Originally published in three parts; republished here as a whole. Based on a true story. Parts are taken from my journal. I think I wrote it as a way of healing from experiences which I find difficult to express in words. I’d like to think it paints a picture which allows the reader to feel and sense what words fail to express. I think publishing it in three separate parts made it harder for readers to connect with. I share it here again, in the hope that it helps others in some way.
The boys behind me think I cannot hear them. I am sitting in Theology class. They are laughing at the “snow falling outside,” but the comment is directed at me.
It is summer in Florida. Outside, dandelions dance in the breeze. Everything is green beneath a blue sky. It is hot in the classroom, and the air conditioner is broken again. I sweat. I feel itchy. I have Psoriasis. I scratch. More snow falls.
I close my eyes and I am seven sitting in a hot church in the south during catechism. There are no kids here my age, and this makes me happy. The older kids are nice to me because they like my dad. He is funny. He is a magician. He understands them. The younger kids are herded to the nursery to play with toys. I sit with the older kids and hear a story about Jesus. It is hot. I feel itchy. I scratch. Snow falls. No one seems to notice the young kid sitting in the corner. Jesus walks on water. He heals the lepers. They walk away with new skin.
This lesson is easy, but later we sit with the grown-ups and hear a sermon. I hate sermons. I want to see a magic trick.
When I open my eyes, the professor is lecturing. Christology. We write sermons. I imagine a world without lepers. Everyone wears nice soft skin.
We sit on park benches in the sun between classes. I watch the boys gather in a group in front of the classroom door. Debating. Bidding for rank. They will become pastors. They will give sermons.
I hate sermons. I want to see a magic trick.
Even the adults are tired after catechism. We sing a few songs. The sermon begins. Always too long – the sermons, in the south, in the summer, in a room without air.
My dress is made of a horrid material. It digs into my skin. I sweat. I itch. There is medicine now for the lepers. Jesus is bored.
I look out of the church window. Dandelions dance in the breeze. I imagine myself free. I am a fish in the water – the cool brown water. I hide my scales in the dark holes. No one will find me.
After the sermon, I run down to the river. I run down the path along the bank. I strip down naked. My dress is abandoned. The cool mud paints my feet and legs. I jump in the water. A magic trick. Mermaid in hiding.
On the other side of the alleyway, two books vie for attention inside my tote. Neither will win. I am sitting on a bench at a bus stop.
It is summer in Florida. Dandelions dance in the breeze. Everything is green beneath a blue sky. With me at the bus stop is a homeless man. He smells. He is hungry. He talks to himself. He isn’t waiting for the bus, just stopping to rest. Soon, he gets up and continues down the road toward the shelter. The bus comes and I put my last bit of change into the meter.
We bump down the road. I blink. All the faces have turned to charcoal and vanilla, like mom’s sketchbook, drawn in as she would capture them, unaware. The details of their fine lines, scars, and anomalies are celebrated – turned into trophies. Works of art. With shading, she adds emotion. A down turned lip, a weary eye, celebrated. Crooked nose, enormous ears, thinning hair line – trophies. Color is added: saffron, curry, chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, peach, olive, cream, pecan, coffee, ebony night. Celebrated. Trophies. Detailed in her book like a collection of fine art.
We are all the most beautiful beings on Earth.
At the Park
Exiting the bus are different shapes, colors, and expressions; folks who carry with them a variety of flavors, just like my kitchen cabinet when I open the door and everything tumbles out. The bus moves on, a spice rack with its containers bumping into one another, jostling along the avenue, making swift, competitive maneuvers for space like an elephant on a charge through the jungle with hips too wide to fit between the banana trees.
Across the street, I enter the park and shift my tote from one shoulder to the other. Inside, two books vie for attention. Neither will win. It is hot. I sweat. I feel itchy. I scratch. Snow falls.
It is summertime in Florida. Dandelions dance in the breeze. Everything is green beneath a blue sky. I take the path that leads through Hydrangea bushes. Magnolia trees echo the city’s sky line. On the green are players forming a team for American football.
