My guess is,
when she looks at herself on a good day, there’s music playing in her head. A powerful piece from her childhood, or some of that womanizing nonsense she leans toward now. She’ll hold her face close to the mirror, widen her eyes and raise her eyebrows. Lips pursed, she’ll convince herself that she personifies the only adjective that matters to her anymore: sexy. If so many young men are interested in her time, she must be valuable, right?
(on a bad day, things are different. She cannot convince herself. So, enter the young men, eager to replace her insecurities with clouded thoughts and excuses. Apparently, they do it well.)
There are no good days when I look at you. I meant what I said. When I look at you, I see our childhood.
Even more than that, I see our blooming adolescence. Occasionally I see nothing, remembering the nights when we would sit in the darkness, and you would tell me your regrets. I knew these stories, of course. Everyone did. Perhaps if you would have kept your secrets, you would have had some decency left.
Instead, you allowed this corrupted reputation to be tattooed on your subconscious, and, here we are.
On a good day, you look almost like yourself again. Minimal dazzle paint to cover your shame. Tee shirts stamped with frightening imagery. Tight jeans, and, of course, classic grey Chuck’s. I almost smile, until I smell the smoke and ink. Smoke from the strangers whose lips didn’t deserve to caress yours, and ink from the digits they scribbled on your palms. Ah. There she is. I recognize that look of uncertainty on your face, and we’re back in that dark room again.
And it’s like I didn’t have a choice, you know?
Yes. I do know. What I don’t understand is why you asked me, why you sought my advice,
if you wouldn’t listen.
So go ahead, doll. Change your clothes, change your name, change your laugh to something more cutesy.
We all know you’ve changed yourself.
I’ve never really been one to care what other people think. I’ve never taken extra effort out for anyone but myself. Perhaps because where I came from, no amount of extra effort ever made anyone think differently of you. It was always the same. Same opinion, same ridiculous attitudes towards me. No one ever bothered to find out the plot of the story.. they were only interested in the cover.
What an odd sight I must have been.
For one thing, there wasn’t another soul around. There I was, staring into a busy street; absolutely soaked—waiting. Normally I wasn’t alone. My company usually included an art student, a business man, and a few scattered other people. Today they would have called up family or neighbors to beg for rides that they usually wouldn’t have asked for.
Nobody wanted to stand at a bus stop on this sort of day.
I did, though.
It wasn’t for a bus, or because I enjoyed drying my hair in a public bathroom. It was for him. We had met here just over a year ago. He’d stopped at the light by the bus stop on a day exactly like this. And just like on this day, I’d been the only person out here. That day, though, I’d actually been waiting for the bus. I, unlike other people, didn’t have any friends or family to call up for a ride even in the most desperate of times.
Luckily he spotted me.
It just so happened that he glanced over while waiting for the light to change. Apparently I had looked pathetic, because he had opened the passenger door and called me over. Steaming over how pathetic my life seemed to have been, I rushed into the truck of a complete stranger without any hesitation. With no conversation other than, “it’s raining hard today,” he had driven me to work.
After that, he didn’t stop.
I took notice of his truck every day as he passed, but my hopes of seeing him again were crushed. Not until the next rainy day. The next one hadn’t been even half as bad as the day we first met—it was hardly even drizzling, honestly. Despite that fact, and the fact that were plenty of others at the bus stop that day, and the fact that the light was green when he came up, he stopped, opened his door, and called for me to get in.
I’d hesitated, of course.
I wasn’t wishing for death on that particular day. However, since I’d ridden with him once before already, I’d gotten in. We exchanged names this time, but that was it, and the rest of the drive was silent. However, when he stopped to pick me up the following day—it was sunny that day, I might add—we had actual conversation, even if it was mostly idle chatting.
He stopped after that too.
Every work day after that, rain or shine, I would wait at the bus stop for my ride that wasn’t a bus. (Most of the time the light would be green, and even as the cars behind him honked, he would always open the door with a smile on his face.) After the first week the artsy girl and business man began to comment on our bizarre carpool of sorts, and I would always be ready to share our story of how we randomly had begun our relationship.
But was it really a relationship?
I knew almost nothing about him. I knew his friends called him Dice, he was four years my senior, and that he drove by East Twelfth Street every day on his way to work. However, I was clueless as to who his friends were, what his real name was, or where he worked. I didn’t know if he had family. Parents, siblings, or—a wife?
A raindrop hitting my nose cut off my thinking.
I blinked, my eyes widening in surprise as I found the very man I was thinking about standing right in front of me, holding a dripping wet umbrella—the cause of the raindrop hitting my nose. He smiled widely seeing I’d come out of my thoughts, and then nodded his head in the direction of his truck. I glanced over his shoulder, seeing he was parked at the light, the passenger side door open and waiting for me.
