God had not crossed my mind when I was asked to decorate a section of the diorama tree for the annual Diorama Christmas Party.
Was I flattered? Yes. Delusional? A little. But pious? Not in the least.
Were I not dating a window-dresser at the time, the whole thing would have been a complete disaster. I had no concept of what goes into making an empty square come to life; just far-fetched ideas.
“We’ll do The Happy Prince!” I announced.
“Was that by Rankin & Bass?” my boyfriend asked.
“No. Oscar Wilde.”
“Never heard of it.”
The Happy Prince is this cheesy British animated special about a statue and a sparrow. At the statue’s request, the sparrow gives the jewels encrusting him to the poor. The story ends with the sparrow’s death, the statue being torn down, and the two of them reuniting in heaven.
I found a copy of the video at the library to show my boyfriend. As I dabbed at my tears, I turned to him for his reaction.
“So the moral of the story is to give until you die and then worship God?” he asked. A bona fide atheist, he was quick to point out the God in everything.
“Did you want it to end with an explosion?”
From there the conversation went from heaven to Jesus and whether or not I believed in him.
“I believe there was a person named Jesus, but I don’t think he was the son of God. You know… like David Koresh.”
I thought he would at least concede this point purely on the basis of recorded history. I may as well have said I believed in Santa.
“Oh my god. You’re still Catholic.”
I fumed in the passive-aggressive silence that falls somewhere between “Why can’t we have nice things?” and “Maybe you’re right.” We had butted heads like this once before over the people who stayed after Hurricane Katrina to be with their pets. I would. He wouldn’t.
“Don’t you believe in the concept of souls?” I asked, sounding like Joni Mitchell.
This was beyond me; I’ve assigned a soul to my can opener.
“How could you live in a world without souls?” I thought. If not for the soul, how could two people fall in love? And if not for our souls, what is keeping us all in line? It’s certainly not the government.
Maybe I am still Catholic. I fit the description: I don’t pray or go to church. It’s not the mythology I believe in but the principal: do unto others as they would do unto you.
All this time I’ve been telling people I was a recovering Catholic, when really, I was only going through the motions.