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Do You Believe in God?
The sky was bright blue and the clouds were puffy. It was one of those trick days in mid-march that is warm and bright before winter returns for another couple of weeks. My friend Zoe and I were walking with our bikes to a trail in the forest. “Do you believe in God?” My eyebrows shot up. Zoe was Jewish and I wasn’t, so my eleven-year old self was rather confused by this question. “Do you?” I asked. “That’s not an answer; that’s another question!”
I didn’t have an answer, or a comeback, so I remained silent. A few minutes later, approaching the trail, about to mount our bikes, she stopped me. “So?” “I don’t know! I mean my family doesn’t go to church, so I don’t have to believe. I mean, I want to believe in God but, when I ask for stuff, easy stuff, it doesn’t happen.”
“Easy stuff like what?” Zoe persisted.
“Like, that new game, or like the nice babysitter to look after me when my mom goes out instead of that grumpy old lady next door.”
Zoe was quiet for awhile. “Chad, am I supposed to be Jewish?”
I was a bit thrown off by this. “Well I guess you’re not ‘supposed’ to be anything” I replied after a bit of thought. “You can believe in whatever you want. I don’t think you need to be religious to be an OK person.”
There was another pause and then she finally answered: “Mother and Father are thinking of moving.”
“They think Hitler and Germany are going to be a problem. They want to move to America - where you’re from.”
We ended up lying on the grass in the outskirts of the forest, instead of biking through it, and just looking up at the clouds. I couldn’t imagine Zoe living anywhere but in the English countryside. I couldn’t imagine her living anywhere she couldn’t see the stars. Zoe shouldn’t live in New York. You can’t see the stars in New York. We hadn’t said anything for a bit. “Do you want to move to New York?” I asked. “Don’t be daft!” she snorted. “Of course I don’t want to move to New York!”
“Do you think you will?”
“My parents think so.”
“You could live under my bed!” I exclaimed. “We’ve got lots of food at my house, and all our pets like you! Even Bruno!”
“I wish! Who else would be my best friend?” We laughed a bit, then, went silent again.
“Do you think he’s watching us?” she half-whispered.
“Oh, sorry. I can be a bit thick sometimes”
“That’s alright. You have a big vocabulary so no one really minds if you’re slow.”
“Well, whose God are you talking about?”
“There’s only one I’m pretty sure” she replied.
“Well, which one is it then?” she didn’t respond to that for a bit. She was thinking. “I don’t know, but I hear my mum and dad having hushed talks when they think I can’t hear. They say the word war a lot. I think the war might be about that - which one exists, I mean.”
“I think people are making too big of a deal about this” I said “You can think what you want, I can think what I want, and Hitler can think whatever the heck he wants as long as it doesn’t mean another war! My folks say the last one wasn’t so good.”
“I hope there’s not another war” she said, half to herself.
I turned on my side to look at her: her red brown hair sprawled across the grass, her white button up shirt, her pale freckled skin: “You never answered!”
“Answered what?” she asked, propping herself up on her side to meet my eyes. “Do you believe in god?” I asked. She lay back down. “And do you think you have to be Jewish?” I stared at her.
She sighed. “I don’t know, Chad. I think there’s something, or someone, out there. I don’t know what it is though.”
“And the other thing?”
“About being Jewish? Who says I want to be anything? You’re not really anything.”
“But we do have a Christmas tree, and Santa comes every year!”
“That doesn’t make you Christian!”
“No, but it means you can’t be ‘not anything,’ ‘cause, if you’re not Jewish, you’ll have to have a Christmas tree!”
“I dunno. Says everybody.”
“Then, I’m nobody.”