I want to be so careful in writing this post because it is tender, and it is so open to misinterpretation. I guess I feel the need to say, at the top, that like any number of aliens in movies, “I come in peace.”
The crux of this is that I do not write this to change you. I only write it because I feel downright – effusive? Inspired? – this morning. Inspired enough that I know I need to write this, even though it is 4:01 and I have gotten only 4 and a half hours of sleep and I have a big day of exploring ahead of me.
So to my friends and to all, whether you are atheist, agnostic, devoutly Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Spiritual, or perhaps someone who simply doesn’t care much about these issues, let me start by saying “It’s all good.” My belief is you are exactly where you are supposed to be, and who you are supposed to be. Unless you’re not. And in that case, only you know that, and perhaps this post will help you get you back on a path to where you’re supposed to be. I can only assume that this is among the purposes of me writing this.
I do not wish to change you. I only wish to share my experience of what happened yesterday, because I feel more and more sure that there are no coincidences in the world, and more than any other two days in my life, the last two magical days have proved that to me. I believe that what has happened to me the last couple days is NOT a coincidence, and I believe that I am supposed to write this book in which I explore themes of religion and spirituality. My higher power wants me to write this book.
So here’s what has happened in the last two days:
As background, I am on a journey. I am researching my next novel, The Porcupine of Truth. As a side note, the birth of this novel includes a coincidence that would just about knock you over, but since it is not my story that drives that coincidence, I will never tell it.
Anyway, I had a strong feeling that I was supposed to drive the same route that my characters drive in the book, and that if I did so, more would be revealed to me about their journey. And my own journey of writing this book, I suppose. As those of you who have read my first novel(s), Out of the Pocket and the soon-to-be-released Openly Straight, know, this is a fairly dramatic departure for me, subject matter wise.
Last week, I wrote the following line in the novel, verbatim: “I don’t know what to believe. I truly don’t believe in God, but how can all of these things that happen be coincidences? I simply don’t understand. Maybe I don’t have to?”
That’s from my character’s point of view, not mine. But anyway.
So I’ve driven up to Billings, Montana, from Chandler, Arizona. I’ve met a friend who is accompanying me on this trip. We are driving from Billings to San Francisco in three days, as my characters, Carson and Aisha, do in the novel.
The first thing that happened was at dinner Tuesday night in Billings. My travel companion and friend Debbie set up a dinner. I sat next to a woman named Liz. We had never met before. She knew nothing of my book, and in fact no one at the table knew anything about this aspect of the book. I started talking about driving around Billings that day, looking for a house upon which to base the home where Carson’s sick father lives. I found one, a half a mile down the road from where I lived in Billings four years ago. I’m using the home I lived in as the home Carson and his mother are renting for the summer.
When Liz heard me say something about Carson living — as I did — on Rimrock Avenue, she said, “Oh, I grew up there. What cross street?”
I told her, and she said, “I grew up in XXX.” (Address deleted to maintain her and my privacy).
Which is to say, she grew up in the house next to the one in my book. Another important character lives in that house. It is a house into which I’ve never stepped foot, yet it happens to be the setting for a pivotal scene in the novel.
So yeah, that happened.
What are the odds of this?
It gets weirder. I start describing to this person I’ve never met before what I conjured of the attic of this house I’ve never been in before, where a particularly amazing coincidence in this book of coincidences takes place. I say that I conjured an alcove with a small window, and a leather chair where the pastor who lives there likes to sit.
She said, “My mother used to sit in that alcove. She had her sewing machine up there, and she used to sew leather.”
Then, she proceeds to tell me information about that house that can greatly improve my book, because it’s perfect. Apparently, it’s not an attic; this house is unique in that it has hidden rooms. So her mother did this sewing in a hidden room. Which will be perfect for my novel, because what better place to find a secret than in a hidden room?
Then, (yes, there’s more), she points to a man who is sitting at the bar at the restaurant, and she says, “That man actually lived in the house longer than I did. He dated my mother, and he lived there well after I moved out.”
She calls out his name, and he turns around.
He is the spitting image of the pastor who I have described in my novel. I am not kidding. He is the same person. Exactly as I’ve seen and described him.
I took his picture:
If this was the only coincidence of the first two days of this journey, that would be one thing. But then this happened:
So we decided, Debbie and I, to couchsurf. This was Debbie’s idea, and as I am particularly open to ideas these days, I went with it and decided my characters will travel the same way. Couchsurfing, for those of you who don’t know, refers to staying at houses of strangers and getting to connect with people you’d never otherwise meet. It seemed like a perfect way to get my characters, who are in dire need of connection, to do so. It also seemed like a perfect way to have an adventure, given my hope that this trip would illuminate things for me about my book.
I contacted one person in Salt Lake City. There was something about his profile that struck me. I wrote him a nice note, and he accepted our query. We knew very little about him other than his name and address, which were verified by the site, and all the positive reviews fellow travelers had of him and his home.
We arrive and meet, and it’s good. We all like each other. We decide to go to dinner. I say to Richard, “Would you take us to a place you normally enjoy?”
