I realized that I had not managed to properly mitigate God when calling him an asshole from the driver’s seat of a Geo Tracker sitting in a frozen Wyoming ditch off of I-80. I had just spun a full 180 degrees through the inside lane and was now on the side of the road facing the opposite direction. What I should’ve blamed is the crap car that I had the audacity to take out on bad Wyoming roads, but this is beside the point. I cannot reason with my past self and he clearly doesn’t want my stupid advice anyhow.
“I. Hate. You.” I slammed each word into the dashboard. The car got colder. I could see my breath in the air. I wished that I had a warmer coat. I was unrepentant. I was unyielding and afraid of my compete and utter lack of control.
I was reduced to neediness and embarrassed by the need.
“What the fuck!”, I pounded into my steering wheel. I shouted as semi-trucks caromed past me through the horizontal shimmering wind to their families for Christmas. “Fucking why!?” I screamed myself hoarse at a god I imagined sitting next to a fireplace on a sofa, most likely enjoying a pipe with some cookies. I prayed to the god that I invented out of fear. I prayed to a God. I am not interested in praying to gods that are impressed by my anger of feel threatened when I doubt. I threatened God with doubt.
Step back and observe. This is how I pray sometimes. You cannot recite my prayers on public television without screening beeps. I pray kicking words through clenched teeth. I pray like a sick man and shake my fists, trembling. It is the prayer of a dickhead. A prayer from the undeserving.
I prayed again much later while drunk, spitting and smoking on a porch in Bozeman, Montana. The Bridger mountains rising from the clean blue snow lot across the street big like broken warships. The storm systems curve through the mountains erasing the base and leaving black charcoal islands floating in the sky. There is an authority to their towering stillness. When I am drunk I forget how lonely I am and can appreciate their beauty, sober they are a just pretty backdrop for my self-pity. It is a temporary solution and a problem simultaneously.
I slurred words at a devil in my head. I slurred words at a devil. There were more empty threats. These threats were an inverted prayer. I shook empty bottles at hell and flicked ash so hard I broke a cigarette into the frozen garden below.
Watch. See how I perform my total lack of control. I am a parody. I am a sick prophet wearing cardboard with no audience save for the silent mountains. God is a silent mountain. A cold wind moves above the stillness of the snowy lot across the street.
I was reduced to neediness and I am embarrassed by the need.
Then back again to the blizzard on the side of a Wyoming road. A man stopped along the side of the road. He got out of his car and offered to help me push it back to the road. The tires managed to catch and I followed him along the road out of the ice while semis careened past like giant silver bullets. After we arrived in Rawlins he asked if I was okay to get home. He passed me a business card with his number. Somehow that card disappears or gets washed or forgotten. I cannot remember what he looked like. Glasses maybe?
In Flannery O’Connor stories the characters pass the shadows of themselves and are murdered. A smallness or cruelty builds or is revealed in a subtle shift or exaggerated acts of animated violence. The limbs of characters are ripped off and revealed to be uglier parts of the self. The characters politely moderate and curate their lives until disaster removes their effort to do either. They are freed from illusions and tragic lives in growing pools of blood along empty dirt roads. The tragedy in her stories transcends tragedy.
Ideally, to live is to be stripped of control and have cherished uglinesses ripped clean off. An ugliness becomes a festering wound on a limb until it is too far gone to keep. To be alive is to witness the horrible amputations of crippling cruelties and hobbling indifferences. This happens to everybody, some are just quicker at noticing the missing limbs. Ideally death should be a recurring process like passing seasons. In fall there should be limbs turning orange and rotting. The dead things should be confessed as such.
I write of livid backwards prayers to grant permission. It is the only permission that I can grant to passing strangers or to friends. I don’t know if it is tidy or ideal permission, but I can offer no such thing and I don’t really have much time for tidy these days. There are more icy roads to slide off of, more people that I love in future hospital beds, more mistakes, and somewhere on some cold interstate someone will stop to help another lost kid, another prodigal son, another man left by the side of the road for dead.
I am reduced to neediness and it. Is. Divine.