The Atheist

Father Fucker. The thought entered my mind when I first watched an evangelical broadcast on television. Oh, God. Oh, my God, I'm thinking the Lord's name in vain. Father fucking Fucker. That's who he is. My brother was sitting next to me on the couch, his head resting on the arm.

"You guys ready for CCD?" my mother asked us. CCD, CCD—the sound of her voice sounding off those letters, they just echoed. Could they hear what I was thinking? We're sitting here talking, and they have no idea what's going on in my mind. I shifted in my seat, inadvertently elbowing my brother.

"Sorry," I mumbled. Oh, my God, what if I bruised him wrong and I inadvertently burst a vessel in his arm and it would kill him? It would be all my fault. I'd be a killer. I'd be a fucking killer. Oh, please, be okay. "One second," I announced.

"Emily, don't start this now," she sighed. I didn't see what the big deal was. She removed all the bars of soap from the bathroom.

"I have to pee," I lied. And so, I went into the bathroom. And I stood there for awhile, and then I flushed the toilet, and took shampoo out of the shower. There was soap in there. I could clean. I used my elbow to turn on the faucet, because one time I used a tampon and then I turned on the faucet without washing my hands, and my fingers had just been in my vagina. I could spread a disease or give germs to people. I washed my hands, then grabbed a tissue and gingerly turned off the faucet. Even though I had thoroughly cleaned the faucet knob, I'd just feel the germs on my hand and I'd avoid touching anything else because the germs might not be all gone, and I might accidentally contaminate someone. What if I did? I could kill someone with my germs. I'd never know. And then, I'd always have to think "What if?"

I came out of the bathroom, sure not to touch the door knob again, because my hands were contaminated before I washed them and my contamination was still on the door knob. You see, it didn't matter if anyone else was blissfully unaware that they were contaminated. I could always save them by washing my hands so that I ended problems with me.

No one would die on my watch. It's 9:13 in the morning. How many seconds, though, before the next minute? I would die without ever knowing the answer. I've got to find out. I ran back into the living room, turned on the television to the Cable Guide Channel—saw that there were seven seconds left in 9:13 a.m. on September 4th, 2005. It'll never be that way again.

"Emily! What are you doing? Come on…let's go."

My mother drove us to CCD, and I looked at Ryan, and I thought to myself, "He is pathetic. He is pathetic. He's such a loser. I'm going to kick the shit out of him," and I thought about beating him down on my couch at home, watching him cry. And I'd laugh. Cocksucker.

They made us say prayers in the auditorium before we went to our classes. Ryan sat with his class, and I sat with mine, and the priest—Father Fucker. Don't think that! And the priest, the monsignor, I apologize, the monsignor stood up in front of all the Sunday School classes and commenced.

Ten Hail Marys. Always.

"Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou, amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen," I repeated along with the priest. Sometime along the fifth Hail Mary, I missed a word. I panicked. I quickly finished up, not mumbling like the rest of the students, but saying it aloud. The monsignor—Father Fucker—dismissed us, and all the way to our classroom, I said ten Hail Marys in my head, making sure not to miss a word in my thoughts, or a single Amen, because if I didn't say, "Amen," that meant I didn't believe, and if I didn't believe God would punish me and I would be a sinner and I'd go to hell and burn.

Our teacher told us we had to go to church for class today because it was Palm Sunday. So, along we went, and I tried to suppress the "Father Fucker" phrase from entering my thoughts, but the more I tried, the more it came. I looked to the Cross. I could fuck Jesus Christ. I could fuck him.

I'm evil. What am I thinking? Kneel down. I said fifteen Our Fathers and then sat up, and when the Mass had finished –did I capitalize?—we were dismissed and I couldn't get my filthy thought out of my mind. What did I do today? I'm dirty. Sex. I will go to hell. I thought about having sex with Jesus. I didn't really think it though, God, believe me. It was just an idea. I didn't envision it!

"Hey, Emily," this blond Barbie bitch from my school asked. "Do you know what the science homework is?"

"Page 143, one to five," I answered in monotone, in exasperation. She just walked away to talk to her Stacey Doll friend. Stupid asshole. Thanks for the thanks, you cunt-licking bitch. I found my brother, asked him where our fucking mother was, and he didn't say anything. He's such a little weirdo.

I spotted my father. I think I favored him over my mother. My mother and I didn't get along. I think I might hate her. But I couldn't really hate her. I tried.

"Hey, guys, how was CCD?" he asked.

"Exhilarating," I replied sarcastically, climbing into the car.

"What about you, Ryan?" my father asked him. He didn't say anything. Why was my father always trying to get him to talk? He could ask me how I was doing…my father and I were finally growing apart. We were always great buds. Not anymore. Now he was always siding with my mother, that bitch.

