Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 5
The rumor was that I wanted to kill my ex-wife, as I am certain that many in such a position stand accused. This was not true. My fantasies were much more complicated. Daydreams involved coming home to an empty house and waiting for a telephone call. It would be the police department calling, and they would advise me to sit down, and proceed to explain that my wife had met with a horrible accident and, unfortunately, would not be coming home.
My crocodile tears, over the telephone, would not have given me away.
After all, I had a son and a daughter and I did not want them to be without a mother. This is why, upon my divorce, it never occurred to me to kidnap them and take them so far deep into Mexico as to never be heard from until they were old enough to hate me anew. Instead, I divorced my ex-wife nicely, if there is such a thing. She could keep everything, even my sanity. I would save and buy new building blocks for my brain and move on. That would take a couple of years.
This dystopian life is exaggerated. Not that the very minute I got off of the train that led me to Baja ever solved a damned thing, it has instead forced me to reconcile a dualistic philosophy and simply choose one damned thing over another. I choose tacos. I choose Español. I choose to submit to this cultural shift in order to come to terms with many broken promises from the culture I was born into. After all, they promised us nuclear war. They promised us all lung cancer. We were supposed to have flying cars by now.
This is what happens.
My life is simple at this point, fry up two corn tortillas and then two eggs over-easy and then diced onion and tomato with some salt and pepper and a dab of salsa. I eat this every day and continue to poop and get hungry again; it works wonders. Meanwhile, my wife is upstairs asleep and my daughter is in Playas with her niece and another daughter is married and living in Los Pinos and my son is somewhere in San Diego with my grandson. I have another son living in the middle of the desert and another daughter somewhere in Arizona. Not a single one of them will be eating huevos rancheros anytime soon. They don’t know what they are missing.
On Sunday mornings sometimes I wake up very early and I have no idea why. This morning I awoke at three o’clock and fixed myself some coffee. I listened to the radio and a show came on, it was about Jesus. Jesus has his own radio show. It was only a matter of time. I have to wonder what ratings Jesus can brag about. I imagine it is a syndicated show, what with Jesus being omnipotent and all. I reckon that Jesus is syndicated on Clear Channel Communications because that’s where all of the right-wing nut-jobs hang out.
If I were Jesus, that’s where I would stake out my studios.
So, while eating my huevos rancheros I listen to the Jesus show, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to everyone. Sometimes people call Jesus and complain about their sad, sad lives. As anyone could imagine, Jesus is very sympathetic. Sometimes he tells people this: There, there, now, now. And then he asks them if the life they are leading is the life they really want to lead. Of course it isn’t, or they wouldn’t be calling Jesus up to talk to him on the radio. But the thing I like most about radio Jesus is that he isn’t condescending, nor does he patronize anyone.
The big draw, the reason that people should tune into the Jesus radio show, is the same reason that people tune into Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She is also syndicated on Clear Channel Communications, by the way, apparently they have the market cornered. See, people need to know about someone else’s misery. If someone on this planet is more miserable than someone else, then that’s a ratings bonanza. This is why you should listen to the Jesus radio show. This is why you should listen to Dr. Laura. Someone else’s train wreck is your ticket to spiritual freedom.
I remember getting into an argument many several years ago (perhaps over two decades) with the televangelist-chasing relatives on my mother’s side of the family. I mostly keep quiet when they talk about religion, but there are times I can’t help myself. The smug, contemptuous, unholy righteousness of their attitude brings out the worst in me. I continue to hold that most folks who attend church tend to hate human beings. Folks that go beyond tossing a couple of dollars into the collection plate might be even worse.
I remember them talking about the end times, when God would make the world into a hell. They went on and on about how horrible it would be, about how many sinners wouldn’t be redeemed and so on. Something about Jesus leading an army and destroying the evil here. A lot about things they couldn’t possibly know.
“I hope I’m there for it,” I said.
I got the distinct feeling that they expected the Earth to open up and swallow me whole for saying that. But it was an honest thing to say. I stand by that statement now. But holy cow, back then, I thought people were going to order an exorcism. Someone finally asked me to explain myself.
I figured then - as I do now - that if such an event were to happen, that I couldn’t imagine that anyone lifted up to heaven could possibly make any difference up there, because after all, they’re already in heaven, right? But maybe if some people stayed behind, just maybe, someone could make a difference down here. Maybe you get to save a soul. I’d give mine up in heartbeat to save someone else’s.
Maybe I don’t have a firm grip on what humanity is supposed to be all about, but I’d go to hell to save someone else’s soul. I reckon that’ll keep me out of most churches for the rest of my life. It’s kept me out of all of them up to this point. Between that and American Football. Amen.
So, with all of these things I’ve been promised – from nuclear war to lung cancer to flying cars to robot maids – I’ve never asked for much from a God. I asked for health when my children were born, in fact I prayed for it, the only honest prayer I can remember muttering while not on the tile floor of a bathroom in my youth with a belly full of bad liquor. And it wouldn’t be fair of me to ask that human kind would give up their souls to save another soul. But I hope this, and will continue to hope it even though I suspect I am hoping in vain, I will hope that at some point before I die – irrespective of the possibility of afterlife or a God or Goddess – I hope that at least one person on this ever-dying planet understands why I have absolutely no choice but to want more for you than I want for myself.
That isn’t religion talking; it’s part of being a human on this planet. At least, that’s what it means to me. I think back about my first marriage, about the sadness and void, about the unhealthy existence, I can't imagine anyone in that situation. Maybe that's what molds us, turns us into something we can't help but to become. From misery comes compassion. Maybe that's it.