A grey haired lady is sitting on one of the park benches facing the green, but she notices me. “Do you want to play?” she asks. “They need another player,” and she says “need” in a way that sounds as though the team doesn’t care who they get; as if they just “need” someone who can play temporarily until they are able to get a permanent player. One of the team overhears her, and motions me to join in. I dust the snow from my shirt and walk over.
“Is it okay that I’m a girl?” I ask. The players are all men.
“Do you know how to play?” is his response.
I shrug, “I played in college.”
He nods. “That’s my mum,” he says proudly, pointing to the grey haired lady sitting in the shade. He smiles. Hollywood teeth. Clean cut hair. Preppy.
“I don’t have my cleats with me,” I explain.
“That’s okay, we’re just playing for fun, and for exercise. Anyone is welcome to join. We haven’t had a coach, but we’re getting one at half-time.”
I join the team on defense. We score a few touchdowns, gaining the lead. We play hard, and the sun bears down on us until just before half-time when it disappears behind gray clouds. An audience has gathered. Picnickers. Football lovers. Pet-owners. A homeless man sits on another bench. He is less hungry than before. He is quiet. Observant. He smiles, and remembers better days.
I am an X in the playbook running along a line, preventing a square from being able to intercept when I slip and fall, scraping my hands.
“Just put some spit on it,” one of the team shouts with a wide grin.
I miss the joke, pool my saliva and spit a big one into my hand, rubbing it into the crevices to clean away the dirt as I consider the effect of healthy germ fighting bacteria alive in my mouth, alive in my spit, now alive in my skin. The team cheers, calls me “Spittles,” and declares me a MVP.
The gray clouds darken. We break for half-time. I lay in the grass with my team mates. Laughing at a joke. Hot. Sweaty. I smell. I’m hungry. I talk out loud to myself. I close my eyes. Thinking. Maybe, I’ll join the team permanently, but I have always hated the word “permanent”.
When I open my eyes, the pastor is lecturing. I am 27 sitting in a staff meeting. Ecclesiology. We write plans on a calendar. I hate staff meetings. I hate desks with computers. I hate all the “P” words in the dictionary. I raise my hand, “What should we plan to serve for the new family? They’re vegetarians.”
“Vegetarians,” he laughs; mocking. “Vegetarians with long hair!” He emphasizes the words as if they were script written in bold faced all caps letters, nodding his head to express disbelief. He is a long way from Alabama. The other church leaders and their wives laugh, too. I close my eyes.
When the new coach comes he details the faults he observed in our game. “And,” he finishes, “don’t EVER come here without your cleats! This isn’t a game!” He looks at me. Angry scowl. I am cleat-less, team-less, and wearing the wrong colors. “Practice will be here everyday at 3:00 PM.”
I raise my hand, “I work until 4:30 in the afternoon.”
“Well then, you can’t play. No loss – I’ve watched you. You’re incompetent.”
Sometimes, I think the best theology is the one that allows me to walk away. Sink, swim, or not, I didn’t belong in the boat.
We finish our game. I gather my things. I walk home through Hydrangea bushes, down asphalt paths. It begins to rain. Dandelions dance in the breeze.
In the foyer of my apartment building I wipe my feet, check the mail, and say “hello” to a neighbor. I enter my flat, drop my tote on the kitchen counter, and take off my shoes. I sort mail. Bills. Junk. More junk.
A shiny magazine is folded in half. I open it. Alumni News. On the cover is the Youth Pastor of the Year. I laugh. Staring back at me is the picture of one of the students who used to sit behind me in Theology class. I scratch my scalp and pull a scale from my hair. Good for him.
I read the article while running bath water, and phoning my girl friends over for dinner. We decide to try a new vegetarian dish. My Hindu friend promises to bring nan if I provide the wine. Deal. I pour salt into the tub. I add tar shampoo, and soak in the cool brown water.
Along with the article are pictures showing a lesson. Jesus walks on water. In the corner of the room sits a girl. The others do not seem to notice. She looks hot. She is itchy. I wonder what she will learn.