I looked up from my omelet to see Osiris sitting a few booths away. He was unmistakably the Egyptian god, with his signature smooth head, kohl lined eyes, and inverted obelisk shaped beard extending from his chin to his chest, but unlike the paintings that bear his likeness across Egypt and in museums world-wide, he wore a black leather biker jacket, and tattoos snaked up his neck to his jawline and skull. But it was him, I was sure, and for the rest of my own breakfast-for-dinner, I tried to work up the courage to make eye contact with Osiris.
Before I could act, he stood from his booth, brushed the remnants of his own meal, a cheeseburger, from his lap, and paid his check at the door. I silently cursed myself for allowing the opportunity to commune with divinity to pass me by, and was blessed with a second chance. Through the windows that lined the restaurant, my eyes followed him as he walked around the outside of the building to the parking lot, and narrowed when he sat on the curb beside his Harley Davidson and lit a cigarette.
My attention turned back on my family. Across from me sat my daughters, eating pancakes and laughing over some joke I had missed. Both were young, with electric blue eyes and blond ringlets gathered into pigtails on either sides of their faces. They were everything good and pure in the world, unaware of what sort of evil lurks outside the walls of the suburban home they were raised. Sawing through his Belgian waffles was my husband. He had the same blue eyes as the girls, but with slightly darker sandy blonde hair, cut in a sensible corporate style to match his polo shirt and khaki pants. He was a mover and a shaker in the office and had been assured that he was in line for a promotion by his manager. He was a good, reliable man.
I turned my mind’s eye then to my own appearance. Middle-aged housewife in a modest blue and white striped dress, red plastic jewelry, and red patent leather sandals. It was Independence Day, after all, and I was careful to dress the part, lest any of the Good People of the world, picking up a bite to eat on their way to watch the fireworks display, judge me any less patriotic than the next mini-van-driving soccer mom.
My gaze settled back outside the restaurant to the Egyptian god who sat smoking on the curb beside his motorcycle. “Excuse me,” I said, I slowly raising from my seat. My feet moved faster than my brain could come up with reasons to stay, and so the world was a blur as I walked out the door and across the parking lot. The blast of heat from the summer sun bounced off the black asphalt, turning world outside of the lot into a wavy, dream-like river flowing away from the restaurant.
“Excuse me,” I said again, only less calmly than when I had said it to my family. I had been so preoccupied with getting there that I forgot to figure out what to do when I was actually face to face with the god. “Osiris.”
He turned to see me. His eyes were a golden pool of honey that made my brain sticky. “What?” he asked as his brow furrowed in confusion.
“Not ‘what.’ Who. You,” I explained. “You’re Osiris.”
He dismissed me with a shake of his head, “No, my name’s Randy.”
A lie detector sounded off in my chest, bolstering my confidence and motivating me to keep going. “No, that’s not true. You’re Osiris, Egyptian god of the dead.”
“Lady, you’ve got me confused with someone else.” He shook his head again, but remained seated on the curb. Several beads of sweat rolled down his neck into his jacket, causing the tattoos to ripple.
We’re taught that ancient gods got their power from humans believing in them, worshipping them, and as I watched Osiris take a long drag of his cigarette, something bubbled up through the honey coating my mind. I was witnessing what happened to the old gods when humanity stop believing in them. The god in front of me had been reduced to myth, even in his own mind. The forgotten god had forgotten himself.
I lowered myself to the curb beside him, not hesitating over the oil and grime that would get on my blue and white striped dress. “What are you doing here?” I pressed. Something had to explain the presence of divinity in Suburbia.
Osiris exhaled a cloud of smoke in resignation and again locked his honey eyes to mine. “My grandma is dying,” he began. “She’s in a home up the road, and they called to let me know she didn’t have long. I’m not supposed to be there, but there’s no one else to go be with her. The people at the home don’t want me there because I keep taking her outside. I don’t want her last days to be spent stuck in that room. It’s not her house. It’s not her home where she raised her family. She’s stuck in some goddamn room and when she dies, that’s where she’ll be.” We sat quietly while he pulled from the cigarette and exhaled.
“She had a bird, you know? Someone bought her a bird, and she kept it in her room in a cage. It was wrong. So I took the cage outside and let the damn bird go. And she’s in that room, dying, and when her soul’s free of her body, she’s just going to be stuck in the cage. She’s got to be outside so she can be free.” Osiris looked up at me, as if to gauge whether or not his talk of birds and souls and cages scared me off. I offered attentive silence in response. “You said ‘god of the dead’?”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “You’re a pretty big deal.”
A sly smile spread across Osiris’s face, revealing crooked and chipped teeth perfectly arranged. “When I was a kid, I used to take people’s souls. Like, not some kind of devil worship shit or whatever, I just collected them. I’d get bored and I’d take souls. Someone would piss me off and I’d take his soul. If I loved someone, I’d take her soul and protect it so nothing bad could happen to her. I can’t explain it. I just took souls.” He shrugged, taking a final hit of the cigarette before flicking the butt across the flowing parking lot. “You’ve gotta think I’m crazy. I’ve never told anyone this. I don’t know why I’m telling you.”
“Because you know I believe you.”
Though he had looked at me before, Osiris now looked into me, studying me. His honey eyes searched my face, my hair, my hands, my feet, and the now soiled blue and white stripped dress. “Who are you?”
“I’m nobody,” I shrugged. “Just a regular person.”
Osiris paused to consider this. “I don’t think so.”
The door to the restaurant clanked open as my husband and two daughters walked out onto the sidewalk. The sun’s light hit their blond hair, casting golden haloes around their heads. Their blue eyes twinkled as they scanned the parking lot to find me. I stood and turned towards Osiris. “I have to go,” I said. “That’s my family.”
He looked to them and looked back at me, with an eyebrow crooked. “I don’t think so.”
I smiled. “It was nice meeting you, Osiris. I hope you remember yourself soon.”
The Egyptian god of the dead stood, straddled his motorcycle and nodded. “You, too. Thanks for listening.”
I turned away as the engine roared to life. I smiled and waved to my family, taking a few steps towards where my two little blond girls climbed into the mini-van. The question was clear on my husband’s face: “What is happening?” I turned again to Osiris. He was still looking deeply at me and I found myself wondering for the first time in our ten minutes of discussion what he saw when he looked at me. I turned back to look at my husband, realizing that after ten years of marriage, I didn’t know what he saw when he looked at me, either. Who am I?
My red patent leather sandals clacked across the parking lot as I moved to rejoin my family. Behind me, Osiris’s motorcycle roared as he pulled away.