I saw my brother scratch his nose, so I stayed away from him. If he touched me, I would freak. He's so goddamn disgusting. He could've touched his boogers and then his fucking germs would be on me, and I'd constantly feel like I'd have to burn myself.

"Ryan, you're so disgusting," I said.

"Emily, is that necessary?" my father interjected.

"Yes. He's like picking his nose."

"I am not!" Ryan protested suddenly. Surprise, surprise. "Shut up, Emily. You're the disgusting one. That's why you don't have a boyfriend."

"Oh, yeah, 'cause you're a regular Casanova," I snapped. "Where's all your friends?" I could beat the shit out of him if I wasn't so afraid he'd touch me with his dirty fingers. It's not that he was picking his nose, but he touched that area around his nose, which sickened me, because it could potentially have germs.

"Enough. Emily, grow up. Ryan, your sister's not disgusting."

"Yes, she is," he muttered.

"I swear to God," I muttered. "It's getting to be fucking ridiculous. Emily, shut up and keep your goddamn comments to yourself. Ryan, ignore her."

Father fucker.

There is a ninety-six percent chance that one day, I will attend a funeral for my father. My father is going to die one day. What if it's soon? What if—tomorrow—he has a heart attack, and by this time—10:37 p.m.— on Wednesday, I will be kneeling in front of his cold, dead body saying the Our Father over in my head?

I don't want my father to die. What if he contracts some horrible disease? What if…it's me? What if it's me that contaminates him with HIV or something by accident and then he dies? And then, I'll be a killer. I will have murdered someone very dear to me. I will be awful. I will burn in hell, even if it's a mistake, because killing is a mortal sin. I can't let that happen. I can't kill my father.

"Our Father, who are in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom Come, thy will be done—on earth as it is in Heaven. So give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen," I whispered, folding my hands over my chest. God doesn't like you to fold your hands like that. He wants them to be upright. I'll do it again. "Sorry, God. Forgive me," I said, and re-structured my hands so that my fingers stood upright, pressed against one another. I repeated the prayer. I'll say it one more time so God will forgive my etiquette iniquity. Or maybe two more times. No, three. Three will be fine. One for Jesus and the Holy Spirit, too.

"Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." I always cheated with this prayer. I always added the omitted, "Amen," because that meant I believed it and it would be sealed in a promise that I would be delivered to Heaven if in the event that I pass in my sleep. I will be guaranteed a spot in Heaven.

Tomorrow I get my essay back in English. If I don't get an A, I might go ahead and kill myself. Or, I will play a new song on the guitar. Either one. If I were going to kill myself, I might try and inhale white out until all the oxygen in my brain gets depleted. That might work. If I kill myself though, is that considered murder and will I go to hell? I mean, you have to kill something in order to kill yourself, so I suppose that I will go to hell if I commit suicide. I decided against it.

I heard Ryan crying in the other room. He is a pussy. A pussy. I never thought that word before. I like it. He's a retard—he's stupid. I can't stand him. My parents baby him, too, because of his retarded old stutter. Listening to him speak is like listening to a motor start up. The only time he never stutters is when he's bitching and whining about something. I hate the sound of his voice. When he opens his mouth, I want to suffocate him.

I don't like Jessica. I think she's a shallow, superficial cheerleader idiot. Stupid pom-pom bitch. I think everybody is a conformist—everybody's got to look the same, and act the same and listen to the same stupid emo music. I hate Avril Lavigne and Ashlee Simpson and Fall Out Boy and all that—stupid bitches can't sing at all. It's not good music. Kids in my generation don't get it.

The government is so oppressive, too, and nobody cares. There's no freedom of speech anymore. The blissful ignorance about the war, September 11th, Karl Rove, Chandra Levy, the way that Bush smirks whenever he gives a speech—nobody wants to take a stand against anything anymore and the dumb media hounds never go after anything. They did in the Sixties, I think. I'd like to live in the Sixties. That time must've been so fun. I would go to Woodstock and protest the war and all that. Conformist assholes are not rebels anymore.

Jessica is so shallow. She's so shallow. The way she pushes her hair behind her ear, and the way she corrupts all the boys. I hate her. She's a slut. She is just a slut. I bet she goes down on all of them in the woods behind my house. I saw her go back there one day with Marc from the bobo classes. She sure is a slut.

I'm in study hall with Jessica. Study hall is in the cafeteria, by the way. I hate the way she's so goddamn dumb. She asks stupid questions on how to do math problems. She's such an idiot. She's going to get Alzheimer's one day if she doesn't exercise her mind. And she'll be a conformist old bitch in a nursing home—whining about the pudding, pissing in her bed, asking about so-and-so's grandson in the Navy like all the other ones.

I tried to ignore her stupid laugh. She's such a moron. Ha ha, can I like, be, like, like her one day? Gag me with a fucking spoon. I stood up and bought a drink from the vending machine—a peach Snapple. I carefully lifted the lid and brought it to my lips. Good. I wonder what the cap says.

