Your God brings you into this world and provides you with a roof over your head, more than enough food on the table, and a good education. In return, all that God asks of you is to bow your head, cast down your eyes at the dinner table when you hear something troubling, and obey. You, of course, may challenge these beliefs, but why would you? You cannot win against God, much less your own God.
At [insert time here] o’clock, Pacific Standard time, God comes home from work and sits at the dinner table. It does not matter how late it is. You are a family, and families have dinners together. This is just the way it is. You run to set up the table, socked feet slapping over white tile as you rush to grab the plates before he sits down, even though you are almost twenty-one.
God sits at the head of the table, fork in one hand, knife in the other, and eyes locked on you. You try to glance at his shoulders. If they are tense, God takes on the form of a stressed and tired businessman, which means today’s interrogation will be biting and wrathful. If they are relaxed, then he transforms into a distant father and two word responses will suffice. If you are lucky, he will not question you at all.
He asks you how your day was. As you pick at the rice in the white stainless bowls, you peek at his shoulders. The verdict: today, God seems unhappy. His shoulders are tensed, and there is a wrinkle in his typically impeccable white button-up. His mouth twitches downward. His teeth are unconsciously gritted. His unhappiness means that by the end of the dinner, you will also be unhappy. You gnaw on your lip and hope you don’t taste iron on the tip of your tongue.
God’s favorite analogy is that of a sword. Supposedly, in order to make a sharp sword, you have to shape it at incredibly high temperatures. Supposedly, children are like this too. This conversation is just another trial by fire that you must endure in order to bring out your pretty sharp edges, the only things that will help you survive in this world. The rice tastes like ash in your mouth, and you wonder what’s scratching the back of your throat each time you swallow. You look up. Your mistake.
He is waiting for an answer, and he has given you enough time to think.
Words gush from the burst water boiler of your chest. You tell him that your day was great. You learned a lot. You learned so much. God cuts into his steak (rare). Something light pink pools underneath the meat, and when the steak shifts on his stainless white plate, it leaves behind a watery bloody smear. He does not notice this, even though this is all you notice. His gaze remains locked on your face.
Oh? You learned a lot? What classes did you take today?
You babble a little bit, list off your courses even though you know he’s already memorized them. You trip over your words when he raises an eyebrow, and it is a mercy when he cuts you off. He only really cares about specific classes; everything else was to humor you. Did you take your economics class today? What about your business finance class?
Hey. This is it. Are you ready to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire yet?
He chews, slowly and deliberately. Your mother stands to pour him and herself a glass of red wine. Part of you finds it ironic, that a man who is so obsessed with control would willingly indulge in a substance that unleashes those inhibitions, but it makes sense. Alcohol is just another conquest that he must bring to heel.
Your God stares, waiting. Again. You stare back, unflinching through sheer willpower, though every animal instinct in you tells you to bolt and never step foot inside this house again. He has reiterated several times that he has not raised a coward, that he has raised someone who can stand up for themselves against anyone. (Anyone except for him that is.)
When the silence stretches for a millisecond too long, you nod. Say yes before he can demand that you speak up. Your God puts down his fork and knife with a careful clatter. So then, he repeats, each word carefully punctuated. What did you learn?
You try your best to repeat everything your professor spewed out this morning, the lecture crackling from your laptop speakers, but honestly why bother? Sure enough, every word that leaves your mouth is pinned down and brutally vivisected. Every concept that you mention is lacking enough detail.
How do you apply what you just described? How does that relate to our current economic climate? Well? What do you mean you don’t really know? Didn’t you just have the class today?
Something inside of you withers just a little bit. You want to bite out something smart, feel something else besides welling irritation and shame, something closer to satisfaction for once. You would feel a little better, but you aren’t stupid. To invoke the wrath of God is to have what little self-esteem that remains verbally smote into ash and dust. Your eyes flicker to your mother. As usual, she says nothing.
You take the dishes from the table and wash them, steam curling up toward the ceiling. Before he retires to the office, your God tells you that the weekly issue of Bloomberg came in the mail today. He tells you to read it. You will be quizzed on it tomorrow at dinner. Know it inside and out.
Such is the cost of being a child of a God. Be grateful. Not everyone has this privilege.
You do not tell your God that you have never liked business finance. That you wished you majored in English instead or something that you might enjoy. You hold your tongue but that does not tamp the distaste that plants itself in your chest and climbs up your throat, blooming in your mouth with the stench of stomach bile.
You try not to think of that brief moment when you had grazed freedom with your fingertips, about the time that you moved away and lived under a roof that didn’t have your God’s name on the mortgage (though he insisted on paying for your bills). There, in university, it hadn’t mattered if you spoke slanderously of your God’s commandments with your friends, tipsy on vodka that you were too young to have, on a rooftop that nobody was supposed to have access to. The wind had tasted sweet on your lips, and the cold had caressed your cheek. Neck craned upward toward the stars, in that moment, you thought that you would have the courage someday to pursue your passions instead of your God’s.
This is but a small blip in the fabric of time. A pandemic comes in and snatches even this small moment away from you. You find yourself back under your God’s thumb, living under his house, and eating his food. You have been too much of a coward to fight for your own happiness, to break away from his hold. For all his talk about how he wishes you were independent, he never gave you the opportunity to learn, and now, the fear of failure—the fear of trying—keeps you shackled here.
You do not mention any of this to your God. He would be displeased, and you have held your ground for today. You do not know if you could hold your ground if you had to repeat that encounter so soon. Something within you might snap in all the wrong places.
You chose this path yourself; do you really deserve self-pity? Understand: this is the grave that you have dug, and this is the grave you must now lie in.