Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. – Psalm 51:10-12
Alone again. Alone. Ashley’s off with David, Hannah is out having sex with the next boy, whoever he is. I think this one isn’t circumcised or something. I had to look up a picture on the Internet to get a good idea of what that would be like. Gross.
My roommate isn’t home and my boyfriend is out with his friends in San Francisco. Will call when he gets back. Nothing good on TV, and anyway I can’t stop thinking.
It’s dangerous tonight.
He said, “I can feel you fighting against yourself,” and that he would have stayed with me either way. I looked at him sideways and skeptically, until the day that I realized it didn’t matter. He can be there when I don’t want to think about anything—when I’m tired, when I’m done. He can be there when I think I want to be bad, but don’t want to get caught and can’t handle being judged. He can be there when I want to swear and I can tell him that “fuck” is one of my favorite words. He laughs and says, “Just don’t say that around Sheila.”
He called me “Leggy Brunette” that one time when I leaned against the wall of Todai’s and he called, “Who’s that leggy brunette?” I looked down to blush, but didn’t know if I should. It was serious time and I kissed him, saying, “We really need to talk.” We walked outside to the F-150 and the key was already in my hand. I let us into the cab, where he held my hand to his mouth, running his lips up and back across my knuckles. My hands, his lips, his hands—and I thought of last night under the oak tree and the moon. It sounds like a fairytale, until I throw in the detail about the green pup-tent that kept falling down on us so many times that we finally just said “fuck it” (that’s not a euphemism).
I had on the new bra and boy shorts Mom had bought me at JC Penny, and the guilt of having this encounter on her dollar did not make me feel sexy. But he did when he undid my jeans and smiled and said, “Mmm.” We drove up to his friend’s property in his yellow Corvette and got out and he was wearing a suit. And then he slid his hand into my boy shorts and I pushed him away at first and then didn’t again.
In the cab, I made eye contact with everything on the dashboard before I told him that last night was great, really, really great, but that it could never happen again. His eyes changed to a slight hurt and I wanted so badly never to have that affect. He paused only a little longer than he would have liked and said, “Whatever you want. I’m just happy to hold your hand.” I looked up at him to smile, as my eyes had been wandering about the center consul, but instead leaned over to kiss him. Lips on his lips, I kissed him absolutely harder than I was supposed to and pulled him into me, fingers sliding up the back of his neck.
Even now, I can’t remember if we did the same thing in the cab that morning as we did in the tent the previous night, but it doesn’t really matter. I know that now. Standing leggy against the wall before, I had just wanted to avoid the lingering smell of memory while sitting in the church pew. I hoped he would take over my responsibility of abstinence—share it, at least—and I could say, “Hold this behind your back and don’t let me have it.” And he would do that and want to participate in the game. Ah, it could be so easy, I would think, forgetting that he had said, “Whatever you want.” And that I had said…
It’s amazing how my three-word response had the immediate power to change all the planned words against them. I said what I said and it turned into action, and I finally understood the difference between promise and what I was actually capable of.
Capable, that’s not what I mean. I’m capable of quite a bit. Save perfection. But no, it doesn’t feel right to even say that. I’m incapable of being perfect, of course. Fallen world, fallen children—I’m not suggesting an exemption from that. But breaking perfection into its parts: obedience, perseverance…well, obedience probably covers it all, makes it seem that it shouldn’t be so impossible. Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie. Okay. Love thy neighbor and the Golden Rule. Simple. I can always do better, true, but the point is that I look back on my mistakes and can say, “But, you know, I could have done right.” I could have, that’s the thing. And since I could have, I am able to, which makes me think perfection in its parts to be attainable.
But then, nobody is forcing me to do wrong at all, so why not do right? Maybe with perfection it isn’t a question of capability so much as one of will. Or of want. I don’t want to say want, but then what is will if not a conflict of wants? So, then, I do not want to be perfect, which is why I’m not. I am immediately disobedient.
But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe what I want isn’t supposed to be factor. Just do it. Or, in this case, don’t. Don’t have sex. Simple. You say, “I’m saving myself for marriage,” and then that makes it true.
It should really be that simple, and yet the want creeps in. Well, it really doesn’t creep in so much as it is in and wants to creep out. “Put it in,” I told him, but what I meant was, “Let it out.” Release, it’s out.
About a week ago, I took some of my guilt to a therapist who asked me, “Do you really think it’s possible to do all these things?” I paused before I said, “Why shouldn’t it be?” We talked about my childhood and how my aunties would say, “Go to Stanford,” and my grandpa, “No, go to Cal!” They would always agree on one thing, though, as I offered up preliminary professions for myself: singer, musician, archaeologist, model (I was six): everything I wanted to do, I should do, they would say, “After you cure cancer.” And “after you cure cancer” was what I heard for the next twelve years, until I decided that I wasn’t altogether great at science or math and that I much more enjoyed reading than anything else. I decided that I wasn’t going to be a doctor, but it was never because I thought I couldn’t. I said, “I guess I’m not going to cure cancer,” but kept trying to think of ways that I could.
