If God is your answer to every question, eternal and absolute once-and-for-all kind of answer, without a doubt, no wondering, dithering or hypothesizing, no clever juggling, struggling, pondering or agonizing no raised eyebrow or pursed lips, no tilted head with faraway gaze— just straight out, eyes glazed, one syllable, constant and unequivocal, you smiling, smiling, always smiling sweetly to every question: God; Then, all questions vanish, all questions perish, and you stand like a post from one of your fences, not even enough of you for the upright of a cross like one Jesus chose at the end, facing death, and desperately asking the ultimate question: God, where are you? and hearing nothing, resigned to silence, said, Nevertheless, I AM and died the Lamb still with his question. Now there’s an answer, God.
The girl in the pew next to me is doing her math between prayers. I peek at the certainties on her page yearning for a time I knew clearly that the sum of e to the minus x from nothing to the infinite was always and everlasting one and I could prove that everything that rises must converge.
Now the slow hardening of my brain's arteries has rubbed those crisp clear certainties until they're ragged with doubt and experience. Was the sine the one next to me over over the big one? Or the opposite? Was the answer a precise one or pi, that vague pipe dream that we've chased to 51 billion places and still don't know exactly?
I chant my beliefs and wonder what proofs I am seeking here. Add up the blessings of the world and subtract the sins and you've got what? Add up my own petty closed set of real and imaginary without limit. Can it ever exceed zero?
The mass is over and the little girl kneels in the aisle crosses herself, the sign of our shared belief in a world beyond or the mathematician's plus sign, the sign that says with a certainty: something more.
Jesus pulls up a chair to tell me about his day. Today at breakfast, when the doors were unlocked, he and the others came out of their rooms, and to his surprise, there were muffins! Everyone here is crazy about muffins. They mean nothing on the outside, but in here (he looks at the floor and trails off). Jesus tugs at the little braids in the nape of his neck. I go to court tomorrow. They say I’ll be sentenced and moved on Friday. He drums the metal table, balances his feet on their heels. With a sign, I heard you can get Snickers over there, at least. Just then, he remembers and pulls a glow-in-the-dark rosary out of his shirt. Jesus says he is learning how to pray, albeit with help from the Virgin prayer card from the priest. At night he draws the blanket over his head and cups the rosary, as if brightness itself offers protection. There is comfort, he says, in knowing his grandmother blessed each bead, and when he slides them through his petitioning hands, it’s as if he’s lacing his fingers into hers. There, in the sanctioned darkness he whispers, Glory be.
He would sit Sunday mornings in his big steepled chair the cross hung gold and unswayed overhead a man in a robe. I had seen him dress sitting on the side of his bed he wore ribbed gauzy undershirts and white boxer shorts and my father’s legs had no hair where socks go. As the organist played a meditation he would span his forehead with his hand and seem to suffer but then leaning back his bright eyes would go fishing for me in the dark congregation and I waited
and waited until he caught me and smiled. During most of the service I stared at unmoving biblical men in stained glass. I loved to have him see me in church and after the sermon I stood in line and went through shaking his hand like we didn’t know each other and I told him I enjoyed it and he put his other hand on top of mine.