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.

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