Thursday, January 7, 2010

When You Talk to God, It's Prayer...When God Talks to You, It's A Job

It's Claire's freshman year of college and she's discovered that not only is Library Science a difficult and time consuming major, but that it's also impossible to make friends when God decides to use you as Her own personal errand girl every spare moment you have. When she isn't studying, she's traveling from one church to another, fielding questions about the great beyond, and generally providing nonsense prophecies straight from God's mouth to the masses. On two separate occasions, she's been asked about the apocalypse - as if she knows anything about an apocalypse.

All in all, Claire's beginning to think the agnostics have it right.

"You're daydreaming again," Veronica, Claire's roommate, says with a nudge to her shoulder. "You've been staring off into space for the last ten minutes." They've been working on an astronomy project in the library because there isn't the distraction of a television in the library.*

Claire opens her mouth to say she's sorry, that she just has a lot on her mind and that yes, their astronomy project really is important and she'll start paying better attention, but all she manages is a hiccup before a stream of words spill out of her mouth.

And not just any words.

Words in Aramaic.

When she's finished reciting a long list of words in a dead language that existed back when Jesus was, quite literally, an enlisted man, Claire's faced with the fact that Veronica has witnessed it all and is currently staring at her as though her head has just spun around completely.

"I just recited a long list of words in Aramaic, didn't I?" Claire asks and Veronica, wide-eyed and sweating fear, nods quickly.

"Why were you speaking Aramaic?" she asks and Claire shrugs, flushes with embarassment.

"Would you believe it's because I'm a prophet of God and occasionally She drops things off in my brain?"

Veronica, to her credit, doesn't scream or run away. Instead, she stares at Claire for a few moments longer. Claire can see the wheels turning in her roommate's head and she starts thinking about where she can move.

"First of all," Veronica says when her voice returns, "what were you reciting?"

Claire racks her brain for the few words in Aramaic that she knows, thanks in part to Jesus and his need to show just how smart he is while ordering coffee at the cafe Upstairs, and comes to the realization that either God dialed the wrong number or She's playing a very horrible practical joke on Her so-called favorite prophet.

"I'm pretty sure it was a grocery list."

Veronica's eyebrows jump up. "God has a grocery list?"

Claire manages a small smile. "She has a soft spot for chocolate and anything crunchy. Kettle chips in particular. Chocolate covered kettle chips are even better."

"That sounds disgusting," Veronica says.

"Actually," Claire says thoughtfully, "they're not that bad."


The two women stare at each other a few moments longer before turning back to their astronomy textbooks.

"I'll talk to the Dean tomorrow about moving to a different room," Claire says quietly, still focused on the page in front of her, which, ironically, explains the creation of black holes. Claire thinks she'd give her right arm for a black hole to open up and swallow her whole right now.

"Why would you do that?" Veronica asks, equally quiet.

Claire looks at her roommate out of the corner of her eye. "Um...because I'm crazy and recite grocery lists in Aramaic?"

Veronica never takes her eyes off the page in front of her, but she does smile.

"Claire, I was raised by Baptist parents in a Catholic state, surrounded by Muslims and Jews. I don't think you're crazy." Her smile widens. "And I always suspected God was a woman."

"You really don't think I'm crazy?" Claire asks, finally looking up.

"I really don't think you're crazy. Now help me figure out these damn equations." Veronica frowns at the textbook. "If I wanted to do math, I wouldn't have declared an English major."

* * *

It's her weekly dinner with Michael and they're sitting at a booth in the only Applebee's in downtown Boston. Claire still can't figure out why Michael insists on always eating at chain restaurants, not when she lives in one of the best food cities in America, but she figures he endures many a meal created by Annapurna** where the curry could melt iron, so why not let him indulge in tasteless mortal cooking every once in awhile.

"So I ended up telling my roommate about my other life," Claire says and Michael chokes on his beer. She frowns at her guardian angel. "Don't get upset," she says. "I didn't have much of a choice."

"Of course you had a choice," he sputters. "There's always a choice."

"Can we please save the philosophical conversation about good and evil and choosing sides for another time, preferably when I'm the legal drinking age and can order something harder than lemonade?"

He sighs and motions for her to continue.

"Anyway, we were sitting in the library, working on our astronomy lab, when all of a sudden I burst out in Aramaic. It's not like I can play that off as a practical joke. It's a dead language!" She stabs the cherry tomato in her salad with more force than is necessary and watches as it sails off her plate and hits the guy sitting behind Michael in the back of the head.

"Was it a prophecy?" he asks, coughing in an attempt to hide laughter. Claire sees through it and frowns at him.

"No, and that's the worst part." She stabs a cucumber slice and points at him with it. "I'm pretty sure it was a grocery list."

He gives up and laughs. Claire ignores the vibrations in the booth and the floor. The guy who got hit with the cherry tomato a moment or so earlier says something about earthquake tremors and the Richter scale.

"How did Veronica take it?" he asks, still laughing slightly. He wipes tears from the corners of his eyes.

"Pretty well, all things considered." She contemplates the final cherry tomato on her plate, tries to decide the right angle of attack. "She didn't think I was crazy, which was refreshing."

"Let me guess, she was raised by Baptists."

Claire arches an eyebrow. "How did you know that?"

"My best friend is the Creator of the Known Universe," he says a little too smugly. "How do you think I know that?"

She doesn't mean for the cherry tomato to smack him in the forehead. Honest.

* Neither of them can figure out why, exactly, astronomy is a required class for either of their majors, but apparently black holes have a lot to do with library science and english. Claire thinks that black holes, in this case, are a metaphor for children.

** Annapurna is the Hindu goddess of food...and she likes curry. The hotter, the better. Claire once saw Michael eat an entire plate of Annapurna's curry chicken and rice - there was literally steam coming out of his ears the entire time. On the bright side, it got the wrinkles out of his wings.