Well, friends, family, supporters, party people, chimera, and all those who mark “other” in that box on standardized tests, I’m going for the jugular (when do I not?). My final piece for my creative non-fiction class has to be over 5000 words, and after exploring, “why write and what about” and chatting with my teacher about my obsessions, I think Im just going all in for a judegemental, confessional, shameful, guilty, and sanctifying piece on the body, relationships, vice and virtue, god and God. Here are three scenes, one from the beginning, one from the middle, and one from the end. All have endured one edit and will likely be subjected to more scrutiny. There are more scenes already finished, others still mulling about my brain, and some still I have yet to remember. Just wanted to give you a preview (and becasue I haven’t posted in a while and wanted to remind the family…HEY Im still writing!).
The Body Is A Lonely Place
Flood lights open on the banking arches and jagged steeples of the cathedral, glowering orange and rippling along the etched walls and fading into darkness of cold starless space. Beyond the stretch of the bulbs dull industrial lustre everything is blue. Blue walkways, blue flowers, blue benches, and blue grass, flat and featureless in the queer light of the moon.
The stone faces of statue’d saints are under lit. Ghost story faces from childhood. A friend with a flashlight beneath his chin beginning a tale—It was a dark and stormy night. The beams seep from the cracks in their stoic stares like lightning shafts erupting from a molten core.
I’m late for the evening service, so instead I’m standing outside on edge of the world within, silent, feet sunken into the moon grass and listening for the dim chants of monks pronouncing the evening’s prayers. I’m buried in my clothes. Hands in pockets, neck in jacket, and still the wind finds a way to wedge into me. The inside of the cathedral is swimming with candle fires and is warm with the breath of the choir’s exaltation. “There is only one way to warm up,” I tell myself, “Walk briskly. You’ll be home in no time.”
The cell phone alarm peels my eyelids back. The room looks familiar in the dark and I can’t tell if I have been asleep or just spent the night paralyzed on the knife-edge between thoughts and dreams. Morning hasn’t even woken up. My night-hallowed eyes wander back to the blinking light of the computer. The hypnotic blue flicker is dull now that the far away sun has begun its slow crawl out of the cresting slope from the other side of the world.
I want smother my face in the cold darkness of the pillow. Sleep through another Sunday. But I promised God I wouldn’t abandon him.
My sleeping bag is a warm cocoon I never want to shed. I’m a dry skinned skeleton if I peel it off, bone cold and night blue until I can find a jacket to cover myself.
Getting out of bed would be a mistake. I can hear the rain patter on the window. The crystal beads melting down the glass like candle wax and tail-dragging away the fog. A pleasant thought, but not pleasant enough to pull me out of bed. Or to open the curtain. This weather means a soggy walk to church, spongy shoes and mud-stiff pants and frozen hands. Getting up at dawn and reading the bible with the risen Christ didn’t make a magic difference yesterday, but that was Saturday, and we’ve changed the day of Sabbath so I’m guessing God is accommodating. Maybe today, a miracle.
I don’t need to attend to my Book of Common Prayer. I’ll get enough liturgy at the Cathedral. And the Eucharist too. Pushing aside a pile of empty pizza boxes and cookie wrappers, I hunt for the bible I shoved onto the floor last night while rearranging the black hole that is my desk, making space for late night deliveries. My devotionals are somewhere. Knocked behind my bed or under my clothes.
Proverbs 23 for the 23rd day of the month: When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite…
God I deserved that last night. Bad Karma. Or something. For a whole quarter of a school year I did basically the same thing. In the kitchen, on the couch, on her roommates side of the bed. At least we tried to stay quiet, covered our mouths with our hands—sometimes. That should count for something. Still, I suppose I deserved every minute of sleep I missed…
Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come the poverty…
God my throat itches. And my head. I really hate cigarettes. It’s pure masochism, the way I stoke the tobacco embers with short consecutive puffs until the core is molten white, then one long burning pull of dry smoke curling into the depth of my lungs and knotting my throat. My second cigarette is always punishment for my first, the third my way to work out the law of grace. The fiery tendrils choking my starved brain is the only way to go from head buzzed to throw up drunk with a manic switch. One drag before you go to bed and you can collapse into your sleep, the writhing world of your mind burning out before the ether wears off and you’re awake once again…
When shall I awake? I must have another drink.
“In the name of the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit. Amen,” I say, smooth and automatic.
I cross myself, straightening out my cramped body so that I can reach all the way down to my belly button and sweep wide across my pulled back shoulders ensuring my sign is in full proportion. With this headache maybe I should just call it a free day, my way of keeping the reformation alive in me. Skip church and have a proper evangelical communion: coffee and a pastry. The cleavage of my open bible looks inviting. I lay my cheek down across its smooth, curved pages and fall asleep.
Doors shutting and opening, screeching on ungreased hinge pins break upon the surface of my tired brain. The bones in my lower spine are bent and throbbing, my neck twisted and stiff. Dim sunlight, stale in my nostrils and grainy orange against the curtain of my eyelids tell me I need to wake up. I lean back from the dreamless sleep and sink into the chair with my closed eyes still holding back the force of the mornings creeping sun jailed behind the undrawn curtain. My slack jaw, drooping on my collar, drools over the day’s schedule. Church. Church, I almost forgot. I crawl around the room languid, still squinting and searching for my phone to check the time: forty minutes until the service. I can still walk.
I’m sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the wet grass in front of the library. The worn denim of my blue jeans draws the dew and mud into the unravelling fibres of stitches. My toe knuckles crunch in the early winter wind and my fingers are like dry hinges, frozen in their seams.
The gaping mouth of the sun is pale behind the grey clouds. Choked light struggling through heavens murky water, the rays groping fingers grasping for the surface of my face while the burning star of its body drowns.
Wind gusts kick hard against the sidewalk and frightened leaves stampede off in rolling packs, scuttling in desperate patterns of escape from the invisible monster ghosting behind them like a tidal wave. With the fat stalk of a half-changed leaf writhing between my fingers, flickering brown and gold, I sacrifice the flimsy pedal to the wind blast and map the geography of the unseen. The wind swooping and curling and coming full circle, drifting far, far away. It is called up into the mystery of the pathless where its landing is determined by two factors: the force of will with which the wind blows, and how hard the leaf is willing to dance.
I want to absorb all the grass. Invite the wind to blow into me. I let myself fall backwards and sprawl out like a starfish, tasting the current of the breeze blowing by. The bowing sun welcomes the moon to come sit on its throne in heaven. I stay stretched out for an hour. Two. In the night air my translucent skin shows the blue river veins, full with seawater, bending and twisting all over my arms and calves and sandaled feet. I’m a beautiful three dimensional map, drawn on a surface oyster white. Beneath the stars my rivers are dancing with plankton and the light of the old struggling sunlight. I’m alive with photosynthesis. The face of the moon grows pale like it’s sharing the reflection of another star. I look down at my body, no longer blue, and I swear—I’m glowing.
I welcome your thoughts