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A New Him

I couldn’t breathe. My heart was pounding, and not just due to running. Each gasping breath I drew sounded foreign to my ears, making sucking noises and heaving shakes. My whole face felt like a back massager, trembling in fear. “Oh God!” I cried to the tree blocked sky. I lay down in the dirt, not caring if pine needles and leaf bits stuck in my hair. It already looked dumb enough in low pigtails, and the curls I usually prided in only succeeded in making it even more babyish. I still sucked pitifully, helplessly at air that refused to stay in my lungs. I was gonna die that night. If I didn’t kill myself, someone would.
I yanked a stick off of a nearby tree, hoping the old tree would give up on its desires to be decorated for Christmas (or in our house, a “bucking Christmas,” only without the b.) and feel the same ripping sensation I felt in my heart in its trunk. This branch became my walking stick. And what a picture I must have been, starting at my rubber shower clogs nearly worn through, to my oversized jacket hanging off my shoulders, my blue hands clutching the stick. (It wasn’t that cold- I was just wearing gloves I had found in my jacket pocket). I dug candy wrappers from my pockets, sprinkling them at my crash site, as if saying, “I was here.” Or, “Contrary to popular belief, I do exist.” At least for the moment anyway. And then I went walking on, blue gloves, rubber shoes and all.
I walked past lit houses, not quite sure where I was going yet, just that it wasn’t back. I could see the happy little families inside cleaning up after dinner. Dogs barked at me as I passed. I felt ready to upchuck the steak I’d just eaten.
My mind drifted back to my own home, not so happy, nearly a mile away now. “No plays for 3 years! No plays ‘til you graduate!” “You’ve got to get along. In 25 years, your mother and I will be dead and the four of you will be a family- you’ll be the family unit.” “You spend all your time on that gol-danged computer!” “You will RESPECT your mother, do you hear me?” “Practice your piano, you little beeper!” But he’d broken two keys on the piano when he’d slammed his fist on it. Try as I might, I couldn’t practice anything. Before he’d broken the keys, the melodies I tried to plunk out were broken themselves. Bada dump dump da, dada da da da dump dump, Bada dump dump da, bada dadadada dah da dump. CRASH! Yelling. Screaming. Somebody save me, please! Grab the jacket, dodge out the door. He yells, “Get back here, you beeeeeeep!” But I’m already gone.
I was no good to anyone. I know that now. I hope that someday someone finds everything I’ve written on that “gol-danged” computer and realizes what they’re missing. Hidden meaning stories like The Missing, or silly ones like From A to Y or Bubbles or adventures and confusion in Double Twist. And my plays. Maybe even my diary. But maybe that’ll just confirm things- that I’m nuts and don’t deserve anything. Not my part in the play I’ll never be, not worthy to cry on stage with “Jesus” or have anyone come to see me. Don’t deserve to make a difference. Don’t deserve to live. Wish I’d thought to grab that steak knife before I’d left. Guess I’ll just have to make do with whatever I can find at the park. I’m so far gone that during his frightening lecture I had the almost untamable urge to grab that steak knife and plunge it into my palm. It would feel good- better than what I felt now. I’ve always been a pretty sane person, but I’m beginning to doubt that. That and the feeling that I would never go back home again. But I didn’t cry. My tears were spent. My usual numbness to these things took over. And I walked on.
By the time I reached the park, it was dark. By the clock at city hall and the last glance at the clock at home, I had been walking for a good hour. Step by step, house by house, block by block, turn by turn. I hadn’t said a word. I passed the skating rink- it was too warm for skating, but maybe I could stay in the warming house. I let the fantasy cross my mind even though I knew it was locked. I was in the city hall parking lot when I looked across the street. There was a church, one window in the chapel glowing welcomingly. It would be warm there. I walked to the street, set down my stick and waited not so patiently for the cars to pass. For now I heard a new voice, calling my name, a new Him, saying, “I love you, come to me, stay with me, I will keep you safe.” I practically flew to the church, grateful that you didn’t have to ring the doorbell and wait for someone to let you in for adoration at this hour. I knew how I looked. I wiped my face on my coat sleeve and sniffled a bit, then walked in the door, signing my name with extra determination, gumption, strength, whatever you want to call it- conviction- that’s the word. Those two words said, “I am here, not was, but am here, am alive and whole because He loved me and He called to me. I am alive in Him.”
That is not the end. Turns out my escapade was leading up to something greater, a newer and deeper relationship that I treasured. All because he loved me and I am his child.
THE END OF THIS NIGHT, BUT NOT OF MY LIFE
AMEN





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