So he was going to escort me today?
This was new. He’d never gotten out of his truck to come get me before. Maybe I’d been in my thoughts deeper and longer than I’d thought. Or maybe he just felt bad about making me dash through the rain. I was going to pretend it was the latter option without asking.
I returned the smile.
Then, loosely putting his arm around my waist to make sure I kept up, we dashed over to the truck, trying our best not to splash in the puddles littering the ground. After helping me into the truck and closing my door, he went around to his own side swiftly.
I jumped at the opportunity.
Leaning over his seat, I pulled the handle and pushed open his door. He raised his eyebrows in surprise. I just smiled innocently, acting as though I hadn’t done anything new. He went from two raised eyebrows to one arched eyebrow as he slid into his seat, closed his umbrella, and closed his door. “You did something new, so I did something new,” I said, not giving him a chance to question me.
Our little carpool was all about routine. The only new thing that ever occurred was what we talked about, or the song that came on the radio. Sometimes he sang along in a hushed tone. Other than that our actions were automatic—up to the point where he adjusted the air conditioning.
We lived such different lives.
Perhaps this is why neither of us ever changed the routine. It was comfortable and stable. However, I knew from idle chatter that we were a complete relationship mismatch. I was attracted to him, yes, but he was a fast-paced, spur of the moment type man who wore a suit to work. I was a shy, daydreaming girl who had just graduated high school—not to mention my work attire included a name tag and silly hat. I wouldn’t always be that way. I wanted to travel the world. But that was for the future; and besides, he wouldn’t know that. I never mentioned what I wanted to do. I mostly asked questions about him.
He never questioned me.
However, he did compliment me—my smile, my laugh, the usual things. But he never once asked me about myself. Anything he knew about me was something I had told him.
I’d like to think that he enjoyed talking to me, but maybe he just liked getting a little freedom from whatever higher class, stuffy life he lived. I didn’t really know about his life beyond what he told me, but he sure made it sound awfully stuffy. And he made me sound like a breath of fresh air—good to get most every day, but only in limited quantities. After all, if you breathed in that fresh air all the time, eventually it just seemed like the same old air.
So for now I would enjoy our ride—hopefully I would be all the fresh air he needed.
What sin was this? Late, to a service?
He sighed and subtly checked his watch. He wasn’t escorting her anymore, for he felt no need. Surely she was sick, or perhaps had overslept (and if that were the case she had better have the decency to wait until the offering to open that loud door).
He could feel the curious eyes on his back as the choir members rose to make their march of superiority, as if preaching to the choir really were unnecessary. The farthest seat on the left remained empty. Looks like I’ll Fly Away would be sang an octave lower this morning.
It was at this point that he noticed the silence. It wasn’t the silence one experienced as the relic of an organ player slowly approached her instrument from the pew closest to the bathroom. It was stuffier than that. Inquisitive. He was afraid to turn around from his place in the coveted Front Pew, but he could see the question burning in the choir members’ eyes. And then, he could hear it. Where is she?
I…I don’t know, he stammered, and as soon as the words left his mouth the Silent Inquisition turned Spanish. His lack of knowledge had smashed open a beehive, a buzzing of whispers the organ could only just barely tune out. It didn’t matter where she was. She wasn’t here.
As the respectable parson took his place in front of the gathering, the opening of Bibles allowed for the tearing out of notebook paper. With the telegram still being the highest technology during service, for no one dared take out their phones, he sighed and began searching his pockets for a Sharpie which would no doubt be out of ink in an hour.
-Yesterday, my sister said she saw her talking with one of the girls who smokes in the hallway.
-She has been dating that guy for an awfully long time, maybe she did something to feel guilty about? She could be hiding?
-Ever since she got her car she stopped coming to those seven a.m. meetings. Surely that’s due to a lack of faith?
He lacked the words to immediately reply. All of this was true. She had friends with different beliefs and morals. Something in Isaiah talked about that. And that guy…surely there was a Commandment against his haircut. There was no logical reason she couldn’t attend meetings before the sun came up, she didn’t even need sunglasses for the drive. He felt his heart break for reasons he quickly shrugged off as Christian duty. Her faith was gone.
Finally, he knew how to reply to the notes. Using his open Bible as a makeshift clipboard, he picked up his marker and began to scrawl:
I just don’t know what to do anymore. She’s making decisions without me. Just know that I had nothing to do with any of this. I told her not to talk to those people or date that guy and I even offered to call her at six so she had enough time to get ready for the meetings and remind her to do all of her work early the night before. I don’t understand her. I guess all we can do is pray and keep talking about what she’s doing so that everyone else remembers to pray for her forgiveness as well.
