For my parents, whose faith is as strong as their sense of humor
WHEN I WAS about four years old, my sister and I made up this rule that we couldn’t lie if we said, “Promise and lying is a sin.” I would say, “I didn’t take your cupcake off the counter,” and she would say, “Promise and lying is a sin?” And I would confirm, “I promise and lying is a sin.” It was our version of, “You Swear to God?” Of course we weren’t allowed to swear to God—we were Catholic. It was a weird phrase that we made up to mean the same thing, and before long, the phrase blended together to sound like one word—promisinlyinsasin.
After a while, we stopped thinking about the meaning of each word. What is a sin? What is a promise? What is a lie? It became a truce between sisters more than a truce with God. At first, it was a reminder not to lie because you’d go to hell for sinning, but it became a reminder not to lie because, plain and simple, when we lie, there are consequences here on Earth with the humans we love.
During my first holy communion when I was six, a little boy in my Catholic school was chosen to carry the wine to the altar during the special mass. You know, the blood and body of Christ? He tripped and fell in the aisle, subsequently tossing the wine into the air before it went crashing onto the stone floor, splattering the blood of Christ on three little girls wearing their white communion dresses. It was impossible, even at the age of six, for me not to laugh at the irony. The nuns were furious, the boy was mortified, and the three girls were in tears because they didn’t look pretty anymore… not with Carlo Rossi staining their satin and lace.
When I was growing up, my parents watched and loved a few movies that portrayed holiness or God or heaven in some way. Honestly, it confused me that my mother would say some jokes were sacrilegious, and then she would laugh at movies like Oh God! with George Burns and John Denver. Michael, with John Travolta, was another one I remember. Also, Defending Your Life, with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep.
I love the romantic quality of the movie City of Angels, with Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage, which my husband constantly reminds me is a remake of the Wim Wenders film, Wings of Desire. I always thought it was insanely romantic to be chosen the way Meg Ryan was in that film. No one else could possess what she had. It was something so prevalent and unique that even an angel would give it all up.
I mention movies because I always see my books as movies. That’s how I imagine them, so in writing this book, I thought about a lot of movies that gave me inspiration. Like Beetlejuice, where the afterlife is portrayed with such unrestrained creativity. I imagined the writers bouncing hilarious ideas off one another, letting their imaginations fly. I laughed to tears at Silent Bob and Chris Rock being prophets, while Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were fallen angels without a clue in Dogma. And not to be forgotten is Alanis Morissette playing God.
It’s all profoundly hilarious to me that no matter what you believe in, no one actually knows anything for sure. But if you have an imagination that surpasses what you’ve been taught about God, then there are endless possibilities for what might exist above us, below us… beyond us. It’s fodder and faith and all that is unknown, and it still amazes me that faith alone holds the key to religion everywhere, all over the world. Faith is strong enough to die, to kill, and to sacrifice for. Faith alone.
Whether you’re religious, spiritual, agnostic, or atheist, there are some absolute truths about life in this book that have nothing to do with religion at all. I knew that I might offend some people with this content—they might even call it sacrilegious—but I assure you, I wrote every single word with the sense of humor that God gave me. This book is not about God or angels. This book is about faith, love, the unknown, and not taking ourselves so damn seriously all the time.
BROOKLYN USED TO talk incessantly about the rules of dating. She had so many that she couldn’t remember them all, but the first few were the most important. Rule number one: never seem overly eager. Don’t act interested!
“You have some kind of tech job, right?” I asked. “We talked about it last time. Where do you work again? And what is it that you do?”
“I work in Internet security, in San Jose,” Beckett said.
My nerves were swirling furiously in my stomach and bubbling up in my throat. I liked this guy. I thought he liked me. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time. “Internet security, what is that exactly?”
“I write programs that people download to protect their PCs from viruses and stuff,” he said, smiling, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
Does he feel sorry for me that I don’t know what Internet security is?
It was my third date with Beckett, the first guy I had been out with more than once since graduating from fashion school. Actually, the first guy I had been out with more than once… ever. Our two prior meetings had been casual double dates with my roommate, Brooklyn, and randoms Josh and Swayze—yes, like Patrick. His mom had a thing for the movie Dirty Dancing.
Double dates with Brooklyn and whoever usually involved a lot of eating, drinking, semi-existential conversation, some pot smoking, hooking up, passing out, and everyone happily going to Bloody Mary brunch the next day… then never talking again.
“It’s the only way,” she would say. That brought me to her second rule: never go out with the same person twice.
I didn’t understand the point of dating if you weren’t trying to get to know someone, but Brooklyn seemed happy and I never had any luck with guys, so I had begun taking her (not always helpful) advice. Brooklyn came from a progressive family. Her parents had an open marriage. Monogamy was never really valued in their household, so to Brooklyn, dating was like a game. A game she wanted to win. My best friend since childhood equated marriage to an agreement involving taxes and sometimes children. Her third rule—never entertain marriage unless he has a trust fund—was probably the worst, but it didn’t matter because how could you even get to entertaining marriage if you were following rules one and two?
After living with her for few years, her rules started making more and more sense to me. She was happy and free and life seemed uncomplicated for her. Once I started following her rules, we had the time of our lives. But then I met Beckett. Something about him kept me responding to his texts and saying yes to hanging out. He showed promise. When I was with him, I thought about my future more than Brooklyn’s rules.