When I was a girl in Catechism, I was told that the act of Confession is how God would know I was sorry, and I remember thinking God had bigger things to worry about than if I took the trash out. And during my First Confession, I told the priest just that.
I still had to say 7 Hail Marys.
Even though I can no longer feel God, confession’s allure has stayed with me.
I’m not seeking atonement, nor do I think I can be saved. My lesser angels on the darker days would say that I’m asking for permission to commit those delicious sins again.
But confession tastes like loose cotton candy, melting on the tongue, and sugar dripping down the esophagus. And its counterpart, closure, is somehow an unquenchable thirst. I was existing in this charged field of chaos when I realized I am never going to get the apology I think I deserve.
It’s strange – the feeling of deserving more. When I confronted feeling like I was tossed in the landfill, I realized it was he who tossed me there and didn’t look back into the putrescence, but it was I who stayed down for so long.
Moving on doesn’t happen to orchestra swells for me – it happens in Confession, which always makes things feel formally final. But since I no longer feel God, I air grievances to the universe. This can’t stay inside – it will turn me to ash.
I have to confess that I thought about him after he left, more than I care to admit and way more than he deserved. I spent a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to remove the grey matter that contained his name or the skin from the places he touched me.
I had this fantasy with a pinch of torment in it – I wanted it so bad that one night I woke up crying. My teeth paid a price, eventually becoming so shifted and crooked I had to get braces. Biting and cringing, I was choking on everything unspoken.
In this dream, we were driving in a silver, elegant car, with leather seats. It was 4 or 5 am, that time of day when I feel like I am the only one alive. The sun isn’t out and everything is perfectly still and I would move Heaven and Earth for it to stay like that.
He and I had been driving all night, and he was sleeping in the front seat, his face turned away from me. But I knew it was him – it had to be. I had those muscles in his forearms memorized from when he reached for my face to kiss me. Anytime those muscles rippled I was reminded of ocean waves, and thought that must be how people drowned.
This winding road we were traveling on was headed towards Walden Pond, in search of inspiration. I’m a writer, he’s a writer, and we just wanted to feel what Thoreau did all those years ago. The trees along the road were so lush, I wondered if there was a song in their sway and if in the wind, there was a story of survival.
I don’t have the music on. I’m listening to him breathing. His breath meant he was alive, and his dangerous indulgences didn’t take him over. It meant God existed because he answered my prayers.
He was afraid of an ordinary life, and I was afraid he was going to die before he found his way, before he had a chance to live.
We’re going to the woods to live deliberately, I’d remind him. To remember the essentials. And we’re going to be alright.
Then we’d get there, witnessing the mediocrity, keeping our disappointment inside because it was just a body of water and we were expecting deliverance.
Together yet separately as two hearts, we’d remember that water is recycled, that everything brought to its end has a chance to begin again, and even the very stuff of life is pulled apart and put back together. We would live our lives to mimic water drops and seasons – try, change, and begin again.
That’s what I think of when I allow myself to think about him.
The substances that impair consciousness are the same ones that fundamentally shape brain chemistry into new formations, and I wondered if that’s what he was truly afraid of. It wasn’t the drugs but their effects, slowly turning a person into someone else. I wondered if knew what cocaethylene was, because I sure do, and I only know what its neurotoxic roots are because he came into my life.
How I seeped into such puddles for him.
I don’t read the Good Book anymore. However, it has this verse that’s been stuck in my head. To paraphrase poorly with every endeavor towards respect, when I was a child, I loved like a child. And when I grew up, I put those childish things behind me.
It feels childish to have such a dream and to have loved him as I did.
But it feels mature and right to unclench my fist and set my strange fantasy free.
Rather than a savior, I’m choosing to believe in quantum superposition and a world where all states of being are valid.
There’s a world out there, an alternative timeline, where we never meet at all. Instead, one day, I’m in a bookstore, and I’m compelled to pick up a book with evergreens on the cover and look at its inside jacket, to find an unfamiliar face. This beautiful face is one I instinctively want to reach out to touch through the page but I settle for tracing the curves of his photographed face with my finger.
The autobiography is about him going to the woods to live deliberatively and how he found everything he needed within his shiny, scrappy soul.
Rachel M. Reis is a writer and photographer from Dallas, Texas. Her work has appeared in Ruminate Magazine, Fathom Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, the Barely South Review, and You Might Need To Hear This. Her freelance photojournalism focuses on civic activism and protests. She has a Bachelor’s in History from William Jewell College and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington.