And The Lord Spoketh: Atone, Bitches!

How do you atone? What’s atonement?

I put the question into the ether. In other words, I sent text messages to people I love.

“What does atonement mean to you?” I asked my dad. “Not the textbook definition. The Brutally Frank definition.”

“Telling a priest what he wants to hear,” he shot back.

“Yeah, yeah,” I replied, “I get it. But what does it mean? I’m serious. I have no idea. Not to be a smart aleck. I’m wondering.”

“Atonement is like showing remorse…Show Time!”

“I agree,” I said. “But I’m not asking how we show remorse. I’m asking how we actually atone. How? Not the cynical show. The actual act.”

“It’s like asking for a do over – done is done – one could ask a human for forgiveness,” he said. “That’s all I have to say about that.”

“Done is done,” I said.

“Unless you believe in magic,” he said.

“I don’t believe in magic. But I believe in the healing power of blowjobs.”

“Brutally Greg?”

“I got your mother’s hair. Your wife’s sense of entitlement. And my personality from you, Brutally Frank.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware mom and dad were watching golf together.

“I believe a sense of entitlement comes from someone who never worked a day in their life and believes they have things coming to them,” mom fired back, out of nowhere. “I don’t believe I fit that definition. But thanks for the non-complement.”

“I was kidding,” I said. “And on someone else’s iPhone. Sheesh!”

“Dad and I are watching golf together. That’s how I know what’s going on.”

“I got my sense of compassion, ability to see through liars and hair obsession from you, mom.”

“I don’t think you have a sense of entitlement at all,” she said. “Maybe a tiny bit hard on yourself, though.”

Damage control complete, I turned my attention to Edwardo Ross.

“It’s Yom Kippur,” I said. “What does atonement mean to you? Not the textbook definition. The Edwardo Ross definition.”

“Uhhhh,” he replied, “some Hollywood movie: a ton o mint!”

“Yeah, yeah,” I replied, “I get it. But what does atonement mean? What’s the process? How do you make it meaningful? Instead of merely an empty word?”

“We live. We die. Get rich. Or die trying,” he said. “Get some snatch when you can. Never met anybody who came back from the grave.”

“Right,” I said. “That’s a wonderful philosophy for living, and I fall short, even though I aspire. But what exactly is atonement? And how do we atone?”

“I don’t atone, Bra. I live my life as a Christian. And I don’t fuck people over. Ever. I have a good heart. I apologize and ask forgiveness the moment I recognize that I have wronged somebody. So, I atone regularly. Not on some bullshit one-day-a-year to make a show for the community. I don’t need a priest or rabbi to do good unto others. That’s my final answer. Now take your Yim Coppers and shove it up your ass. There’s college football on.”

“You’re Christian?” I asked. “Always thought you were too brown to be allowed into that exclusive club, Bra.”

“Bro, you wake-up on the wrong side of your vagina today?”

“Seriously? You’re Christian? I always thought you were Mexican. And we let you in Pi Lambda Phi to clean up after the brothers.”

“You should atone for your bigotry and pride. Please go and do it all day long.”

“You’re right,” I said. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I atone for lumping you in with the good hearted, hard working Mexicans. They deserve better.”

“You mock The Lord Jehovah and He will smite thee with great anger and vengeance!”

“Are you quoting from the Bible? The Torah? Or Pulp Fiction?”

“All three, bitch.”

“Now that’s divine.”

Still lost.

Still wondering.

I reached out to my most religious friend, Jeremy Ryder.

“It’s Yom Kippur,” I said. “And I have no idea what atonement means. Not the textbook definition. Not the Torah definition. The Jeremy Ryder definition.”

“Atonement is an English concept,” he said. “So you’re as qualified as anyone I know to define it. Yom Kippur means that the damage that we do to ourselves doesn’t have to be permanent. In fact, it can even turn out to be constructive.”

When a friend from childhood goes all-in on God, if you want to maintain the friendship, it comes down to folding your position.

It comes down to long pauses between thoughts. It comes down to not rolling your eyes. It comes down to ending the banter before it gets personal.

I don’t have the magic comment to snap Jeremy Ryder out of his fetish for the Almighty. So I did what it comes down to, writing a reply and then pausing before I hit send, not sending, leaving the exchange where he left it, feeling as though I never should have texted him in the first place, feeling ashamed, feeling as though my motives were questionable.

To me, it’s a joke. To him, it’s anything but.

I saved the final exchange for Tex. A little over a year ago, I moved into his apartment. An unexpected divorce left Tex with an empty room. I was good fit. Meaning I could afford it, and most mornings, I’m out the door by 6:04AM.

On this particular morning, as the Bears were preparing to take-on the Minnesota Vikings, I rolled out of bed late. Tex was making pesto, a ritual as close as either of us comes to holy.

“Not to get serious, but I’ve been waiting to have this conversation with you until we were face to face,” I said.

Tex rolled his eyes, which relieved all tension, putting things into the proper perspective.

“Yom Kippur is the day of atonement. I’ve been asking everyone I know what it means, what atonement means. Last night, my family got together for break the fast. Dad struck-up a conversation about atonement, letting everyone at the table know I’d been asking about it. The conversation quickly got heated. My brother said atonement was about self forgiveness. His answer was the best answer I’d heard so far, reduced to two words: self forgiveness. Leave it to my brother, God bless him, just as the conversation shifted gears from heated to yelling, he excused himself. And fell asleep on the couch.”

Tex laughed the deep laugh of a little brother. He gets a huge kick out of my little brother.

He tossed penne with tomatoes and pesto as he thought for a moment, before giving the question his best shot.

“Atonement is about forgiveness,” Tex said. “Atonement is about making things right. Atonement is about understanding what you did wrong and taking responsibility. Atonement is about…I have no idea. I honestly have no idea what I’m talking about. Let’s ask the Almighty Google.”

Tex was the first person who admitted he didn’t know, which is probably why I saved our conversation for last. I had a feeling his answer would reflect my answer, and in so doing, help me put things into perspective.

Tex has a gift for putting things into perspective. He’s the master of “out loud processing.” In other words, talking things through.

Shit Talk.

As the Bears and Vikings launched into an exciting game of tit-for-tat, Tex went to the kitchen for another plate of food, praising himself for mixing pine nuts with garlic and fresh basil. Once satisfied, he sat down at the table, logging onto his computer. Within seconds, Almighty Google had an answer. But I forget what it was, since I checked-out.

God help me, I rolled my eyes at the Almighty.

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2 Responses to And The Lord Spoketh: Atone, Bitches!

  1. Claudia says:

    I personally believe that atoning has to do with coming to terms with your reality and accepting where you are at that moment and not compare yourself to others. Atoning for me has to do with forgiving yourself more than asking for forgiveness. Because the decisions we make affect us directly and we are the one’s living with the consequences.
    And if all else fails, the healing power of blow jobs works well too.

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