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Behaving

We were on a bus and Shea smelled like cinnamon:

"Jesse?"
"Yes?" (she'd been asleep on my shoulder and her wet hair was making my neck cold)
"You do know that I'm a Catholic, don't you?"
"No, I didn't know that. Are you a Catholic?" (we had been whale watching but all we'd seen was gray water rising and falling)
"Yes, I am a Catholic. I go to mass every Sunday. I thought I should tell you that."
"But you're not a Catholic. I mean, you don't behave like one." (I'd only known her a week and I'd already seen her cuss, gamble, drink and f*** a million times)
"How do you know? What do you know about Catholics?"
"I used to be one." (in first grade I was enrolled in Catholic primary school under my mother's Italian maiden name, Vitale)
"Did you behave?"
"Yes, but only because I was scared." (my little white uniform shirt and little blue uniform sweater used to make me cry)
"Scared of what? Nuns?"
"God." (I used to envision Him as the bearded homeless man who talked to himself and often slept outside on my father's office doorstep)
"I'm scared of God too. That's why I'm a Catholic."
"If you're scared of him, why don't you behave?" (the Catholic school said my long hair violated the dress code so my parents put me back in the reservation school in second grade)
"When you behaved, did it make you less scared?"
"No, I'm still scared." (the night my grandmother died I dreamed that the crazy homeless man was chasing me with haircutting scissors)
"So why should I behave if I'll stay scared either way?"
"Aren't you scared of hell?" (the next day when Shea cut my hair off for me I started envisioning God differently)
"No, but I'm scared of living in disorder."
"No you aren't; your life is disorder on purpose." (now I dream of a loud, red-haired god with two small white breasts)
"My life isn't disorder. I go to mass every Sunday. That's a rhythm."
"If hell is hot, is heaven cold?" (she's a pagan God with wooden bones)
"I've only lived in cold places my whole life. What do you think that means?"
"You could go somewhere warm. I could take you somewhere warm." (on the back of my ear, the tip of her nose is hot like fever)
"No, I might as well enjoy the cold while I can."

In the war, I'm only hot when I'm scared. I'll hear a yell or a crunch and my heart will speed up and my lungs will pump and I'll sweat. Fear is the only hot thing here.
The rest of the time the war makes me cold in a nice numb way. Two of my toes have already turned dark and dead with cold.



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