The Big was proof that there was a God, and proof that God did not exist.
The gist of it is there was, all of a sudden, one day, this Big in the sky.
Maybe it looked like a gun.
Maybe it looked like a rocket ship.
Maybe it looked like a bomb.
What we could all agree on was that it was Big, and that it was pointed right at us. “Pointed right at us” was what had us in a fix for a time. If you were a country, you thought it was pointed at your country. If you were a city, you thought it was pointed at your city. If you were a town, you thought it was pointed at your town. If you were a family, you thought it was pointed at your family. And if you were a junior varsity football team, you thought it was pointed at your junior varsity football team.
And as an individual, you thought it was pointed at your individual, at you, at your soul, even, at the person you wanted to be and the person you were afraid you would never become. It was pointed at the person who chatted in your ear all night when you couldn’t sleep, telling you about all the amazing things you were destined to accomplish.
Everyone thought everyone else had put it there. For a really long time, everyone thought that. But no one did a war over it, because it was just so Big. And it was pointed right at us.
There were lots of ideas over what it would do. Moral ideas and philosophical ideas and religious ideas and astrological ideas. We assumed that we had to be very, very, good, to avoid the Big, which was pointed right at us. But we could not agree on what this being “very, very, good” would look like.
If you were captain of a junior varsity football team, this made after school practice more intense. Was the team good enough? What was excellence? So you started hanging out under the bleachers with upright bass-playing stoner Johnny V., with the long black hair and faded t-shirts. He had the most beautiful mouth you had ever seen. After practices you’d drive home supple and warmed from pot, with the windows down, the Big in the rearview mirror racing to catch up to you.
The Big was used to frighten children into brushing their teeth, and to shame teenagers regarding their musical tastes. Some music was said to draw The Big’s attention closer to you, and some music was said to deflect its attention.
The Big was another reason to lose your virginity, and also a reason to hold on to it a bit longer, as you decided to do with Johnny V. when his fingers, sweet with cigarettes and the powder of clove chewing gum, slid from your junior varsity abs to your belt buckle.
The Big was proof that there was a God, and proof that God did not exist. For every miracle that occurred under the eye of the Big, it was clear that only these, life-full moments of love mattered. When Johnny V. was kissing you, the Big hung over his head through the passenger side window, and the Big was saying YES, HERE, HIM. And for every heartache that went unchecked under the eye of the Big, it was clear that nothing mattered. The other driver was speeding, high on cocaine, convinced that the Big was calling to him, saying COME HOME, I LOVE YOU. Through the cracked windshield of your overturned car you saw the Big, looking coldly down, saying nothing.
The Big was there for so long that the fear we had felt began to dissipate. A beer company developed a very successful brew called “The Big One,” bands wrote “Big” lyrics, and when something was neither here nor there, and confusing and maddening, it was known as a “Big” deal. “Big-deniers” protested “Big” imagery on television, in art, and mention of it in the classroom. Difficult people all around, but we understood, because when something is that Big, it does something in the brain.
Johnny V.’s brain was saying nothing, nothing. Doctors hooked his body up to a respirator and a feeding tube and took pictures of his brain, just a big gray nothing. He wasn’t going to. They didn’t think. Nothing to do. Just have to accept. Here it is. Just look.
Then one day, we were going about our business, being pretty darn good, (we all agreed that on the whole we were only improving!) and the Big went “off.” It just went off. For no reason at all. We had never. We didn’t. It just. How come. It just did. Oh but it did. One minute it was there, being the Big, and the next it went off. Just went off.
We wanted to take comfort in our children, the next generation, for hope, for healing. But when we looked deep into their glassy, red-rimmed eyes, we saw it—the Big—pointed right at us.
And if you were an ambulance it was pointed at your ambulance, if you were an ICU it was pointed at your ICU, if you were a cemetery it was pointed at your cemetery, and if you were a grave it was pointed at your grave.
But if you were in love with someone named Johnny V. at least now you knew the Big could never be pointed down at Johnny V. again, as he was buried in a coffin. That’s what you told yourself, anyway—that at least the boy you loved was safe.
Now we all wear sunglasses all the time! We call them “Big-removers!” It’s made it harder to fall in love, but easier to lie. All in all, a compromise.
Clare Nazarena Tascio is a writer living in Queens. Her work has appeared in the journal 580split, in X-Ray Literary Magazine, and the Olivetree Review. She is currently working on a novel.