Jayme Cawthern
and Amanda Miska

Jayme Cawthern, Untitled-oil pastel, graphite & gouache on bristol
Response Piece

by Amanda Miska
Inspiration Piece

If we are created in God’s image, does that make God a masochist?

Because aren’t we all masochists?   The thing we want most in the world and the thing that terrifies us the most are one in the same:   to be known completely by someone else.  The closer we come, the better it feels, and the more it hurts. Unconditional love is lofty.  We all have conditions if you dig deep enough.

And is God also delusional?  Since the one thing we want, that thing that consumes everything we do, even the minutia, is the one thing we can’t truly have.

Oh, but we try. The dab of perfume just behind the earlobes.  The last clean undershirt in the drawer. We flock to rooms where we can’t see clearly and it’s too loud to hear.  One drink and another and another, always trying to forget something, to find some elixir for courage. This is the only way we can get so close to strangers, pressing up against one another with uncomfortable familiarity, knowing only where we work, where we went to college, the name of our drink of choice. We settle, feeling unsettled, fearing what it means to settle down.

Oh, but we try.  On the train we look while pretending not to look. Catching a small sliver of sound escaping from a pair of ear phones, we recognize our favorite song and notice how the listener’s head bobs ever so slightly to its rhythm.  There’s an empty seat—we hesitate—then it’s no longer empty.  Five minutes pass and the doors open to spit us out into the underground.

Oh, but we try.  We sit in coffee shops, eyes on the door, sipping slowly, waiting for that vibration.  The slight shudder of the earth beneath our feet.  Every other sight and sound fades when someone—the right one—sits down across from us.  Words rising through heated air and swirling like steam.  That gentle lilt in our voices.  The way our eyes fall on the tiny drop of spilled cream on the table.  The giddiness of uncertainty giving way to certainty.

Oh, but we try. There is a church and there are rings and there is a too-white dress and too-bright smiles and there are promises made before the whole damn universe.  The grand production is somehow both too little and too much to honor this occasion of two people becoming one flesh—no small miracle.  The party fades, and there are two people in a mauve hotel room, sitting on the floral comforter, wondering what do we do now? And so we begin to kiss, and we expect this kiss to feel different.  We want to feel holiness, not just the ticklishness of the tip of the tongue against parted lips.

Oh, but we try.  We lay down together in the same bed each night.  We pretend to be asleep when the questions get too hard.  We pray for guidance.  Sometimes we get answers from our masochistic, delusional God.  Answers like:  Forgive and hope and have faith.  Not as much answers as they are commands. The simplest truths are often the hardest to swallow.  But all we have to cling to are those answers and each other.  Our hands meet beneath the covers.  One small squeeze in the dark, and we believe.

And we try again.


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