prayer is for me tonight
This far down that line and still ain't got it right
And while confessions not yet stated
Our next sin is contemplated
Never did we know
What the future would hold
Or that we'd be bought and sold
When we were innocent."
This one is for you. Confessional number I don't even remember – for you, for your soul, I suppose. I'm not Catholic, I don't believe in purgatory and I'm pretty sure I don't buy Heaven either. But I guess I have nothing without my lost causes, and you're one of them. So it's for you. Hypocrisy, pointless, stupid, call it whatever. I don't care.
Confessional number what, I wonder? I've been here more often now than I used to. The priest is probably tired of my droning, but I can't stop. It's all a means to an end, really. Just make me feel better, and don't remind me that I'm praying for Satan himself. Or, at least, my prayers are having the same effect. I suppose it's the same reason people turn to alcohol or drugs when loved ones die – blind catharsis.
Alcohol – drugs – or maybe just an endless string of meaningless confessions. It's all the same, really.
This rosary is made of plastic, it's cheap and worthless and I don't think it's doing any good. I finger the beads anyway, playing with it, waiting for confessional number I don't remember plus one. A little old lady glares at me. This one's for me, not you. This one's for healing, I guess.
I don't think I expected it to hurt like this. It's an odd pain, a numb pain, a sort of blank smack in the face – like getting the wind knocked out of you. It doesn't hurt, really, just leaves an impression you can't get over. Funny thing is, I'm sort of toying around with convalescence, a cat batting at a ball of yarn, not really trying to make anything out of it, just going with it.
Helluva lot easier to annoy the priest with pointless ramblings every day than to deal. You would have had fun doing this, or you would have made it fun, come up with strange confessions. I wonder if I should do that. Or would he call my bluff?
The rosary slips out of my fingers and clatters to the floor, ends coming apart and plastic beads skittering against the floor, held in place. Dramatic, and so empty. I don't pick it up. It worthless, anyway.
This one is for Maria – Mary, Mother of God, right? Ave Maria and all that. I like to imagine how she must have lived, and what it'd be like to have statues made of you some 2000 years after you die, just because you had some kid. I guess feminists should be happy that someone gets immortalized for going through labor.
That was a bad joke. You would have thought it was hilarious.
Everyone else would have gotten all self-righteous on me. They get so offended so easily. Can't they understand that humor makes the world go around?
Yeah, that's right. Forget love. It's laughter we all need. That priest didn't think it was too funny when I told him I had a mass orgy with eight guys and a dog three nights ago. He gave me some number of Hail Marys. I wasn't listening. I can't believe he believed me.
Then again, the Hail Marys were probably for lying. Whatever, right?
Why am I still coming here?
I remember that old creek about a mile and a half away from any living civilization back at home, you know? The one with that vine that creaked and was so slippery, we all kept falling off and breaking our ankles? You were the one who always wanted to go on it again, even though we all said you'd end up getting hurt.
It's worth it, you'd say, and jump and sometimes you'd make it and it'd be this beautiful arc – straight over the rocks and right into the water with an almighty – splash – and sometimes you wouldn't, and you crash into the rocks and we'd have to drag you out, bleeding and crying and muddy and we'd always ask you if you thought it was worth it now. And you'd always say yeah – best total fuck-up I've ever done – and we'd just shake our heads and limp you home.
I remember how you finally managed to get me to ride it, and I took it and it actually held, and then I got it. Invincibility, that was. That moment of flying, total freedom, and then drop into the water and freefall straight from here to oblivion, and it was perfect. And even when I tried again and slipped and broke my hand on that huge rock right by the willow tree, I knew why you kept going back. Invincibility while dying, I guess. Just a random jump and if you miss, oh well, right? The break will heal. You get back up and try again tomorrow, and maybe you'll make it this time.
I remember feeling unconquerable like that, the only time in my life I've ever felt totally – totally on top of everything. Like I was the greatest thing there was. And even though the walk back is hell, it's still worth it – because I got that moment of absolute perfection.
Jesus is on the cross and Mary's arms are open. I wonder what Heaven looks like.
I imagine it's like some pretty little wooded place with a creek far from home and a slippery vine in the middle with a bunch of rocks on this side – and you've gotta take the vine and chance the fall to get across, and if you slip, oh well, we'll try again tomorrow.
Do you remember what Aunt Anne's pink lemonade tasted like? Practically just a sugary slush, you remember? She didn't know what she was doing with that Kool-aid, and we'd always take it to be polite, and force down a couple of sips while she was watching, and then end up pouring all of it out behind the dogwood. Not even the dog would lick it up, but the ants loved it.
And that hammock, the one I broke, do you remember that? I used to swing on it all the time, like an idiot, and then one day, I just went flying, taking the whole hammock with me. I thought I'd broken my back, and there you were, laughing fit to burst, and all I could do was cry and barely breathe.
Forgive me father, for I have sinned.
Yet again. I broke a promise yesterday. I promised to laugh That's what you asked me to do, keep laughing, don't forget childhood, don't forget me.
