This piece is one in a chronological series, set in a universe.
Feel free to find the others here, and to browse through any companion piece, set in the same universe.
1. Three Frenemies 2. Fall Coven Meet 3. BeingLovedAgain 4. The Fourth Witch
6. The Three Questions 7. Seed 8. Garden Graveyard Heart 9. The Cook
10. River Witch 11. Rage
12. Reincarnation 14. Hate
15. Rage and Her Spells of Power
17. Truth – Rhymes With Ruth
5. Memory Elephant 12. Reincarnation 13. Memory and Mudbaths
16. OtherSide 18. Pillow Talk With God 19. She, Named E 20. The Girl Made of Smoke and the Not-Boy 21. Other Garden
May 22 – Part 1 Stone Lady Paper Boots Dredge Half Yours, Half His Flower Seller
When You Must End Love Talk Scorpio Rising Pretty Men, Stone Lady
From The Olive Pit to Gratitude Reliability dead girl Soft Witch
The water pours hot enough to steam up the bathroom. I scrub my body methodically, hands pondering, thoughtfully pausing over my stomach which has grown in the past little while. A distracted thought hums somewhere in the background – I wish the shower was a little steadier in its stream, a little more forceful, I think.
So, I am quite startled when he quite nonchalantly says “Hey,”, and pushes the curtain aside to climb in.
“Jesus Christ.” My hands immediately cross over my chest and then my belly. “Do you knock?” I say, a little crossly. It’s been some time since I’ve chatted with God Boyfriend. It’s just him. I drop my hands to my waist.
“Not usually – besides, I had to catch you at the right time,” he says, reaching past me for my body shower.
“And me showering is the right time?” I ask sarcastically.
“Yes,” he says completely seriously, lathering away. I’m surprised the tub comfortably fits us both. “I made it bigger,” he says automatically. My lips twitch in an automatic half smile at a juvenile joke that pops into my head. He rolls his eyes and bounces my pouf off my shoulder. “Get your mind out of the gutter, and, while you’re at it, why did you cover yourself when you saw me?”
“Because you scared the crap out of me,” I say automatically.
He cocks his head, and nods thoughtfully. “Yeah, I didn’t plan this well,” he says, finally, shaking his head. “Sorry for bothering you.”
“It’s ok,” I say, a little stiffly. I cross my arms over my chest again, feeling a bit uncomfortable that we seem to be fighting in the shower.
“We’re not fighting,” he says. “But ah – there you are crossing your chest again. And you’re not scared of me now, so why that gesture?”
“I don’t know,” I say bewildered. “I feel weird.” The shower is a little hot and I lean past him to turn up the cold water.
He smooths the water over his face, dark eyes and stubbled chin – and when she removes her hands her body has changed – round belly, soft thighs. “You’re still uncomfortable,” she says, reaching for my hand. “I knew a woman who was uncomfortable a long, long, long time ago. And, everyone took her story and turned it into something really strange.” She sounds so sad, and when I see her eyes, they are filled with tears. “And I don’t want that for you.” As a tear falls from her eye, I reach and brush it away. She catches my hand in hers, turns it, studies it closely and then kisses it. “I want to show you something,” she says. “Someplace.”
“Ok,” I say, “Sure, when?”
“Now,” she says, snapping her fingers –
And we are in front of a set of gates. Huge, ornate, and blinding in intensity. Bright bright bright. I squint looking at it. Around us, there are trees as tall as redwoods. Flowers bloom around us, rapidly at times, slowly at others, delightfully basking in the golden light of the gates. Hedges of bright clean neat green shrubbery line the pathway to the gates. “What is – what is that gate made of?” I ask.
“The sun’s rays,” she says, distractedly. “Don’t stare at it directly; you’ll go blind. Zeke, could you please open them?”
“Sure thing!” A smiling man in his twenties pops out from a small tower beside the gate. “Oh hello!” He says, cheerfully waving to me.
I wave back, and then frown realizing I’m still completely naked. Furious, I turn to my companion. “Hey, what the fuck?” I say. “Give me my clothes!”
“You don’t need them here,” she says evenly. Her strides are confident, and the door opens with a strange song – like organs and choir music.
“What about Zeke?!” I say, following her into the garden.
“What about him?” She says.
She leads me to a beautiful, large tree, its trunk the size of a banyan. Its canopy casts a cool shade – around the trunk is a winding vine. From its branches, apples, pomegranates, and luscious unknown fruits hang from it.
“Oh,” I say, dully. I hold out my hand like Vana White, presenting letters on Wheel of Fortune. “The Tree of Knowledge,” I say, acknowledging its presence. I’m immediately bitter. “This was a – “ I want to say bullshit, but it seems like an inappropriate word in this place, “a not-good story,” I say.
