What if I told you I was Jesus?
Look Him up on Google Images. Right now. I'll wait.
Let me just tell you you'll find pictures of Him, fisted beard and soft eyes, holding lambs, small children, His hands strung up on crosses like a marionette doll, dipping His feet into broken waters, along with the odd picture of an African-American Jesus or a manipulated photo to show Him smoking, drinking, having gay intercourse. And you'll smile, and bite your lip a little, maybe play with some knick-knack, some tinsel and bouncy toy on your desk.
Now look at me. Don't be shy. I'm not offended.
Get in so close to my face that you can only catch snips of me, fragments of hair and weaves of skin, until you have to step back and wait for your eyes to focus back on me. Stare at me until you can feel your eyes dull with the sensitivity of watching, stare at me until you forget where you are, stare at me until your ankles tingle.
A man comes to your door. He has plaster jeans, a skinny shirt, baby fat, and tired eyes. He opens his mouth slack-jawed and raises his cupped hands, something desperate in his stance. He leans on your doorframe, edging just barely onto your neutral-colored floor, wishing terribly to be under your covers, inside your protected walls, wants to hide out in your closet and smell your clothes until he can lose himself in your life, wants to skim your bookshelf like he could discover who you were through the words from other mouths. He looks like you, you with less, you with darker shadows and you with a more prominent nose.
You close the door on him. You hold the doorknob and listen for the sounds of his scuttled tennis shoes going down the walk, you lean against the door when you're sure he's gone, trying to breathe, this stranger who wanted in, this stranger who looked less-than-average.
A new man comes to your door. He has brown hair like straightened tumbleweeds, has hands like he's about to throw dice, smiles big and full. He's wearing white clothing that looks unsanitary and clean, something you can't describe. His teeth show and your entire house lights up. He opens his eyes and waterfalls pause to listen to the sound of his soot-eyelashes. The world holds onto space for a moment, before letting go and giving into gravity all over again. He looks like no one you've ever seen, like the kindly uncle or the fishbone cousin you wished you had, beautiful and pretensed.
You let him in. You let him browse your closet, you lend him your books, you let him stare at the walls of your pale house as long as he likes, because he's like nothing you've ever seen before.
I know. Don't worry, I know. I forgive you for closing the door on me, for slamming the entry on your Savior.
I live in an apartment. It's colored like bricks and toilet paper. I own two cats, one of them has a pricked ear, and I live on the fourth floor. My kitchen has seven knives in it. My refrigerator has broken down fifteen times in the past three years. My upstairs bed barely holds me, Scruffy and Mittens, grouped up like serving dishes on a sheeted table. I drink lusterless water. There are a few pictures on my walls, of dilapidated family members, of people I wish were closer. I have Post-It notes everywhere, reminders and lists, written by a pen with a smiley-face on it.
I walk down streets that would rather I had no shoes, that require a barefooted sort of aesthetic, something I possess in my fingertips. I work at the Circuit City half-an-hour away you can find me in my Christmas-red vest, browsing the camera and cell-phone aisles half-heartedly. I eat lunch at the same nameless fast-food restaurant every day. I order the nachos supreme, with extra guacamole and no salsa. I know the waitress by name (Tina), but she doesn't know who I am.
That I'm Jesus.
I've had four girlfriends over the past twenty-three years. I dropped out of community college. My father won't speak to me and my mother sends me birthday cards with smiling kitties on them, asking for updates on my life, and sometimes I'm nice and tell her that I'm learning to be an astronaut, that she should visit me sometime in my Tudor, take a ride in my Rolls-Royce. Anything to keep mother happy. I graduated with strength in chemistry and English. I could tell you where to find symbolism and all the details of Einsteinium's electrons, but I couldn't tell you the square root of sixty-four without a calculator (is there one?). I've had two best friends over the course of my life; one doesn't know where I live, and the other never learned my last name. The biggest crush I've ever had was on my Physics teacher, who wore scientific glasses, laughed loudly and had California hair.
I like Guinness beer. My middle name is James. My favorite color is turquoise. I never want children.
Congratulations. You know Jesus.
Because, if nothing else, these are what make me Him the most.
Now, maybe you've heard stories about me. You know, turning water into wine, coming back to life after my death, saving children from precarious situations and managing disciples, and no hint of a sin is wedged in there.
I want you to forget all of those. I want you to treat them like you would treat the tales of Aesop, or the Grimm, or Dr. Seuss, or your Uncle Flouder's war tales fabricated, fake, and magical, with some truth glittering like a faint star between the pages.
