A short story that embodies the mind of a person overwhelmed by their partner which ponders the need many possess to believe in the existence of an “eternal reward”…
by: Garrett Mostowski
I didn’t think it would happen this quickly. I knew we would have to go, but…really, I didn’t think it would happen this soon. We came here only three months ago — only three months! — and already my husband says that we should be leaving again after I finish this smoke.
“We should be on our way,” he said to me, “I think…yes,” he said, staring far into the distance, “Don’t you, my dear? You do think so, don’t you? Why don’t you have one last cigarette? Then we will go.”
He always asks me questions like that when he is talking to me, but he never stops long enough to pause and listen to what I may actually think or have to say. He never stops. Never. Because he can’t stop, I don’t think. If he can, I’ve never seen him do it. I’ve never witnessed him listening to anyone in my entire life. I couldn’t make up a story about it if I tried. So, that must be the way he was made.
It certainly isn’t his fault he’s that way, is it? It can’t be. Some god created him, and he is like all of us — beautifully and wonderfully made. He must just not be able to listen to other people. That’s what the pastor says, anyway.
But, the gods don’t exist. I don’t think so anyways. Not in the way we’ve been trained to think. And, please, don’t worry about me though. No, really, I mean it. Whatever I am or whoever I was/will be, I will be ok without some god. I will be fine without an eternal reward. I know some people who absolutely need the carrot dangling at the end of the stick. They really do, and that is ok. Let them have it, I say. Let them have all the carrots, if it will keep them functioning the best they can. But I never needed the carrot before.
If I am being honest here though, I do wish I had those stories and images, those songs of the religious. I wish I had them all playing before me to hide this current reality with its dumpster fires and natural disasters. If I could see the religious symbols — and the religious symbols only — like when I was a child in Sunday School, if I could do that…my face, I think, well, I don’t think my face would look like this most days. My lips, when parted, would actually reveal teeth, and my eyes would not sag into the pit of my cheeks. My chin would not look pulled at by iron anchors. My hair would not be so frazzled. My hair would not be frazzled. My mind would not be so frazzled.
Like my limp cigarette. Dangling from my lips.
This is how it is with me: It’s as if there are politicians keeping order inside my head, but one day last week one of them turned on the others and corrupted them. It’s as if one by one all the politicians keeping order inside my head have become corrupt, and now, it’s as if only the corrupt are left, along with those who don’t really give a shit. They are the politicians who keep saying, “Oh my God, not this person again. Not their whining and complaining. Not another meeting with them. Not on this day again. Not this bullshit.” That is what it’s been like inside my head. It’s what I hide when I say things like “I’m so frazzled,” and continue to talk about myself and my busy-ness and my business, too, while I’m at it, and the world as I see it — the world as it should be really (between me and you) — and, “Look!” I will usually say, “Look! This is the length of all the things I currently have to do.”
Oh, see what I’ve done — I’ve distracted from our conversation. I’m not surprised, though. It may be the first time, but it isn’t the last.
Really, though, I don’t need an eternal promise, I don’t need the final glory the others may need. Really, what difference does it matter to me if some god knows me as me. I will still always be.
What else would I need?
I don’t know. I didn’t think that was something I would ask. What would I need? I think I would need more attention from anybody. I would need to give them attention, equally, too, yes, I’m aware of that, but that part is easy really, I would need more attention from anybody to listen to me.
What was I saying?
I can’t even remember where I was going with all this. And that must mean it is time for me to go. Yes, that’s what’s next for me, I should go back inside. Put out my cigarette and go back inside and listen to him tell me where we should be going to next. He’ll be wondering where I’ve gone, and if I’ve already left. He’ll be needing someone to listen to him, someone to help him think about where he should be going next, since I know he’s been thinking all about it while I’ve been out here, smoking my cigarette.
“And,” he will say, “I’ve been thinking of things that I would really like you to know so now I will tell you…”
He will tell me again and again how he is thinking of leaving.
“I am leaving,” he will eventually say.
But, this time…this time, I think, I won’t let him imply, or determine, that we should both be going.
Garrett Mostowski’s work has appeared in Geez Magazine, Christian Century, Clerestory, the Princeton Theological Review, Anchor, the Oxford Theatre Review, and others. He is a second year doctoral candidate in theology and creative writing at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He lives and works in Detroit, Michigan.