“Eve’s story,” she says, simply, “is the key to everything. A key that humans – men primarily, but everyone who followed those men, including women – have muddled, desecrated, and ruined!” Her voice is thunder suddenly and for half a second, the Garden is plunged into a strange darkness. Everything looks like the negative of a photograph, the eerie glow of her eyes and around the tree I see flaming swords marking a border. I see a woman too, talking to the vine, coiling around the base, laughing delightedly, curiously. Innocently, she chooses a fruit, takes a bite as the snake’s eyes narrow and a grin passes over its face. A blush passes over her cheeks as she swallows, and
I blink, and the image passes.
I feel a heaviness in my heart that I cannot shake. I swallow hard and sit heavily against the base of the tree.
“What was Eve’s sin?” She asks, quietly.
“Nothing,” I say immediately.
“No, that’s unfortunately not true,” she says. “But, it is also not what everyone seems to think it is.”
“Ok, she ate from The Tree of Knowledge” I say.
“and?” She presses.
“And, I don’t know, you told her not to, and she did it anyway. So boom: sin country. Sin book! Sin registry here, needs a file opened, first name Eve, last name – probably something ridiculous: Adam’s wife.”
“Knowledge of what?” She says, ignoring my rant.
“I don’t know, all the evils of the world – shame.”
“Shame,” she says, thoughtfully, and then she looks at me. “And what was Adam’s sin?”
“They never talk about that,” I say, bitterly.
She smiles, sadly. “No, they don’t. His sin was blame. But in this space, in this Garden, there is neither blame, nor shame, nor anger, nor fear, nor guilt, nor defensiveness, nor anything else of that nature – other than, of course, this tree.”
I look around me. “Are you saying Eve… chose shame?” I ask, slowly.
She nods, once. “But, she didn’t need to. Ever. And Adam didn’t have to choose to blame her. Ever.”
“So how am I here, right now?” I ask. “A minute ago, I was angry – resentful actually about the story of Eve.”
“Grace,” she says, simply. “Mine. You can’t be here on a regular basis. You wouldn’t even make it past Zeke,”
“Right, the bouncer,” I say.
“Oh – not because he would keep you out,” she says, smiling ruefully. “But how would you get past him without any clothes? You’d be too…well, ashamed to make it happen.”
I touch the tree and feel a shiver run through me. “Why plant this tree at all?” I ask. “Why have it here? If this is paradise why –”
“Because without choice, what meaning does anything have for humans?” She asks. “I never wanted any of you to be slaves to Goodness,” she admits.
“But you kicked them out of this place,” I say. I try to keep the accusation out of my voice, but she hears it anyway.
“No,” she says, heavily. “They… left. That’s what happens when you feel ashamed. Or guilty. Or angry. What peace can exist in your heart when that is there? Think about it. If you were to eat from this tree, remember things from your past, do you think the gentle peace of this garden would withstand those memories? Those realities? That… suffering? If you ate from the tree right now, all that would be left is you, the tree, and a millennia of suffering – every terrible memory, every terrible projection of the future.”
I swallow hard. “People continue to shame Eve and blame Eve,” I say, softly. “And women. Religion. Churches. Mosques. Temples. Everywhere. Everywhere we’re kept out of positions of religious leadership, everywhere we’re told we’re less than men, everywhere we’re told we’re lesser creatures. And women believe this too – they believe we are spiritually less, cognitively less, – that we have literal lesser value.”
She nods, and kneels in the ground beside me. She takes my face in her hands and kisses my forehead. “Yes,” she says softly. “I know that this has happened. I know people have done this. I know men in large part have done this. But you must remember three things. First, man’s story is not my story. Second, man’s story is not your story. And therefore, third: forgive them, for they know not what they do. You see, they don’t even know their own story well,” I break when I hear these words fall from her lips. Shaking with sobs, I curl up and cry in her lap, as the leaves rustle gently above us. When my crying finally subsides, I look up and see his peacock feather in his hair, and eyes crinkling in a smile.
He brushes away the last of my tears and then gently places his hand on my chest above my breasts. “There is something you have,” he says, smiling ruefully, “that is not yours to keep. It’s time to give it back now,” he says. “This will… feel a little funny,” he warns moving his hand in a rhythmic motion across my chest. I begin to feel a strange heaviness in my lungs and I cough, a little panicked. “Shh, it’s ok,” he says, moving his hand to hover over my throat. I feel the lump moving up and cough again, more acutely. He puts his hand in front of my mouth and looks into my eyes.
Firmly, he says “Vengeance is mine,” and I cough a small strawberry into his palm. He smiles in delight and tosses the berry into the air, catching it in his mouth when it falls back down. “Ah! Such a tiny thing – and causing all kinds of unnecessary problems for you,” he says, chewing it. “Mm… a bit sour, but then, vengeance is never a perfectly ripe fruit,” he says. “I think… you will breathe easier now,” he says, still holding me in his lap.
I touch his chest and look into his eyes. I move my hands to his face, and run my fingers across his lips. He kisses them instinctively and I smile. Something deep and warm glows inside me and his eyes widen in joy. “No more shame, then?” He asks, but it’s more of a statement.
“Never again,” I say, smiling in the shade of the Tree of Knowledge, in the lap of my lover, in the Garden of Eden.