Do that for me.
I don't do any of that. The closet I've ever come to saving someone's life was that time when I was five, performing elementary CPR on a snail, my lips trying to form around the cracker shell and cracking it open. I killed that snail, a shard propped out of its head, near the antennae; I said "the closest time," not "the time," okay?
You have to lower your standards. The next man who comes through with puce alcohol spilling out of his hands, who can spread new and innovative teaching with a flicker of his eyelids, who turns things to gold with his gaze, carries lambs slung over his elbow like pulsing throw-pillows, who is Caucasian and doe-eyed and tan-eared, who hears messages from an obnoxious and lovely God, who never thinks about sex and never takes one guilty peek at a porno, who says he loves you before he knows your name
If that man comes around, you're allowed to kneel in the street until your knees are bloody, praise the sky like maybe someone up there can hear you. That's reasonable.
But until that happens, you need to calm down. I make great macaroni. I have bright eyes, like photosensitive seizures. I have a savings account. I'm a nice guy I'm a nice guy, I swear, I'm a nice guy. I don't change the chemical set of water, not even the color, I've never raised myself from out of the dirt like a large erect elephant trunk, I've never seen the world or beheld a new life being born, I've never had disciples.
But I cry for that snail. Every day. I think about it in the shower, when the water runs down my back, over the ridge of my thighs, collapses on my feet. I think about it when I'm driving home, breezing through green lights, an open package of blurred gummy bears, my brain running through images of a stencil-snail with a sword of his own shell stuck out of his back.
I love that snail. And that should be enough.
The thing I regret the most, as the saint that I am, is the day that the cereal ran out.
I was thirteen. There was a block party going on outside, one of those suburban treats, where the eleven-year-old girls get on their bikinis that haven't grown into them yet, where all the teenager boys try to duck out to smoke, where all the little kids run around yelling "tag!" and apologizing as quickly as they can force the words out when they bump into some adult's thigh, beer-belly dads sitting around drinking beer like it sustains their lives and soccer moms exchanging schedules and giggles.
A cliché, rumbling outside, and I'm pouring my cereal, trying to keep a straight face, near tears for an unidentifiable reason, wanting to run outside and yell until I can't feel my lungs, yell at every mother who wears their child like jewelry, at every father who watches football on Sundays, at every kid who never wants to grow up. I want to scream as I put the milk down, as I handle the box of Cheerios, and I squeak when all of the little circular wheat-colored os fall to the floor.
I watch the crumbs tumble out, wilt and die, step on them, until they become shattered and discolored rose petals, and then I rattle the box and discover that there are no Cheerios left, that I've smashed every last one. The world is an empty cardboard box where things spill and you destroy them, you don't gather them into their homes.
And I looked over and discovered a gathering of Cheerios that had fallen and my furious feet had missed, had avoided, as if on purpose. I collected them in my dove hands and threw them down into the plastic package, threw every last one down there, and stuck them in the back of my closet, where no one would touch them. The box is under my bed, currently, moldy and shriveled os stuck inside, beautiful and breathing.
But I still regret that there are only a few messy ones left, that I could've had a whole box full.
That was the moment I knew I was Jesus, by the way.
Would you change your religion for me? Would you rewrite bits of the Bible to foretell my coming? Would you discuss my empty house, would you detail my lazy afternoons? Would you remark about the Jesus who hardly ever went to Church, about the Jesus who could care less about homosexuals, about the Jesus who donates to charities monthly, about the Jesus who keeps dead Cheerios underneath His bed?
Would you pray to me? Would you bend down, onto a rug or over dinner, clasp hands with your children and your spouses, your siblings and your grandparents, and speak my name aloud? Would you put me in the same sentence with God, my name next to His, like I was His son and His student and His lover and His cherished one? Would you praise this man, this Jesus, this me, who was born to a mother who certainly isn't a virgin?
Would you feel proud to know me? Would you smile upon the rest of my family, guilty by association? Would you grin at my dimples, at my indent feet, at my panda hands? Would you post those pictures of me onto Google? Would you teach children about me, would you take my word as law, as moral?
Would you live for Jesus? Would you live like yourselves, for me?
Close your Web browser with the Jesus images open. Go downstairs and spoon yourself some cereal. Don't pray to me tonight. Don't pray to me ever. Don't string my name after God's.
I lied. I'm just a guy with baby fat and plaster jeans who wants to be protected under your walls. I was good at English, you know, and chemistry. And I hide cereal under my bed, like a dirty secret.
I'm not Jesus. Sorry.