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VyVy Trinh

          In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was nothingness. Terrified of darkness, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Astounded by the raw power of his will, God made waters. And sky. And he thought up trees and fruit, and there was everything and there was morning, the third day. It was on this day that God learned that there was such a thing as too much light. The life he had created was beautiful only in its newness and rarity. And so though it hurt him terribly to be in darkness again, he created night—though now a paler night, with a glowing orb he called the moon and all its wild, silver disciples called stars.

           When it was day again, God discovered the fantastic possibility of motion. It was serendipity; he had been admiring the stars when suddenly one of the million burst away from its place, cascading across the blackness and exploding in a shower of wet fire. Delighted, God was inspired to make birds. Thousands of birds to mimic that shooting star. After the birds came the cows and horses and pigs and cats and dogs and even aardvarks. He set them upon their worlds of grass and desert, and he loved them.

           But he soon learned that they were not his. Once he had made them, they became their own, for as soon as they were born they forgot their maker completely. They could not begin to understand God and could only spend their time on earth surviving in their worlds of grass and sand. Full of longing, God said, “I will make one last creature. He will be like me.” But then he thought of something he feared and so corrected himself: “He will be like me—without my divinity, omnipotence, omniscience, immortality…”

           Here’s a list of things that humankind did inherit from God: his fear of darkness, his fear of aloneness, his fallibility, his curiosity, his hope, his desire to create, his thirst to perfect, his ambition, his pride.

When God had finished making the human, his sorrow overwhelmed him. Somehow in the process he had created a creature that wanted God but did not understand him. God felt loved for the first time, but he realized he would never be understood. And so, with his newest creation before him, he chose to put his own loneliness aside and do the most he could, which was to make it so that this human would not feel his own monstrous solitude. He made woman.

           This decision turned out to be a terrible mistake. God granted man the equal that he himself could never have. As time (another of God’s experiments) passed, his generosity wavered, sometimes blurring with perverse envy. One day, when the man and woman were in each other’s arms speaking in low whispers with their honeyed voices, God, in a jealous rage of his own creations, fabricated some fantastic conflict involving a legless animal, some fruit, and nakedness. In this messy, spiteful event, he condemned the man and the woman to be deeply unhappy. “I’ll make humankind in my likeness,” he said bitterly.

           Maybe it was then that the woman and the man, who now had to bind each other to the mortal labels of “Eve” and “Adam” because they could no longer understand each other with their souls and had to do so with their minds, felt they would never again know peace and so fell in love with the idea of it.

           Or maybe it was later, upon the first murder in the world.

           When God made time, he stitched it like a blanket, symmetrical and circular. The trees and the people caught up in its threads succumbed to death the way they had begun, frail and gasping, the muscle and arrogance of their youth unraveled into the basic stuff with which God had built them, to be reused in another life. Though he found his creation of time elegant, it quickly became clear to God that his creatures could no more see beyond their own lives than they could see him, and so all lived in fear of death.

           Death. There were soon two men called Cain and Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. Cain, whose occupation was growing things in the ground, knew one absolute truth about life: it sure was hard to create it.

           Some time passed, and one day there was a tremendous misunderstanding. Somehow, it occurred to these brothers that they should offer some gifts to God, the thing they loved but did not understand. Because the sun, moon, and stars could be found in the sky, they’d always guessed God was in the sky, too, and so climbed to a hill to place their gifts. Abel brought a lamb, and Cain brought some fruit. The next day, the lamb was gone, having run down the hill toward the river. The fruit was still there. Cain thought God had accepted only Abel’s gift. Overwhelmed with jealousy, he killed his brother in one fell stroke. And now he knew one more fact about life: it sure was easy to destroy it.

           And Cain felt a new emotion: brokenness. He cried like the rain. And fell in love with peace, which his soul would never know.

           There were times when God was overcome with regret for having created time. “If only I had been satisfied with a single moment of life—a still tree, a stationary moon!” he cried. But as stars and birds, all the world moved now, and soon God grew too tired to control it all.

           Indeed, his creations had grown. Where there was once a single man there were now thousands of communities, which had each in their own way learned to use the corner of his earth on which they stood, had grown to interpret their piece of his precious sky in their own fashion. Having lost their ability to speak with the burgeoning silence of their souls long ago in the fall of the so-called “Adam” and “Eve,” the people created languages, crafted sounds with their tongues and throats and lips, noises whose utterance were preserved by their inscription in clay, in stone, in ink, and eventually in type. Caves became huts became apartments became skyscrapers. Quarrels so quickly became organized into war. Without fail, as soon as a man discovered a new gift of the earth—a valley offering the fruits of her fertile womb to feed the sheep and the children; a river brimming with silver fish; a beautiful woman with full breasts and a dark curtain of hair—he aimed to own it and to profit from it, within the span of a single breath. It was among the earliest generations of man that rape was born, then land-ownership, then slavery, then usury, then war. No sooner was a tool created for hunting or farming than it was refashioned into a weapon. Every time a war cry was bellowed in God’s name, men apotheosizing their declarations of power with battle screams radiating into the night, God could hear the cracking of his own heart. He never wanted this. He never meant for this. But he knew better than to interfere anymore; once, a while ago, he had furiously decided he was done, through with these violent and impossible creatures. He created a gigantic flood to kill them all, determined to put this all behind him. But at the last minute he had hastily saved one man on an enormous ark because he knew in the heart within his heart he didn’t hate man at all. In fact, he loved him.

           Spices, gold, land, oil, sex: these were a few of the things that drove men thirsty and blind with greed and power. But on any given sundown, on evenings when God needed to remind himself of love, all he had to do was peek into the home of any mother rocking her child to sleep with a lullaby. He would spy the smile dancing across her eyes, the serenity washing across the baby’s closed lips as she fell asleep to the soft vibrations of her mother’s voice humming in her breast, the simple miracle of what he had created—life that could beget life, love that could beget love. There were times, too, when God caught the whisper of a boy falling in love and still being innocent enough to not want to touch her, to not want to own her, but only to cherish her and pray that she knew how perfect she was, how sacred. In these instances, too, God cautiously allowed himself to rejoice; how marvelous it was to see a human being able to love the way he himself could love—truly without self. And the peacemakers. The freedom fighters. They, too, gave him reason to believe in his art. There was one man whose mysterious origins were celebrated among many as the virgin-born child of God himself; he was an extraordinarily kind man and extraordinarily in love with peace. God let himself love this one more deeply than he should have, and this boy had the strength to accept the love he felt pouring into him from the heavens. With it, he spoke with the lonely and bettered the ill and told wise tales. He was the closest any human had ever come to understanding God. And then one day the others killed him. On a crucifix. God was never quite the same.

           And yet. In the mothers, the young lovers, the freedom fighters—in their whispered prayers that revealed, shining and naked in the moonlight, their yearning for him—God was placated. Through them he was reminded that although his fragile creations may never understand him, some still craved him, remembering not him but the imprint of him like the sweet tail end of a forgotten dream. To these souls, and to these alone, God granted, if just for a moment, that long-elusive peace, which they had so fallen in love with the minute they were thrust from the womb and into this garish light of day, wailing for him. In a city somewhere, a mother finishes murmuring prayers over her baby and returns to bed, where just as she is drifting off to sleep she feels a warmth enveloping her, beginning at her forehead as though someone has just laid a gentle kiss upon it, and radiating down toward her fingertips, toward her chest where it glows hot like a flame. She won’t tell anyone, but in the morning she will swear she heard a voice in her ear, so familiar somehow, saying simply, I am here.  ■

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