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Satan and the Problem of Evil
Easter, white flowers, white leather shoes. Chocolate rabbits. Easter eggs. Springtime shining straight through the delicate new-born leaves on the trees that dot the side of the roads like untreated acne, like bacteria festering on the ham that you left in the refrigerator in December and never removed. Easter is a disgusting holiday. You told your mother you’d be at the church service, and here you are.
Line shines down through the towering glass windows, shining down on the faces of the church-goers like the light of God himself and you can’t help but sneer. Your mother smiles tightly when she spots you, and your father doesn’t make eye contact. He catches up with an old friend, an elderly man who looks like every single one of his friends. The smile melts off your mother’s face slowly, in the same way that her letters and phone calls melted away to cards on holidays and birthdays and passive aggressive comments at family functions.
The church service starts and you distract yourself by staring up into the giant stain-glass image of Jesus on the cross that sits high above the congregation, looking just as disgusted and desperate as you probably look right now, suffocated by the smell of talcum and white shoulders wafting from your mother, and the chocking disproval that your family gives you as they fill their pews. The pastor is animated, lively. He talks about God’s love and you stare into the dead eyes of Jesus, arms stretched wide. Your father doesn’t make eye contact.
Father, father, why hast thou forsaken me?
You don’t know what the sermon is about, but your mother nods her head along approvingly (never saying anything, that was something that was reserved for ‘those q---- n---- churches, you know the ones’) because church was a time of quiet meditation of God. About how thankful you should be for being allowed to continue your rather disappointing existence, about how shameful humanity is, about how much easier it is to love God than it is to love yourself.
Sometime during the sermon, the eyes of God and the silverly light and the faces of your relatives becomes too much to bare and you make a run for it to the bathroom, staring at yourself in the mirror. The dark circles, the gaunt outline of your cheek bones, the stringy hair. Splash some water in your face, go sit back down, pray you’re not damned. You splash some water in your face.
It doesn’t help.
A spring shower has started outside, the rain coming down on the asphalt and echoing against the windows, the light still shining in. Face to the ceiling, to the sky; deep breaths in and out and count to ten. Pay ten thousand dollars to spill every insecurity, every anxiety, and feeling of worthlessness and then realize Dr. Fix-It can’t put you back together again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
When you get back the service, it’s over and your family has left. Staring into your reflection in the bathroom, brooding, is hypnotic and time-consuming. Watching the light dance in your pupils, seeing a reflection of a reflection in your eyes, just sockets in your face that show you so many things like the faces of your family and the faces of Jesus.
White flowers dot the aisles, candles glowing in the dimmed light. An elderly woman prays to herself, lips moving rapidly as she begs an higher power to absolve her of whatever she’s done that she feels makes her unworthy. (“Old people are always more religious, they’re cramming for finals,” Mr. Dunham in the nursing home had confided in her as she changed his catheter and he laughed dryly while he said it)
“You’re the Duvall girl?”
Pastor’s voice echoes throughout the room, bouncing off the walls and the old woman and the sweeping windows.
You look up, nod, and you feel like a child standing before your father as he asks you “Did you wet the bed? Did you wet the bed? Bad girl, very bad girl.”
“Your family left.”
”I know,” and now your voice is echoing uncomfortably, ricocheting back at you.
“You didn’t seem to be too interested in the service,” he says to you and you already know where this is going and again it’s the feeling of being a small child. The feeling of being physically capable of leaving, of walking away, but still unable; cemented to the spot in the shadowy vision of your guardian.
“No. I’m not religious.”
“Can I ask why?”
”’May’ you ask why.”
His brow furrows.
”It’s: ‘May I ask why?’” you correct, picking at the hangnail on your ring finger, a droplet beading at the surface, a lovely orange red. The color of sunsets, of your old professor’s lipstick, of lollipops.
“May I ask why, then.” He smiles.
“The problem of evil,” gaunt shoulders shrug and then retreat back into yourself, as you feel cornered like an animal.
“The problem of evil?”
”God either let’s bad s*** happen, or he can’t stop it. Either way, he’s not doing me any favors.”
”Why do you think God owes you anything?” he inquires.
“I don’t like being advised to worship beings that don’t do anything for me.”
”Well, that’s rather selfish.”
You shrug again, long sleeve sweater pulling against the sharp angles of your shoulders, of your wrists, your bones protruding and cutting like knives.
“Humans are selfish.” You pick up one of the milky white candles, wax pooling under the pretty dancing flame. Dancing like a snake, like the thin red-head who dances on the bar on Friday nights, hips swaying and long legs bouncing light off of them.
“Don’t you want to belong, be a child of God?” he asked gently.
You look at him, at his piercing gaze, eyes staring into you. Look at how he stands above, a Shepard to his flock. You glance at the candle, warming your hands.
“No Pastor. I’ve always been just fine all by myself.”
The rains falls down.
You blow the candle out.