No, that wasn’t enough. They would still blame him for not watching her more closely. But his mother was giving him a look, so he stopped writing and listened for just long enough to pacify her.
“…And in the book of Romans, the first few lines of Chapter two…”
He couldn’t focus. He had to keep explaining himself. He had no idea where she was, how could he? He didn’t ask her, but if he took his phone out he’d be practically damned, and it wasn’t worth the risk. If she wanted to go to Hell then whatever, but he wouldn’t. His untidy scrawl had finally filled all of the space on the scrap of paper. Pursing his lips, he passed it backwards, and sat at an angle to view the responses of the readers. They gave him sympathetic looks, nods of agreement, and most importantly—unanimous thought. She was gone. Nothing they could do now. Relieved, he turned straight and looked down at his Bible, preparing to at least flip to Romans.
Another exasperated sigh escaped his lips as words he didn’t say on Sundays crossed his mind. The Sharpie had bled through his scrap paper, nearly making a verse unreadable. He squinted, trying to make it out.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Wait, logs? Huh? Relief flooded him. It wasn’t John 3:16. Can you imagine if he had blacked out an important verse?
“She polished her nails red and fled in the early a.m.
She took the morning paper.
I guess I can forgive her of that. I wouldn’t have read it, anyway.”
She left the netting of her wedding gown over the shower curtain rod; the rest of the dress was gone. Oddly, it was the only dress she ever kept for more than a week. She would buy a dress on Sunday, wear it each day with a different belt or boots, and that Saturday she would wear it once more—in order to shop for its replacement. Once bought, the new dress would sit in the bag;l it was as if she couldn’t bear to let the old dress meet the new one. She would move to the bay window overlooking the rocks below and toss the old dress out. Then, standing there naked, she would watch the fabric float down to the earth. The dresses never stayed there long, and once the dogs carried them away she would try on its replacement with a red-painted smile on her face.
“I guess i could have warned you of the metaphor.
Eh. I didn’t get the hint of foreshadowing until afterward, anyway.
p.s—I’m the dress.”
It’s not much, but I guess it’s home. For now, anyway.
It’s adorable, really. It reminds me of the place I grew up.
You grew up in a dump like this? No wonder you packed so light.
I didn’t have very much to pack. I never keep things very long. Now that you mention it, I need a new suitcase.
You must blow through cash like crazy.
Money isn’t important to me; I grew up in a place like this, remember?
“I still don’t know why she left the veil. Or the cake, for that matter. Not that I’m complaining.”
After all, she never did.
“She never mentioned how the peeling yellow wallpaper must have disgusted her.”
It made me a little nauseous, too.
“She never mentioned how the bathtub was too rusty to sit in.”
I should probably get a tetanus shot.
“Or how the stoplight outside was always blinking.”
Honestly, it’s fine. Everybody has to stop.
Everybody? There’s only like, fifteen people in this town!
Sixteen, actually. And they all have to stop at the light.
Only four of them actually own cars.
So then why do you even look before crossing the street?
The crosswalk is barely even there! All of the paint has faded!
Oh, come on. Just go.
“I pushed her then.”
I didn’t understand the reason why she looked so obsessively.
Kindergarten, maybe. They drill that kind of nonsense into you.
Or maybe it was something deep within her subconscious, like she was looking for her past.
Maybe that’s too poetic.
It was probably just kindergarten.
“The walls are unsettling. The tub is a hazard. The crosswalk’s a mess. I’ll have to paint everything. Paint everything back to white. Goodness, what a chore.”
Goodness, what a chore.
Nobody’s making you do that, you know.
Actually, society is making me do this.
I’ve never seen a woman around here who paints her nails.
Well, I’m not a woman around here.
Oh, and how’s that?
You know what I mean. I don’t lift things. I don’t feed things.
We have had pizza every night this week.
It’s not my job to feed you. You’ve got hands, a mouth, and a butt, you don’t need me.
I do need you.
Well, you haven’t got me.
We went shopping for a new dress that Sunday. When we came into the store, she was wearing yellow with me on her arm. When we left, she had one bright red replacement in a bag and another behind a checkout counter.
“Do I need to say more?”
I have received a complaint about my previous writing, worded something along the lines of : “It seems pre-fabricated or as if anyone could have written it. Be horribly honest, blah blah.” A valid point. Let me explain further.