He says, “Well, there’s a Mexican place. And there’s this pub I go to all the time. The Porcupine.”
Right. Like the Porcupine of Truth. The name of this novel I am researching/living.
Obviously we had to go there.
Say what you want. Maybe he read my website and somehow saw something about the name of my next book (though I’m not sure if I mentioned it or not. Probably I did). But even if that’s the case, how do we account for the fact that of more than 100 people in the Salt Lake City area, I happened to write to the one who frequently goes to a neighborhood haunt with that name?
To me, these are “God Shots.” They are simply affirmations that something special and – necessary? – is happening here. Maybe you don’t believe in God. I sure didn’t growing up.
My beliefs aren’t important. Well, not beyond these few things that I think are important to say:
I believe (and this book believes) that whatever it is we individually believe is absolutely true – for us. That last part is so important. It’s the key. If we believe there is no God, that’s true for us. If we believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that is true for us. And no one can or should tell us otherwise, because it is our truth. I believe that the most important thing is to stop bumping in to each other, and after yesterday, I believe that my higher power wants me to write about this.
One other thing, for my LGBT friends. Because I know so many of us have negative feelings about religion, and for some of us, spirituality as well. I want you to know that I believe from the bottom of my heart that it’s all good. That we will not burn in hell, that all God wants from us is to be who we are, to be true to ourselves.
Well, two other things, too. To be kind to others. Not even because of the pain we cause others, but because the secret to our own joy is in that kindness. If we are hurting or victimizing others, I believe we must make that right. Not because we’ll burn in the flames of hell, but because we already are! There can be no true joy in that, because it is not Who We Are. We are loving beings, all of us, deep inside. The final thing is, if you’re engaged in an addictive behavior of any kind, get help. Stop. There can be no joy when we are enslaved to a compulsion.
So that’s what I believe.
One final coincidence. As I said, this journey is about being open to what happens along the way, because it may belong in the book. At lunch time, I called Richard from Lander, Wyoming, to tell him I thought we’d arrive around 7pm. Now, I am a very punctual person. Debbie and I spoke about that yesterday morning, about how I really care about being prompt, and how I like it when others don’t decide their time is more valuable than mine.
We went on our way, and by my calculations as we left the foundry we needed to go to, we were on schedule to arrive, with minimal stops along the way, at 7pm in Salt Lake.
We left Lander with four bars on my gas gauge out of 12. Moments after leaving Lander, it went down to three. We looked at the map ahead of us, and we calculated we’d be in the next sizeable (more than 100 people, probably a gas station) town in 70 miles. Should we go back? No, let’s push on.
Within 15 or 20 miles, the gauge went down to 2 bars. This is inexplicable, as I get about 400 miles per tank generally. In fact, I inexplicably tweeted this fact just four days ago (I almost never tweet random facts, but somehow I did):
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p>Phoenix to Albuquerque on less than a tank of gas! 410 miles, 11 gallons. Way to to go, <a href=”https://twitter.com/search/%23Mazda3″>#Mazda3</a>! <a href=”https://twitter.com/search/%23roadtrip”>#roadtrip</a></p>— Bill Konigsberg (@billkonigsberg) <a href=”https://twitter.com/billkonigsberg/status/335828728926056448″>May 18, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
Why I lost a bar so quickly did not make sense. And we found ourselves in the most remote area I’d ever seen in my life. No other cars. No people. Not even any houses along the road. Barely any cattle, even.
I got on the internet as Debbie drove, to make sure the next town had a gas station. It pulled up a site that listed gas stations near that town (the name escapes me).
There was nothing there. The closest was Rock Springs, about 40 miles beyond that. We’d never make it. If we continued on, we’d surely get stuck in a remote area.
We turned around. When we saw a sign for a place called “Atlantic City,” we detoured four miles off the main road to go there, in case someone could tell us if that town ahead did have a gas station, or maybe someone might sell us some gas. Just hoping not to have to re-trace our footsteps if at all possible.
I got a gut-level feeling. The feeling was that it was all going to be okay, that this was supposed to happen. That we should go with it, and not be afraid, even though we were running out of gas and driving away from a gas station into the unknown is not necessarily a wise choice.
The town was super funky. Had a population of 57 people. We met a man, who told us about a house where a guy might have gasoline he’d sell us. We went there, but no one was home. We found another man there who told us the town ahead in question actually did have a gas station, so we went back to the original plan.
Long story short, we just barely made it and we filled up. But along the way, I wrote an important scene in which the two characters almost run out of gas in a remote area and wind up in Atlantic City, Wyoming.
And here’s the final coincidence: Despite this nearly one-hour detour, inexplicably we resumed our journey and we appeared to be basically on time. No, I have no idea how time bent and that happened. And we arrived at our destination and rung the doorbell.
I looked at my watch. The time? 7:00. Exactly.
Take this as you wish. I am believing in signs these days. I kinda have to. Too much coincidence for me to explain otherwise.