For one whole year I stopped talking about God. I didn't use His name to highlight a mystery – "God only knows…" – or call upon Him to damn a friend or stranger. I didn't beg for anything, neither out loud nor in the temple of my head; I didn't go to church; I didn't ask Him questions in the dead of night.

No one noticed. At first, friends commented that I looked differently -- had I maybe lost weight? Gotten a haircut? Gone to the gym? I only smiled and shook my head: Nope nothing different about me. It was nice to be rid of God. It almost felt like being free.

A few months later it was summer, and that was when friends got worried. You don't look yourself, they said. Who do I look like, then? I replied, which kept them quiet, but only for awhile. "Are you talking to yourself?" Jenny asked one night. Her hair was beautiful but hard to see in the dark room. The institutions of dogmatic religions do more harm than good, I replied, then turned my face back towards the pillow.

By autumn I was certain: giving up God was the best thing I could ever do. Birds sang noiselessly as cold crept in and knocked the leaves from trees and made branches wave goodbye. I had waved goodbye to God, and my friends, too – there was nothing left now to protect me from the truth, which was the solitary temple of my body, and the slate-gray afternoon skies, and the stars sending down light from tremendous distances. Wasn't that what I most wanted? On weekends I didn't need drugs, or drink. I didn't want to get lost in fantasy, or words, or to escape the visible world so that I might touch the face of some mystery. Jenny was gone, and I slept better alone anyway--

(Though it is true that I sometimes missed her hair; but what good is hair? Doesn't everything disappear, and too soon? Jenny's hair went the way it must, like my parents' bodies and their parents' bodies before them, and mine too; we fade like stars in the sun when death comes to rise…)

And then on December 31st, while talking to my pillow of the perils of opium, I heard from the front door a soft knocking. I froze: Who could it be? Cautiously I went downstairs and stepped outside. There, between small islands of snow, a yellow note lay on the doorstep. It read: We are in the world to love the world; and on the other side: Some things that go are gone.

All night I cried into my pillow. I cried until the sun filled up my room with bright, clean light.


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