When I was in grade one, I had a reading partner named Claire. Claire and I would choose our favorite books and share a tired, orange beanbag at the back of the classroom. We would read each other the stories and if we tired of reading, we would make up our own versions, which would always include cotton candy and/or a magical unicorn named Rusty.
One day, while sitting with Claire, I farted. Claire first looked surprised, then she started to cry. I asked her what was wrong and she told me I was going to hell. God didn’t let people who farted go to heaven. I didn’t know a lot about Hell (my family didn’t go to church), but from what Claire had told me, it sounded bad. Really bad. I remembered a particularly colorful description that involved my blood being set on fire. I cried so hard our teacher came over and when the situation was explained, Claire and I had to read alone. And then she called Claire’s mom.
When I was in grade four, I had a good friend named Sarah. Sarah was known for her hair. It was long,- really long and thick, which meant really heavy. Her parents refused to let her cut it, so at recess Sarah would cry on the playground, her neck was constantly sore from the weight of her hair. I decided to help and so a few of us would take turns “carrying” Sarah’s hair around for her at recess so her neck wouldn’t hurt. Like a princess who has finally gotten people to carry her train, Sarah was incredibly happy.
One day Sarah showed up at school with Guess? jeans. Sarah had never had Guess? jeans. Her clothes were always hand downs from her older sisters. I asked how she finally got the jeans and she told me that she had paid for them herself. I asked how she had paid for them, since she didn’t get an allowance. She gleefully explained to me that she had gotten $50 from her parents for reading the entire Bible. I gave her a high five. Then she told me that her mom didn’t want her being friends with me anymore because I wasn’t reading the Bible and was going to burn in Hell. I considered taking back the high five.
One of my best friends Laura- I met through work about five years ago. Again, she’s a religious person who works in a church with youth. One night after a few cocktails, we started talking about religion and I asked her if she thought I was going to Hell. She said yes. Not with malice or with smugness, but with genuine sadness. I feel like it’s a testament to our friendship that she felt she could be honest, as much as I disliked what she said. Because I don’t go to Church and pray the way she believes that you need to in order to earn your way into heaven, I won’t be kicking it with the gold harpists and hot, naked, male minions who will dedicate their lives to making sure my every wish is granted.
There were no tears this time.
I guess after the third time, you just get used to being told you are going to Hell.
Maybe heaven doesn’t exist. Maybe it does. Maybe I will never get to go.Maybe I will. But if farting or never reading the Bible or not praying the way someone else believes is the right way, means I don’t get to go? I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be alone. In fact, I’m fairly confident I will be seeing a lot of familiar faces in whatever “Hell” is and that alone makes me feel better about the whole damn thing.
Besides, George Clooney farts. I just know it.
And if George is in Hell, well- suddenly the place just got a lot more inviting.
(Still accepting submissions for The “Secret” Project!)