eye scream, ewe scream

i love ice cream. not supposed to have it, of course, because it tastes good and makes me wanna throw up, all at the same time. funny, that.

when i was a kid, ice cream was an especially momentous dessert. we didn't have it very often, so when it was in the house, everyfreakinbody'd better be good.

we always got neopolitan. most bang for your buck cuz nobody ever really liked exactly the same kind. me, i liked vanilla best. getting vanilla gave you a really good chance of scorin' all three flavors with just one or two dips. a little bit of choc on the right, a little strawberry on the left . . . that was heaven-in-a-bowl, and the longer you waited, the more choc and berry you were likely to score. being served last was never a bad thing, no matter what we were eatin'.

at the table, we learned how to be grateful -- or at least, sound as sincerely grateful as possible -- courtesy of my dad, who made us thank our mother and tell her that it was good before we touched even the tiniest morsel. that thanks-mom-it's-good-mom came right after saying grace, and we said grace at every meal. i think that was one of the first things to go once i was out on my own, although whenever there was before-meal praying in public, my head was bowed and my eyes were closed. i have missed the reverence i once felt for God. i lost it when i began to be afraid that God really would do something, something visible to my human eyes, and holy-shit-what-would-they-think-then. He did once . . . well, three times that i can remember.

the first time was at ten, in mrs. z's church's Christmas pageant, when i disappeared into God and literally left my body in that place, a ball of pure white light in the presence of Great. White. Light. never forget that. i never will forget that moment.

second time was about four years later, during a vacation Bible school recess. i . . . there was nothing wrong with me. i'd said that i had to go to the bathroom, but it's safe to confess now that i didn't really have to go to the bathroom. i just wanted to be away from the loudness of the laughter and the whispers i felt everywhere i went in that church. it was my stepmother's church, where the best kept secret was that my father was an abusive alcoholic whose children were in the center of the longest custody battle ever waged. what most of them didn't know, though, was that i was, sometimes, the instigator in it all. yup, i'd get pissed at my mom and run to my dad's, and vice versa. i was the product of two people whom i would have never let get together, so thank God that i'm not God because if i was God, i probably wouldn't exist. but i digress . . .

at my stepmother's church, i was noticeably and awkwardly different. i was not a pretty child, although i do like the way my face has filled out and matured over the years. as a kid, though, i was just awkward -- always nervous and completely alien, especially around other girls. that, right there, shoulda been my second clue. the first one shoulda been the girl with whom i shared almost nothing, but drank in her presence like water, when we were both seven years old. never occured to . . . well, that's a lie. it occured to me at fourteen, but that's another story.

that day, during recess at vacation Bible school, when i lied and said i had to 'go' . . .

i walked into the church, not making a sound. i'd entered from the field, across from the back of the church, where we'd all been playing kickball. as i walked in the doors, i entered the hallway that separated the fellowship hall and the sanctuary. the fellowship "hall" was actually a large room where we held special dinners or fashion shows, things of that nature. it was the room where everyone sort of hung out after services -- especially if it was raining or snowing outside. i could hear sounds of stuff going on in the fellowship hall. nothing major, but enough that if one of the women who worked in the hall's kitchen saw me bobbing around aimlessly, i'd either get told to get back outside or i'd get snitched on -- or both, neither of which was particularly desirable at that point.

i walked with a particular effort to see around, inside of the fellowship hall, before i ventured each step. at first, my back was to the sanctuary. then, i don't know why, but i turned around. i was just tall enough that if i stood on the balls of my feet, i could see in the window, into the sanctuary. i felt this pull, almost instantly, from just a little above my belly button, all the way to in front of the altar and the pulpit. scared me. when i rounded the corner to where the bathrooms were, i almost made a pit stop to ask to speak to the pastor. i stopped my self.

third time, i was celebrating my first Communion during my deacon candidacy. God . . . that was the high point for every candidate, i think -- our first Communion.

we'd had a Pentecostal kinda service that day, with people gettin' happy and jumpin' and shoutin' . . . it was an amazing service. i was so nervous, standing there at the Altar. when i opened my mouth to speak, a woman in the second row began shouting, caught up in Spirit as she was. and so i waited. God said, 'hold still'. after a moment or two, i opened my mouth again, and again, her shouts rang out, filling the Sanctuary. 'be still and know I am God', He said. after the third time, they were able to calm her. i began reciting the Canon, which my mentor had made sure i memorized and could repeat upon request, even though we would always have a copy of both long and short versions of the Canon right on the Altar with us. my mentor was the best.