Would forgetting the creek and the pink lemonade and the hammock – would forgetting make it easier? I don't see how. How can you forget your whole past? You'd always feel that you've lost something, some big part of your soul.
The rosary is still on the floor.
And the time you tore your lip in two in that bottle rocket war. I thought I was going to die laughing.
What do Hail Marys mean, anyway?
I mean, really. Is there some sort of purpose to praying to some nice dead woman to help remove my sins? Why can't I just say, "Hey, God? About this whole 'I sabotaged my best friend's wedding' thing? Can we forget about that?"
Do you remember the look on her face when that stripper popped out of the wedding cake? It's not my fault she made it big enough to fit her in. And I think it was better, anyway. How many people can honestly say they got into a huge, family-and-friend-and-wanton-stripper-wide food fight at their wedding?
Nobody, that's who. Nobody except my best friend.
And no one forgot it.
Dammit, why am I always running down memory lane during these stupid church visits? It's like I can't get my mind off of childhood. Are you looking down (or, to be realistic, up) and haunting me from afar, making sure I don't forget you? I'm not gonna forget, I promise.
I couldn't. Not even if I tried.
Your eyes were blue flecked with green and gold, just like mine. Everyone always said we had the prettiest eyes, so finely shaped and colored, with long, long eyelashes. So long that mine touch my eyebrows, and yours did too.
Dark hair, beautiful eyes, thick eyebrows (that I refused to pluck because I liked how I looked, and besides, you said I was pretty just the way I am and I don't know why it made an impact but it did), and that little turn-up at the end of the nose. We looked so alike, so obviously brother and sister, people used to think we were twins. It was strange that you were two years older than me and I was really just a tag-along little kid.
You never treated me like the annoying little sister, and I guess I should thank you for that. I would have had to hurt you intensely if you had. Dull spoon, straight to the heart.
…You know, that's not funny anymore.
I shouldn't be thinking about these things.
Forgive me father, for I have sinned.
How many times have I been here, again?
This one's for you, you damn idiot. This confessional, not healing anymore. I think I'm a little past healing by now. Maybe I'm somewhere in the realms of deep-seated, life-threatening gangrene, infected, unhealed, dying.
You remember when we got into that fight with the butcher knives and mom just about killed us?
Or when I wrecked my first time driving, and completely totaled your car?
Or the time you were playing with those stupid plastic nunchucks in the store and you knocked that lady down, and she crashed into the aisle and knocked the entire shelf over? I don't think I've ever run so far so fast in my life.
You remember when I sat in a church for confessional for God only knows how long because I wanted to save your soul because I found a religion that said you were damned?
You remember when you broke?
You remember when the vine slipped and you went crashing into the rocks the first time, and we all thought you had died? I feel kind of like that, only there's no reassuring leap from the water, with you panting and clutching your bloody and cut-up arm. No, this time you drowned.
Didn't you say once that God has a sense of humor? You pointed out all sorts of things – the platypus, our cousin, that one star that blinks (it was just a satellite, but you made up some elaborate story about stars flying around, trying to find a place in time, and oh look, this one didn't make it). You said that God could redeem, heal, laugh, and smite. And you used to say you'd like to experience everything he could do, just once.
You wanted redemption, salvation, jokes, and wrath. You wanted it all, you got it all.
Wrath of God, or merciful salvation? Which is this?
I remember the last time I saw you. You looked so… imperious. Cold, angry, shattered, and ready to run. I remember thinking that this wasn't you – this was some alien, some body snatcher, some inhuman creature taking over your body – anything but my sweet, funny brother who used to jump into rocks and play pranks on the teachers.
But your eyes were too you. Too blue, too innocent, so scared and sad and worried. And it broke my heart because I remember thinking that I knew exactly what was coming and I could have stopped it, couldn't I? And then you just said – promise me you'll always laugh. You always look so happy when you're laughing, like there's not a care in the world. Promise me.
And I knew I couldn't have done a thing.
Forgive me father, for I have sinned.
I remember the creek. I remember your careless leaps. I remember how you broke your ankle, and my wrist, and three fingers and a toe and busted up your heel that one time. And I remember when you landed it – splash – right into the water without a second thought, like it was just instinctual. Like you were born to jump into the unknown like a bat out of hell because you could.
And I remember thinking that this is what I'll remember about you when you're gone – an uncaring leap into oblivion – invincibility – freedom – absolution. In a creek far from home, this is how I remember you.
Three Hail Marys today, and someone picked up the rosary.
Jesus is on the cross and Mary's arms are open. I imagine that heaven is pretty. I don't believe they won't take you.
You'd jump that creek, I know you would.
This is what I remember about you. That second of freedom – that pink lemonade rotting the grass brown – those stitches in your lip from the bottle rocket – flying through the air, still in the hammock – flying into the rocks – there's not a care in the world.
And if the vine slips, oh well, we'll try again tomorrow.
Author's Note: The quote at the beginning is from the song, Innocent by Fuel. It's not mine.