I think about sex a lot. Crazy, weird sex. There’s nothing wrong with regular sex, but I believe if you’re going to do something you should do it to the fullest. Funny, because I’ve never had sex. I saw an MRI once of people having sex, and I was surprised by how far the penis lodged into the vagina. I feel like it would hurt, having a meat-sword shoved into your guts like that. It didn’t turn me off the idea, though. It was kind of hot (in a scientific way). That’s a problem because I’m a Christian, and I’m supposed to be abstinent until I marry. I don’t understand it. Sometimes, at night when I’m alone, I wonder if God really cares if I have sex.
I went hiking in Wayne National Forest with my dad once. We got lost in the middle of these terrifying woods, and for twenty-five miles we hiked without a map. My feet bled and my balls chafed. It was the best day of my life. I remember my dad stopped along the path and looked up at this small alcove of pines and breathed in the hot July air. God made this for us, he said. I looked at him, then up at the trees, then back at him and wondered what he saw that I didn’t. Many Christians can tell you the exact moment they met Jesus. I can’t. I’ve just always kind of known. That day in the woods made me wonder if I’ve ever known him at all.
Lilly was a bitch in the literal and figurative sense, a fat black beagle that ate our food if we left it out on the table. The sun shone gold against her dark fur as we drove her to die in Dad’s big white Ridgeline. When the vet stuck the syringe in her leg and pumped her full of poison, I held onto her scruff and felt the rattle of her last breath and watched the last of what she was vacate her as it seeped down the drain right there in front of me. It was visceral, feeling an animal die at the end of my fingertips. I never told my parents (their tears too thick to see) how scared Lilly looked as the life left her body. I often wonder if that’s how I’ll look when I die.
I was walking to my English class in the fall when I passed a beautiful girl with thick dark hair and gorgeous eyes. That kind of girl had a look that reminded me of my weakness so I looked down at the sidewalk. The voice in the back of my mind cursed self-deprecating slurs for looking and thinking like that. It was then I realized that I refuse to let myself be happy. I tell myself I don’t deserve my grades or status. I don’t deserve my body or health. My writing could be better; therefore, I have not worked hard enough. My work is valueless, worthless, without substance. Perhaps the concept of humility in the eyes of God has done this to me, or maybe I have fetishized the role of the martyr to the point of triggering incurable apoptosis of the soul. I think I need a hug.
I stayed up until five in the morning with one of my most sacred confidants; a man who is just as confused and scared of life as I am. We talked for hours in my basement after my sister’s party regaling each other with the stories of women we loved and hated all at once. I was entranced by a particular goddess of mine. I called her Persephone. Her skin was pale and thin and flawless. Her scent, intoxicating. A bittersweet venom that was rank in my mouth. Her spirit was fl awed and fragmented, but she saw beautiful wholeness in me. She was the first girl I loved and the first I put down. My heart ached as I curled up on the couch where she’d once sat on my lap half-
naked, where we’d shamelessly groped beneath the blanket, in another life.
My sister Maggie has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. It is a disability I can pronounce, but cannot explain. Three days before I left for college, I woke to sirens and the voices of strangers. Overnight she had gone into a cluster of seizures that had not yielded for five hours. When she arrived at the hospital her lungs collapsed. Two days later the fluid in her lungs progressed into pneumonia, which is dangerous because her brain has regressed so far she no longer knows how to cough. A week later, she had completely recovered, just in time to finish the first week at her new school. I do not know when my sister will die, but I know she will. It could be tomorrow. It’ll likely be before she is full-grown. You might think I blame God. I don’t. And when she dies, you would think I might abandon God. I won’t. There is more to life than watching my sister slowly die at the hands of a disease I cannot control. I will have to watch. I will pray. But one day, like the rattle in the lungs of my dead dog, or the hollowness of my lonely nights, or the dissatisfaction in my tired mornings, it will come. And I have to be okay with that.