Swamp & Concrete

“God has blessed me beyond what I can imagine,” Angelica says, in a serious tone, like the tone of voice that you might use when explaining what stage of cancer your relative has. “I’m incredibly blessed. Beyond belief.”

Her jet-black hair slides across her eyes. Her eyes are lined with too much eyeliner – but that’s how her friends have always dressed. And after all, it’s Los Angeles, so there aren’t any rules for how you can or can’t look. She smiles, regretfully, and wonders if her words will affect her friend.

Her friend doesn’t return her smile. Dorothy only nods, holding her small, timid frame with a hint of respect and understanding, but with no agreement. She’s explained numerous times before why she doesn’t believe in ‘blessings’, or in ‘hope’, or ‘redemption’, or in ‘faith’. God has no place in her mind. Why should he? He’s so full of vague ideas and concepts, like ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’. And yet, every Christian she’s met has a different idea of what the hell those things are, and none of them are concrete. And even if they were concrete, Dorothy has seen concrete crumble under age and the hot Los Angeles sky. She wants to say: “You’re not blessed, you’re just lucky. There’s no such thing as blessed.” but she doesn’t.

Angelica takes a sip of coffee.

“How’s your mother?”

Dorothy nods again, trying to seem optimistic.

“She’s okay. We’ll find out soon.”

Angelica nods and mirrors Dorothy’s expression.

Dorothy doesn’t buy optimism, especially from Christians. She’s used all of her own, but doesn’t see the need to resupply, no matter the offers.

They let the conversation trickle away, and part ways, promising to see each other soon, though neither of them is very confident that it will happen.

Dorothy drives back to her home, winding through Los Angeles traffic. She spends the night with her mother, in the hospital, where she’s spent the past week. Every night, she sits at her mother’s bedside, watching the weather channel, because it’s the only channel her mother doesn’t mind. The weather in LA is always the same: Always sunny, never changing.

Angelica goes home, to her parent’s home, but her parents aren’t acting like parents should. They don’t act out any of those concrete things like ‘blessings’ or ‘hope’ or ‘mercy’. Not even Los Angeles concrete, that crumbles and cracks like ancient sidewalks. They act more like a quicksand swamp, where everything starts to sink, slowly pulling her down.

Dorothy’s mother’s test results come back to them. She’s free.

Angelica’s father hits her mother, and everything begins to sink.

For a moment, Dorothy wonders if she should believe in ‘blessings’, and Angelica wonders if she’s been lying to herself for a very long time.