The Empty Church


He lowers his mouth to hers as their lips connect, and he breathes slowly out, while she breathes slowly in; the smoke burns as it travels down her throat and fills her lungs. She closes her lips, leans her forehead against his as her body goes sleepy-slow. Languid.

She feels another hand close round her chin, turning her. New lips meet hers. She breathes out, and he breathes in.

Crawling across the bed, over a tangle of limbs, she lands in Seth's lap. He opens his arms to her, welcomes her as she settles in against him.

And the room is dark and smoke filled; the music so loud she feels it running through her veins. It's Prince screaming Darling Nikki, and the words sound like sin, but she lets them in.

The smoke makes it easy. It doesn't obscure reason, it just pats it down, tucks it away, sets her inside of her skin and out of her head in the most delicious way, so that the hands that burn against her skin melt right into her and she is nothing but touch and rhythm.

And the room is full. A sea of bodies in a smokey haze. She doesn't care. The music thrums inside of her. She is the music. A naked song. Her tan skin with startling bits of white against his dark skin. Her softness against the rock hardness of him. She feels like art, like living poetry, like music born in skin.

When he presses up inside of her she gasps. A moment of wicked clarity. What am I doing? And then the music and the smoke and his warm hands wash over her and she's lost again in rhythm.

She wakes up cold, naked, unsure of where she is, a sick feeling in her stomach, a hazy memory taking shape inside her head. She feels movement, a warm hand on her back. She turns. Seth. She freezes mid-smile when she sees Audrey behind him. Fully awake she sits up. A sea of bodies in a cold room that smells of old smoke.

She can't find her clothes so she grabs a sheet and wraps it around her. She hears Seth, Baby... Audrey laughs, come back... But she's flying out the door, back down the hall to her dorm room where she pounds, waits for her roommate to open the door for her.

She stumbles past, straight into the shower where she sinks to the floor, hot water spilling over cold skin, and she prays.

Somehow she makes it to church. She hides behind her hair. Sits in the back. Searching for God, she listens to every word, sings and takes the words inside of her, wanting to feel them in her blood. She wants God to wash over her, to make her clean. She wants him to love her as she is, lost and broken and scared.

At the end of the service, the Pastor comes and gives her an awkward Christian hug, the sideways kind that has no warmth in it. Can I pray for you? She nods and bows her head.

He prays. Dear Heavenly Father...blah blah blah... In Jesus Name. Amen. She doesn't say amen. She raises her eyes to meet his and he says, just give it to Jesus, whatever it is.

But she doesn't know what it is. She certainly doesn't know how to pluck it out of herself or how to hand it over to Jesus. The words are as empty as the sanctuary in which she stands, the last person in the building.

It wont be long before she runs away from the life she's fallen into. She'll run far and fast and wrap herself in Christian words. And she'll believe, believe, believe, with all her heart and soul and mind and spirit, because it's all she has. The only home she knows. Her only chance for redemption.

And she will do some good.

But over the years, the words will ring hollow until they are nothing more than lonely echoes inside of her head. And the sideways hugs will become a thing she can no longer endure.

The past is so far in the past, it almost never was, but occasionally she remembers and does so without the gnawing fear of hell. And the church feels like a wish.

And God feels like love. Like a face-front hug. She no longer knows his name, but she still feels him.

©Just Kate, 2009

Post Script: For those who know me, remember that I'm a writer. This story is FICTION and designed to address what I see as a failing of "the church."

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    About Me

    I love laughter, wickedness, fearlessness, irreverence, and kindness. I love road trips where I can prop my bare feet up on the dashboard. I love the feel of sunshine warm against my bare skin, the smell of the mountains and the roar of the ocean. I love to read. I love to challenge conventional thinking. I'm a huge fan of spirituality but have little tolerance for religion. I love to talk faith and philosophy. I love children. I get bored far too easily. I love debate and people who don't try too hard. I love it when people aren't afraid to disagree with me and know why they believe what they believe.

    Music

    Things that sound like music to me: rain on a tin roof, the trill of birds first thing in the morning, the coo and gurgle of happy babies, the beat of African drums, the roar of the ocean as the tide ebbs and flows, the sound of a rushing river, unrestrained laughter, the wind moving through leaves, the tick-tock of my grandma's old clock, the crash of thunder, a quiet whisper in my ear, the contented purr of a cat, the musical ting ting of wind chimes, children laughing, the sizzle sizzle sound of something yummy cooking, and the rustle of dry leaves under my feet.

    I also enjoy many musicians and bands including: Ray LaMontagne, Jason Mraz, The Black Eyed Peas, John Mayer, James Carrington, CCR, REM. My favorite genre is acoustic folk/rock.

    Favorite Quotes

    "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." —Aristotle

    "The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." - Ben Okri

    "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do."—John Ruskin