as i recited the Canon, i felt filled with so much love . . . so much . . . Light, i wept, openly, before my congregation. and then, a little later as i concluded the Consecration, a beam of sunlight broke through and shone down on me, right where i stood. for the first time in my life, i understood what Jesus felt at His Baptism. ironically, my pastor called that my 'baptism by fire' -- she still does, in fact. as far as she knows, no other deacon candidate from our parish has ever been 'baptised by fire' the way i was. felt kinda cool when she put her hand on my shoulder and told me that i'd done good.

sometimes, a scream is good. even though it feels good and makes me wanna puke, all at the same time.


the bloodwriting on the wall

when i was about eight and a half years old, i awakened on some ordinary morning and i found our little three-bedroom apartment eerily quiet. two of my brothers were asleep in the bedroom that i shared with them. my parents' bedroom door was shut tight as it always was. but something wasn't right. i could feel it. not that prickly feeling some people talk about, or that skin-crawling fear thing. something much more subtle than that had led me out of bed that morning.

i walked softly around the first corner, into the dining room. if there was anything out of place, i didn't notice it being so. my mom has always kept a very tidy house. not so neat that it couldn't be lived in, but always nice enough so that if unexpected guests arrived, we wouldn't be embarassed. thanks, mom. the table was clean, the chairs were in their places . . . sometimes we even had placemats, and i think there were some on the table that morning, too. maybe. it gets hazy. none of the furniture seemed out of place, though -- and on the surface, it looked as normal as normal could look in our house.

we were poor as churchmice sometimes. maybe that's why i feel so connected to the children at el tamarindo -- regardless of economic circumstance, those parents give their children the best they've got. they were always as i was when i was their age: poor, but clean and relatively content. back then, i never felt discontent. i was about three years into my mother's older son's sexual abuse of me, but it was so indelible that i've retained only two clear memories of it before the age of ten. i sometimes almost wish it were so, for the time after that.

he'd been given the den, my older halfsibling had. my father had wanted to give it to me, being the only girl. but all my mom could see was that i was his favorite, so the room went to her son -- the oldest -- instead of to his daughter, his favorite. i wasn't my dad's favorite just for shits'n'giggles, nor because i was the only girl-- although that went a long way in my father's family. i was his favorite because i made great grades, was so far advance that i was among about a handful of kids in our school who got to take french in fourth grade, and i was pretty tough, quiet, and smart. i wasn't 'daddy's little girl'; i was my father's kid. my dad liked me hanging out with him; my brothers and halfsibling, he could take or leave. given the choice, he would leave his wife's son with her. every time.

but i wasn't thinking about any of that on that morning as i walked through the small path that separated the dining room from the kitchen.

i can remember hearing my father saying something. he was praying, i knew, but over what now, i had no idea. he prayed a lot, my dad did. especially when he'd done something stupid like hit my mom. my belief is that God had already forgiven him. it would be another decade, though, before my mother would be able to do the same.

so i knew what the garbled ramblings usually signified, but this morning was somehow different. i remember listening for the tv and noticing that i didn't smell oatmeal. oatmeal was a staple breakfast food in my family. it was the only thing that went far enough to feed four kids and two adults on a daily basis. i don't ever remember eating breakfast at school, not even after the divorce. my mom fixed us breakfast every morning and we wore t-shirts under our clothes from october through may. i never caught a cold until i started living on my own. thanks, mom.

the kitchen was dark that morning -- another sign that something had gone awry. as i walked softly past the kitchen, i looked down at the corner of the wall, where the kitchen met the living room. there it was. all of a sudden, i could hear my father clearly, begging, 'bring her back, Lord. safe and sound, Lord.' it was my mother's blood, splattered on that wall corner. i could only vaguely remember the sounds of their argument from the night before, but as soon as i saw the blood, i knew clearly who it belonged to.

my mom had left. and she'd taken that bastard of a son with her. eighteen or twenty months later, the divorce would be final.


mi amor

mon coeur

eyes like mine
fearing all
afraid of nothing

eyes wide open
we take the plunge
into life's great beyond