As stated before, I have never read the Christian Bible all the way through. However, I’ve read enough to explain my thoughts on a subject when asked. I have read the Torah once, thrice if you count my previous readings of the Old Testament, and I’ve read the Kuran once (that was fun to hide from my father). This occured over the summer that I began to question what I had been taught. I didn’t think God would mind. My friend Jacob identified the feeling nicely with the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson: “Question with boldness even the existence of God; He must more approve the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”
Said blindfolded fear sparked my curiosity. I realized that modern Christians had fallen into a dangerous habit of regurgitating to their children the information their pastors, whose beliefs had been regurgitated to them by other spoonfeeders, were spoonfeeding them. Man, were those clauses awkward. I would reword that sentence for you, but if you can’t grasp that concept then I advise you to stop reading and get back to gaining followers. For those of you with a brain stem, I advise this: Don’t assume that your pastor (or preacher, priest, father, brother, partner in Christ, wizard, blessed snakehandler, et cetera) knows what he’s talking about. Don’t listen to what your parents want you to believe. Assume all men are deaf to the words of God. Avoid any influence from living being, and think for yourself.
The opportunity to read the Bible was denied to the common man before the days of Henry VIII, so for Saint Peter’s sake, take advantage of it. Read everything you can, be they religious texts, blog posts, essays, or anything of the sort, before labeling yourself—it’s the only true way to know where you stand. Some people have the ability to sway others’ beliefs to the point of radical change. Tell them to shove it. They may just ruin you. Alright, enough with the personal stuff. Let me actually answer the not-quite-presented-but-rather-implied question, and exemplify my own process of interpreting the Bible with Christianity’s most famous demands: The Ten Commandments. -Also, let this be a warning. If you’re bored now, I apologize, but i hope this is where things will get interesting. Or even more boring. Again, I don’t really care.
From the moment our own set of human sentience entered this earth, we were ill-prepared.
No experience, clearly. Parents, grown yet naive, thought they could aid us, teach us, prepare us,
but once the game began they had to be silent. We wouldn’t have listened to them, anyway.
Pawn E2 to E4.
A basic beginning, an average upbringing, a life void of surprise, for, if anything, one would expect a more exciting event. After all, isn’t life meant to be dramatic, thought-provoking, stimulating? Naturally, with a sense of self-confidence found from all those years of undeserved star stickers on the corners of our worksheets and framed scribbles that even we know were garbage at best, we pull the cockiest counter attack we can muster: Pawn E7 to E5.
Knight to F3.
Next comes the first level of stress, the first attempt at a threat. And how do we respond? Immediately on the defensive. Knight to C6. After all, while those vast opportunities to taste our own lives clearly exist, and we see others taking them all the time, we just aren’t quite ready yet. We simply cannot give up what we already have.
Bishop to C4.
And so the continuum continues. We’ll swerve around any seemingly inconsequential event, for the Gods are merely setting up the game for us to respond. Well, how dare they. We have free-will, after all. We’re adults now, after all. You know what? No. We refuse. Forget the early life, the static life, the life we’ve known. It’s time to live. Knight to D4.
Knight takes Pawn E5.
Confidence. The lessons learned, the standard rules, the basic operations are all gone, yet, life seems to be going our way. We must take advantage of it while we can, carpe diem, and all of that nonsense. You know what? Queen to G5. It’s time for the offensive.
Knight takes Pawn F7.
Okay, so we stumbled a bit. Made a bad decision or two. Opportunity not yet seen is gone, bit it can’t affect us now, surely. We’ll wait for the response, hold it out, realize our mistakes years later and plan around them then. As long as we make above minimum wage, we’ll be able to live still. Hesitantly, we move forward with one last attempt to save it all: Queen to G2.
Rook to F1.
Realizing what we’ve done, how we’ve ruined ourselves, dissapointed our parents, gained debt, gambled with the Gods, we crumble. We cry. We worry. We question. What on earth will we do? Pride prevents asking for help. Well, pride and the Rules of the game. We sit. We stare. Then, if we are lucky, silent help arrives. We smile. We blush. We kiss. And, we plan. We plot and manipulate and twist until together, we can overcome the determinist plan set from the very start. Queen to E4. We can relax now. The game will play out in our favor, as long as we don’t distract ourselves.
Bishop to E2.
Perhaps an argument, or jealousy, or merely time apart. Regardless of specifics, we’re briefly feeling alone again, and we allow the smallest bit of panic. Life will surely get away from us. We cannot make it alone, so we forgive. We realize that if we were able to play the game with only our uneducated, original minds, we would have been playing (and likely losing) Solitaire. So, together, you avoid the route of the simple-minded and ensure your own fate: Knight to F3.
I met God one evening this week.
