[continued from gothard, gothard-2, at least, and is part of the shunning series. i was 12, and what happens here was my normal. and so, it didn't stand out at all, until now.]
i have the wall behind me, cold and silent.
faithful, it holds all my secrets, cools my back. and day upon day, the words and pages are burning into me.
day passed night, and all the numbers, the lessons, they etched themselves into my skin. each verse, each explanation of who and what i am. my uncleanness wells up with each prayer, until i cannot move.
‘Hello, what are you doing still sitting here?’
everyone had gone.
his shoes shone in the light, pants creased straight like a preacher. i could still hear his voice, when checking my work on his shoes.
‘You can tell a man by how his shoes are shined, by who he allows to shine his shoes. And, Shade, I can tell what you are. You missed a spot, here, here, here. These are pathetic.’
these shoes held little stars in each corner, one for each prayer i’d forgotten to pray while listening, one for each unconfessed sin. because in between the learning and the praying, i’d fallen into sleep.
‘Sir. I haven’t any friends.’
i counted them on his shoes, the stars, so i wouldn’t look up. just in case it was truly truly him. in case it was gothard.
‘Well, we can’t have that. Are you sure there’s no one waiting for you? A pretty little thing like you can’t truly be all alone.’
it was him. it was i knew who he was now, i didn’t know what to call him. his voice sounded softer without the microphones, but it still echoed in my bones.
i’d heard them talking sometimes late at night. french fries, cokes, and sitting with him on his couch. and the praying. they said he was very nice.
‘It’s probably better this way, you’re not busy filling your head with the nonsense that most girls are at this age. You, I can tell G-d has something special in mind for you. You’re so quiet and modest. Your parents must be so thankful to G-d for giving them such a daughter as you.’
without thought, my eyes wing to sky. but the auditorium’s lights reflect back to me the nothing that i am. i’ve been busy counting all the sins, wondering just what sin they’d committed to be given something like me. but mr. gothard’s smiling at me. hand outstretched, his eyes are laughing.
he thinks i’m a gift.
everyone knows he is close to g-d. maybe he knows something my parents don’t. maybe he will fix this, and everyone will know i’m something good to have. maybe someone will love me.
‘Shall we go and talk for a while, about G-d’s plans for someone like you? What’s your name again?’
‘Well, Shade, do you like french fries? Coke?’
and he is hands around my shoulders, holding me into his side. warmth steals inside the cold dark. the world stops spinning and all my sins go silent.
so i follow him, down the hall, to his office.
‘Come in, come in.’
the click-snick of the door’s lock are no surprise. locked doors, rooms, are the way we live. all my days are measured by the doors’ opening and closing. windowless is how faith is born, and in the dark runs the red g-d.
‘Come over here and sit down.’
the couch is stretched in between the door and the desk. long and soft, i’m certain no one ever cried into its cushions. lamp’s lighting the corners of his eyes, all soft wrinkles. they promise kindness.
and he’s sitting next to me. all the couch lingers, pulling away from him. we are cornered side by warm side.
i cannot move.
‘Now, Shade, let’s talk about G-d’s plans for you. There’s no need to be shy, you know you’re special. And I’m here to help you learn how to best utilize that. Why don’t we pray before the food gets here?’
his hands have reached down, down. reverenced, i am pressed into the couch. and he has shaped the corners of his knees, holding in the holiness of his words. he is praying.
my hands, they are little bird still, we cannot break the cage of being. his faith is so strong.
and i’m counting the edges of the cushions, one by the next. if there are 3, will i become clean? if there are 7, will grace be the word that lets me go? but there is only the endless 1 of being, the 2 of breathing.
my shirt, it had started out as white as white can be. even though it lies about my g-dliness, it was white. but it took 2 layers of white to hide the underneath. striped across my back, until it stuck into my sins.
he can’t stop praying, even as the words lift from my skin. white on white, the couch is holding all my sadness. my prayers cannot fly, they are choking my breath.
and i am air on skin, light in the water, a nothing that can be. even hell can be just warm enough to hold back the dark. until the prayers begin.
‘What have you done, what sin is this you have been hiding? You’re unclean. Now I know why no one loves you. Get out of my sight.’
now i am filthy rags, cast into the dark.