Friday, January 26, 2007

3 childhood fears

As a child, I had thorough fear of God. I feared him everywhere I went. I feared being seen by him, being heard by him. I feared he would notice my movements, chastise me for placing a foot out of step.
I feared him most the day a very sweaty pastor told me the Lord lived inside my heart. I grabbed my chest, petrified with fear. “My…heart?” I asked weakly. “How did he get in there?” The pastor would look at me impatiently from his pulpit and tell me not to blaspheme. I had never heard such an awful word. I knew then I was a sinner of exceptional note.
At church I would not dare take the Holy Communion. I refused to drink the blood of Christ, let alone eat his body. I thought, how much more divine sacrament can I take into myself? How much more will the Lord tolerate me?
My heart would race as my family approached the altar, preparing to partake in the bread and wine. I knew the pounding of my heart was Jesus warning me. I thought, Christ wouldn't want to dwell in a body as unclean as mine. I thought, one day he'll burst from my chest, breaking through my body leaving me bleeding to death on the ground. As I lay there dying, I would watch in complete awe the amazing spectacle of God shooting up to the sky, back into heaven like a rocket.
I cried when the pastor placed the wafer on the tip of my tongue; cried when I sipped from the chalice of grape juice--cried when later, I wet myself in front of the congregation.
Perhaps I was better off though, discharging the contents of my bladder rather than that of my heart.

I am terrified of my mother. When her quiet broke, when she screamed at my brother and me--when we would hide behind piles of clothes. She became huge standing over me, her hands moving wildly, like a storm, like veins of lighting, scolding me for eating too much or leaving the milk out or dragging mud into the house. Mostly I was amazed at how much more alive she seemed then, moments before she slapped my open palms with a dinner spoon. She would do it again, again, again till she was short of breath and red in the face.
I'd cry and scream, but she didn't hear me, because already, she was holding me, telling me she was sorry. As she kneeled to hold me, her white apron would fill with air and rise like a gigantic, glistening swell of water, enveloping me in the scent of linen and dried fruits. And then she would cry.
I would tell her to stop crying, that if she wanted she could send me to bed early, take away my dinner, give me more chores--punish me in some additional way. She would only shake her head and apologize over and over.
So I would stand there silently as she cried on the ground, both hands turned up towards the ceiling. Looking at her, I felt as though I was back in the womb, kicking her but having no memory of it.

there is an urn in my parents house, an asian fantasy vase with blue chrysanthemums and white grasshoppers. it rests in a box under my mother's bed: she's hiding it from her mother, my grandmother. one day, that's where we will keep her ashes, and when she is dead and gone we will move the urn to a place of greater honor. the vase is a preparation, an example of patience.