The funny thing is; I wasn’t looking to find Him. I was walking along beneath the layers of my subconscious, politely nodding in the general direction of long forgotten acquaintances and algebraic formulas I haven’t had to use in what seems like decades. Then, as suddenly as scenery can possibly change, I was crossing a bridge. My eyes scanned the water for anything interesting. I saw crawdads, of course, and old pine trees that once brought a festive atmosphere to Greg and Sherryl’s home. Lola, my fifth grade class pet, floats on her back.
Next, I smell smoke. My vision blurs as if I were on a merry-go-round as my body turns in every direction. That’s when I see Him. God. Puffing on a cigarette.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
That cannot possibly be God.
“Sounds like the response from my last four miracles,” God whispered. I jumped. He had been so quiet before. I didn’t know what to say. I had forgotten that He knows everything, regardless of privacy.
I was intimidated by the sight of Him, and by the thought of conversing as well, so I continued walking. But God followed me. At first I didn’t notice; his footsteps were so soft, almost quizzical, like a mist—as opposed to the boisterous sound of thunder (which is what my father always told me to calm me down during stormy weather). However, God caught up with me rather fast, and lit another cigarette.
How could he be doing that?
“I’m God, Sienna. I’m stressed.” was His reply.
Luckily, a gentle breeze formed and blew the horrid smoke behind me.
“You’re welcome,” He mumbled.
I smiled, glad that He was keeping my pace. In fact, I nearly clung to Him as we passed others floating around in my mind. Jack the Ripper. Charles Manson. The man who once followed me around Target for nearly twenty minutes until I hid inside the women’s bathroom.
“Look at them; my children, they’re so beautiful.” God said.
Beautiful? These men? This must be that sense of humor I’ve heard so much about.
“No, Sienna. They really are beautiful. Every single one.”
If the world is so beautiful, then why have You forsaken it?
God’s mouth is a capsized ship.
“I have not forsaken this world, Sienna. This world has forsaken Me.”
His eyes fall, and he drops his cigarette, which ironically turns into a coffin nail as it hits the ground. He looked so crestfallen, so heartbroken, and more than anything—so lonesome.
What do you tell someone who looks like that?
You’re doing the best that you can.
However, in my mind it played past-tense: He did the best He could.
I have the sudden urge to grasp His hand. I wondered how long it had been since someone tried to comfort Him; since He had someone to express His every emotion to—or if He ever had. I shifted uncomfortably.
“It’s alright, Sienna. You don’t have to.” God half-smiled at me and lit one more cigarette.
We walked until we come to another bridge; or perhaps it was the same bridge. Had God and I been walking in a circle? My thoughts were interrupted by God’s pace, quickening—his footsteps were still light, but now they sounded like a soft rain. His arms reached out and tugged the clouds closer to us. They turned black, making the atmosphere even more uncomfortable. We sit on the edge of the Bridge.
“Sienna, do you remember the time when you wrecked your bike?”
Of course I did. The flesh on my knee was practically gone. I cried and I cried; it was the first serious visit to the Emergency Room.
“And do you remember what you said to Me?”
I remembered that even more vividly.
God, why did You let me fall?
After that, God and I sat in silence. My guilt was building up, starting in the pit of my stomach and rising until I thought I was going to choke on it. I try to stifle it back down, but the only thing I can choke back is tears.
God, what are you trying to tell me?
I waited for an answer, but none came. I assumed it was God being like an English teacher. Those who only frustrate you after asking an honest question because they know you’re capable of coming up with the answer.
At this thought, God laughs. He doubles over, and tears stream down His face.
I leap up in fear. The noise of thunder was deafening. I cling to my ears as if they were going to fall off, my eyes water in pain.
But, I couldn’t help but laugh too.
God stood up and tossed his cigarette into the water. My legs nearly buckled under the weight of the world as He placed His hands on my shoulders. He gives me a tiny shake.
“Sienna, don’t let Me fall anymore.”
A friend of mine had posted her views on religion on her Facebook page. After reading and thoroughly enjoying the post, I had come to the realization that I am completely oblivious to my own beliefs. Sure, I don’t deny the presence of a God whatsoever, but I also don’t acknowledge it. I do not practice any said religion, nor do I take a certain amount of time out of my day to worship any said Gods. I don’t pray daily, nor have I ever read the Bible other than flipping through to special verses during church services. I was brought up in a Baptist church. I was baptized in a Baptist church and I also stole crayons from a Baptist church. (Good job pounding those christian morals into my head.) However, around the ages of 12 or 13, I believed new things. I personally thought it was necessary to grow my hair out past my hips and wear skirts everyday no matter how inconvenient it was (and let me tell you, it was). But I was just a child then, loyally following the footsteps of my mother who also thought it was necessary.