If I Go, Will They Miss Me?
A response to the short film directed by Walter Thompson Hernandez
BY FERNANDA HERRERA
Sometimes I Like to Play God and Sometimes God Likes to Play Me
On evenings like the former, my hair resembles feathers, brown and limp. They fall, not so much like a curtain around my face, but instead like a tapestry. Old, floor-length, and heavy, this is what I was warned about. How quickly I am reminded of my flightlessness. Playing God has never been easy.
I might akin myself to a bird with clipped wings but when I am God, I have not been cut. Sometimes the feathers fall to the floor with an unusual rustle, and I feel lighter. It should embarrass me how painfully I crave this, when I know my feathers are my only source of holiness. Often, I can feel the weight lessen even before the feather drops, and in anticipation I raise my hands to my head, surpassing rows of teeth and languid eyelids. The search for the loose strand is terribly frantic, and I find myself tugging until my scalp reddens like the underbelly of a robin. No, I cannot be cut.
I’m no bird, but I know the restlessness of wanting to render soil barren by eating all the worms. On evenings like the former, mercy does not come easily. Playing God is my version of getting better. Playing God reminds me I am not weak for having so much sadness weighing my wings down, so much pain plaguing the soil. I know the hunger of the woodpeckers, the incessant tapping, anxious and loud. I crave, but I also hunger, and the difference between the two has always been apparent.
All too often, I crave the feeling of instability. If the soil is always infested then there is always plenty to eat. If the feathers are always uncomfortable, then the temporary reprise that comes from one falling every so often surely must feel better than eternal comfortability. I tell myself stability is boring and I am God again. I’ve come to prefer suffering, so that I may rise every so often, and forget my flightlessness. Sometimes I ascend so much I cannot see the worms in the soil. In fact, sometimes I cannot see the soil anymore and for that moment I remember why I suffer.
On evenings when the latter is true, I imagine God is the worm. God learns what it is to be truly flightless. Here, He can be cut. He learns what it is to feel red and translucent before the world. What it is to lay scraped and bare before a silent, merciless avian. I imagine God learns the difference between craving and hunger. No, hunger is what the worms feel. It is the pit at the bottom of God’s raw stomach, the painful realization that hunger cannot be satisfied like a craving, cannot be traded in for holiness. Hunger is dirty, heavier, and older. On evenings when the latter is true, the worm fears oblivion, tries to remind the avian that it would be nothing without them. God is desperate, God learns that mercy is hard to come by. God does not like being a worm.
I play God much more than he plays me. I like to be reminded that worms do not sustain me, do not make me the person I am. I am not flightless only because I eat worms. I am not a pest because I demand soil to live in. I’m learning that getting better is not emptying the soil, or being merciless. Getting better is knowing the worms are also hungry, also deserve their kingdom in this brown earth. I’m trying to create an ecosystem. I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to play God less every day.