“People say life is a beautiful gift, but it’s hard to believe that sometimes.”
I sit with my back against the trunk of a Russian olive. The breeze rasps through the bunch grass and sage, kicking up spirals of dust. I’d come out into the middle of nowhere, because of how sometimes society and all the things people build start to jumble up in a mishmash of wrong shapes and smells.
Invisible Friend Jesus sits next to me, the hems of his white slacks fluttering around his bare ankles.
“The universe exploded out of nothing,” I say. “I mean, a point of infinite density. It’s the same thing as nothing, because of how infinity and nothingness are two sides of the same Mobius strip. So it exploded out of nothing and has been falling apart ever since.”
I pluck a stalk of yarrow and weave it between my fingers. “Life on earth arose because of molecular forces and the way chemistry has to work. Carbon chains put themselves together and had to keep putting themselves together more and more because that’s the way things react. Life arose out of the dust, an elaborate house of cards. Plants and animals and people are just complicated constructions of chemistry and entropy, eating themselves up in violent exothermic reactions and turning it all into heat until one day there will be nothingness again.”
Invisible Friend Jesus squints into the distance. The sun washes out the landscape like an overexposed photograph.
I strip a leaf from the yarrow plant, its limp, fleshy stem shredding to ribbons. “Chemistry put us together. It put our brains together. Brain chemistry dictates how we act, and how we in turn put the world together for ourselves. The way my brain functions makes it so that I don’t fit in other people’s construction of the world. They batter my world apart like bullies kicking over sand castles, but I still can’t rebuild my universe the way they want me to. I don’t fit in their machinations; that’s why I can’t affect the world. I’m like a cog without a machine. I can’t turn anything. I can barely control myself.”
I toss the yarrow into the sand. “But it doesn’t matter. We exploded out of nothing, and we’ll return to nothing again. Life is a faint flame flickering in the void. Consciousness and self-awareness are just dreams within a dream. Any sense or beauty we create dissolves into the ether, the way the entire cosmic firmament will eventually fizzle into oblivion, dying its heat death when the chemicals have done all the reacting they can do, energy spreads too thin, and gravity stretches space-time flat.”
I draw a circle in the ashy dirt, but it isn’t very round because the pebbles get in the way of my finger. “I try to believe in God, but it’s hard to believe in anything like that. God is a brick in the world people have built for themselves, because they feel like it will fall apart if He isn’t there. But that whole illusion could crumble and nothing would change, because it wasn’t real to begin with.”
I clutch the cross around my neck. The silver plate is rubbed off, showing the cheap brass beneath it. The chain is tarnished and all tangled up with my hair. I glance over.
I expect Invisible Friend Jesus to have disappeared, but he’s still there, squinting at me with his little smile.