(originally published in Crossing Genres, 2016)
I have now had the opportunity to tell this story more than once. I am always amazed each time I realize it is coming from my mouth. It is such a little story. Silly. At one time, I held it to the back of my mouth if it came to mind. Why? Embarrassed? Shame? Guilt?
No. Fear. Pervasive, insidious fear.
Fear of rejection. Fear of my own mind. Fear of inadequacy. I am tainted. Defective. No, these words are not strong enough. Used Goods. Where does that come from?
What is it I am trying to describe? You may already know exactly what I am attempting to communicate. I do not believe I have met one person who does not know this feeling. For some, it becomes an illness of consumption. Others, find their way beyond; shedding it as a skin; leaving it behind with relative ease.
I know when it occurs. The optics of my eyes see the world around me. I hear you speaking, but I am unable to understand anything you are saying.
I am sitting across the table from you sipping coffee. Yet, there is a scrim; a veil a few inches from my face. My prison. I shake my head. I blink my eyes; twist my torso and jerk my hands. I grunt and I moan.
Nothing moves. As disconcerting as the absolute stillness of trees with no wind.
Mosquitos plague. I suffocate.
Will you even notice I am suffocating? I am trying so hard to understand you. I like you. You are cool. Fascinating. Smart. Brillant. I am dumb and lowly.
God! Why am I here? What kind of sick joke is this? Am I really this evil? What did I do that is so abhorrent to deserve this!
Please! Take pity; have some mercy! Let me out! This is hell, and I must have learned my lesson.
Am I really this unlovable?
Day in and day out I run. I attempt to mimic words. I mimic clothes. I mimic beliefs. I try them on; each of them. Will I understand you? Does it help me? Do I feel better?
God, I don’t believe in you. I will NOT believe in you. All you are is mean and tricky. I hate you and I hate it here! You cruel, hateful being. I will find something else. You’ll see!
I’ll show you! (hands on my hips and lips terse).
You know it is a sin to kill yourself.
Here I am. Again; sitting across from you sipping coffee. I like you. You are cool. fascinating. Brilliant. Do you know I am listening? Really, I do not mean to be rude. I am rude? I don’t understand. Why can’t I understand what you are saying? I am suffocating again in the stagnant mosquito plague; looking for an answer to a question I have not asked.
Here I am, yes, again, sitting across from you; it is night. The grass is cool. The stars, well, seem unreachable.
“I don’t believe in God.” “I am an atheist.” I say. You are a bit taken back, but you don’t really say much. I sense pity? sorrow? disqust? Well, good night. Thank you for the walk.
I am in need of an answer. I am willing to do the work. I am willing to search. A logical, scientific approach seems like it should be a good way to look. This is what a smart person would do. Is this what I see you doing? Am I understanding you correctly?
Oh, yes, “I am an atheist.” quite confident as I sit across from you sipping coffee. Does this make it better? Do I belong now? Is this stagnant mosquito plague moving? Am I sitting across from you as an equal?
Damn it! I am suffocating!
No matter. I will breathe through my respirator. “I am atheist.” and that will do for one more day.
I have been avoiding this all day. . . the night.
Here I am, alone. I turn off the lights. I climb up and lie in bed. I roll over onto my belly; fold my arms on my pillow and rest my chin on my hands. My view out the window is the steeple of the campus chapel; a small light inside and the smell of bread. Mrs. Baird’s bread factory is nearby.
I take a deep breath and let out a sigh. Damn you plague. I roll over to my back. I fold my arms behind my head and I look up at the ceiling.
“God, please do not be mad at me because I do not believe in you.”
paint much love, always,
Connie Karleta Sales
a.k.a. This Crooked Little Flower