" 'When the world ends, I will return,' " it said. I did a double take. Yep, it said that. I put it back on the drink, careful not to touch the sides of the opening—because my mouth was on it and I could get saliva…fuck. I twisted the cap back, with my saliva fingers and all, holding my thumb and index finger together after I was done so that I wouldn't inadvertently spread the disease throughout the air.

I raised my left hand, asked the teacher if I could go to the bathroom. I washed my hands, and upon my return, I pushed the Snapple towards the end of the table—I couldn't drink it anymore. Well, I could, but if every time I took a sip I'd have to go wash my hands, because they'd be contaminated every time.

The bell rang, so I picked up the Snapple bottle from the bottom and discarded it in the trash on my way out of the cafeteria.

My dad came home from work early, and he told me if I mowed the lawn, I could have a beer. So, I mowed the lawn, and me and him sat out on the patio and had a beer. I never had a full beer before this day, so I thought it was monumental or something.

My mother yelled at him later for it, but he said it wasn't a big deal—but that was later. I was thirteen, after all.

We sat on the patio, and I brought that nice beer to my lips and decided that I liked it. It had a good flavor—Beck's Oktoberfest, it was—and I watched him light up a cigarette. I don't smoke, nor would I ever. I think if you're going to smoke something, it might as well get you high while you're destroying your lungs.

I can't imagine ever being driven by something like that. Addiction.

"Emily…" my father began, "let's talk about something. Let's talk about…you know…why you feel like you've got to, uh, wash your hands all the time." Something in his speech led me to believe he wasn't merely asking—he was prying, he was debasing, he was lecturing. Filthy.

"I don't know what the big deal is. I just get them dirty, so I wash them."

"How do you get them dirty?"

"I don't know. They'll bleed or, I'll get my fingernails dirty or…whatever."

"Why do they bleed?"

"I don't know."

"Is it…" He sighed. Father fucker. Fuck, there it is again. I don't want to infect my dad, I don't, I don't. I don't know what he was getting at. I don't know why my parents were so hung up on my wanting to be clean. "I mean…your room's a mess…maybe you could start cleaning that…you know…instead."

"Maybe. Hey, I wrote a new song on the guitar. Do you want to hear it?"

"Yeah…okay. In a while." I drummed my fingers on the bottle, and he stared at my hand.

"What?" I snapped.

"Look what you're doing to yourself," he pointed out, pointing to my hand—not so much out of exasperation as it was desperation. That's how I perceived it. I perceived it to be desperation.

"What?"

"Nobody's…look at how your knuckles are cracked and bleeding. Do you think…" he stopped, shook his head.

"It's fine," I snapped, grabbing the bottle and resting it on my leg. Who was he to say anything?

Father fucker. God, what is going on here?

Jessica is not in my science class, thank God, because she's an idiot. I am smart, so I'm in Honors Biology. Today we were talking about chlorophyll in plants. I'm wondering about why I have to learn this every year since I'm in third grade, and I realize that all the other assholes in the class are taking notes so studiously and conscientiously and I just don't understand what point they weren't getting since they were eight, so I just sit there and listen. I am a sponge. I am a fucking sponge. I absorb everything.

I am internal.

I should write a poem like that. It would be really good. So, I started thinking about what I was going to write, and then I thought about it as a song, so I started lightly drumming my fingers on the underside of my desk.

I could have this riff in G and then a key change to E minor towards the end, and it'd be so cool. I am just learning.

Then I touched it. I touched it. The gum. Under my desk. Oh, my God. Oh, God. I don't mean to take Your name in vain. I swear it. Jesus, please, help me find a faucet.

It wasn't freshly chewed and recently disposed of, quietly slipped and stuck in its secret hiding place under my desk. The gum had been there for days, maybe weeks, old and hard and black and recycled—not as a malignancy thriving on a model of unsuspecting perfection, but as a forced symbiosis between the archetype and its temporal upgrade.

I rested my leg on the rack of the desk in front of me, letting it shake, as I rested my hand on my knee, palm side up. I've got to get out of here. I've got to get a new desk. I've got to go scrub my fingers from these germs.

Don't touch anything, don't touch anything.

"Emily, what are you doing?" I swallowed. "Pay attention. Now, osmosis..." I couldn't grab that pencil in my hand with my dirty, dirty fingers and get all these filthy germs all over it. I'd have to throw the pencil away and find something else to write with. And what if I rested the pencil back on the desk near my notebooks? Then my notebooks would be contaminated, too, because it touched the desk that touched the pencil that was wrapped in my fingers. My filthy fingers. Oh, God. Oh, God. They're burning. I need to clean them. Raise your hand, get the fuck out of here. Water. I need water. And soap. Now.

God, please. I'm begging you. Let me out of here.

"Can I go to the bathroom?" was all I could think of to say.