Flesh of my flesh
Jack is talking about the universe.
“It’s constantly expanding, it’s crazy. It just keeps moving further outward. Like I can’t even wrap my mind around that.”
“You know they think it’s actually expanding even faster than we previously thought?” I say. “The Hubble telescope confirmed this with new readings.” The article about this gave a scientific explanation that I can’t actually remember.
“We’re even smaller and more alone in our tiny universe than we once thought,” he says as we sit on my porch sipping scotch, and sucking down cigarettes. Cicadas buzz just beyond the lights strung around the ceiling.
“Do you think the universe was created by the Big Bang or God?” I ask, feeling the heady rush of the nicotine and alcohol mixing together. “Or both?”
“I mean I dunno,” he says. “The whole thing just seems so beyond our reach. Like on the one hand it seems too complicated to be just chance, but then on the other hand you can’t really prove God did anything.”
Jack is philosophical on the nights he comes over after visiting his son. Once a week he drives to his ex’s house. She is always looking at the time on her phone because he’s only allowed one hour of visitation a week. Not because he did anything wrong, just because she doesn’t want him to have the baby.
“He doesn’t need a father, he has me,” she tells him.
But he bides his time, contacting lawyers and, saving money, and hauling over a plastic bin full of toys to play with his son each week. He scatters a zoo-full of animals on the ground and his son picks them up one by one lining them in a row, like the days that pile up one after the other until the day the court will finally decide the fate of his custody.
“I like thinking about God creating the universe,” I say, trying to bring him back.
I had always liked imagining God moving his hands over the earth and bringing forth the waters and the sky. Scrolling through different animal ideas like on an iPad, adding details to different trees or plants. Piecing the universe together step by step. “Today we’ve got lakes and rivers, tomorrow I’m going to work on making animals, each according to its kind.”
“Let’s throw some stripes on this one and give this other one a really long neck,” Jack says and hands me the bottle.
“And finally I’m going to create these people and put them in this beautiful garden and actually hang out with them,” I say and take a swig of scotch. It burns my esophagus all the way down before settling like a cat in my stomach.
“I mean, it’s a nice story,” he says. “Creation.” He blows out cigarette smoke and it hangs in the air. “But it’s also kind of sad.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like God makes Adam and Eve right?”
“And then he’s like you have this whole-ass paradise to be perfect in just don’t do this one thing. Then they do that one thing– they eat the apple and boom, everything changes, and God kicks them out of the garden and now everything’s really fucked up and now they’re separated from him. They were kind of like his kids.”
I light another cigarette and think about this.
“And having kids is a kind of sadness, you know?” he says. “No one actually tells you how sad it is.”
I don’t really know what he means, so I don’t say anything.
“You’re always thinking about them. All the time. You want to be around them all the time. It’s like you care about something other than yourself so fucking much it’s almost overwhelming. And they’re out there in the world. You created them and they’re part of you, but also like not part of you, and it, he, is there existing, expanding, being part of the world apart from you.”
“Kind of like the universe,” I say.
We are both drunk now. And I do not really want to keep talking about the universe, but Jack keeps right on. He doesn’t even care that I have leaned my head back and closed my eyes. He has moved past creation to Carl Sagan and I let the scotch take hold and feel my shoulders sag in calmness. I imagine what it will be like for him if he gets custody of his son. Finally being able to take him home.
He is carrying him across the yard and onto the porch. He is showing him the rooms of the house and pointing at the pictures of zoo animals on the wall of his new nursery. He is handing him toys and pulling him in close.
“You are safe with me,” he is whispering into his son’s ear like a benediction. “It’s all good now.”
And it will be so.