a few moments, I got up and walked toward the park entrance. KIds were still climbing over the Civil War cannon and playing bide-andseek around the battlefield memorials. The sun was pierecing through the darkeing trees and sending shafts of sunlight and shadow over the manicured grounds.
"I just talked to God, " I thought. "And he knew me like I know myself. Better, even. And all I talked about was some old memories and dumb questions about my past."
Next time, I thought, I resolved to be more prepared