I laughed about these things with the therapist and he was laughing too, when he asked what I said he asked earlier. He apologized that he wasn’t well-versed in religion, but that from other life experiences, he could tell me that an all-or-nothing attitude hardly ever works. I nodded with a down-turned smile but wondered why not? “Never say never” and “You can do anything you set your mind to”—these are the things I have been taught. And now I can’t say I can’t, but what’s the problem there? Cant’s get in the way of doing, and the doing is what needs to be done. I can’t say I can’t cure cancer; it would be denying a thing to be done.
Well, I’m a bitch, then. That’s the only possibility. Because if I do believe that I can cure cancer, I have the moral responsibility to do so. And if I don’t cure cancer without saying that I can’t, well then that’s just a big “Fuck you” to a lot of suffering people, isn’t it?
I can’t cure cancer. I mean I know I won’t do it. I’m not a doctor, I’m not even good at math…
It really should be a lot easier to just say that I can’t do everything, anything. It should be just that easy, since it has really been quite obvious. I had been determined to reach that marriage line, virginity intact, and I couldn’t—didn’t. I didn’t, even though I had been utterly determined for three whole years.
God. It sounded so noble then and yet, three years? I guess by the end of my life, it will hardly even be worth mentioning. So, why mention it now? Well, I guess I have to. No, I mean I don’t have to. Still.
Listen, I’m not an idiot and I’m not some spiritual moron. Well, maybe I am, but it isn’t because of a lack of dogmatic understanding in regard to such a base tenement of my faith – the tenement. I know that I’m not perfect and can’t be. Obviously. I know that. I know I need Christ as my Redeemer and all that. I know that. I feel that, I should say. No, I feel and know. Well, which is the better way to explain it? I feel in my deepest down bones that I am not and cannot be perfect and, therefore, need to be redeemed. I want to be, too.
I feel these things, but it’s the matter of knowing that’s harder. Because even though there are all these instances of the Bible that talk about the inability to be perfect and all that, well there are parts that say, “Be perfect!” Is it a trap? Some cruel joke? That’s why I had to change the verb just now from know to feel. But it still isn’t quite right. I feel what I should know, but I don’t know exactly what I feel. It’s harder, the knowing, because words can make my mind confused. The heart is exempt from all that word crowd.
Still, if someone tells me to aim for perfection, I consider perfection to be the mark and, more, for that mark to be attainable. More than that even. Like in fifth grade, when Mrs. Barton gave the assignment to write a sentence with nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, I came back with a seventeen-line sentence and colored illustration. Or in my senior year of high school when we were assigned to prepare persuasive sales presentations for economics and my group showed up in matching shirts, skirts, and ties with color charts and product samples. Or what about every other example of my stupid life that’s boring, but nevertheless true?
It’s not as if I obsess over achieving (yes, I do) or like my world is crushed when I don’t (I don’t sleep well), it’s just that…well, I don’t know what it’s just. I don’t know. I like to please. I like for people to say, “Brittany, I’m proud of you.” I like it when people tell me what to do, when they expect things, when they tell me where the mark should be. I look at it and say, “I bet I can do even better.” People come to expect things and even if they didn’t before, I like to be the person to give them something to expect. For the next time. I give it to them.
Am I easily manipulated or something, just because I aim to please? I don’t think that’s it. That’s really not it, even though I’m sure it seems that way to everybody else. I really wish they could see. But, no, they won’t. And they don’t know me and I don’t know them and I don’t care what they think about it all, anyway. No, I do care. I care that what I’m living and what I’m saying will make people see something good in me and that their staying will keep me company. Even though now I’m alone.
Maybe that’s why I listen when someone says, “This is what you should do,” and I love it. I have a 720 credit score, a 3.7 GPA (that could have been higher), and I’ve never been pulled over for a traffic ticket. Never. And I want everyone to know that, or not know that, but just benefit from my doing well, but it’s not like I think that I’m perfect.
I’m sorry I’m not curing cancer; I’m sure I could have been a better help. It’s just so ridiculous. Me, I mean. I’m ridiculous. I feel that. I feel ridiculous. Am I happy now?
I’m sorry. Thinking isn’t always the way to understanding. It’s just so hard not to do it all the time. Think, think, think, think, think. Sometimes it’s nice to let that go.
But I don’t know if I can. It’s hard when you realize you’re human. It’s hard if you’ve been trying so hard to overcome that, been promised and made promises that it can be done, only to find yourself equalized by a constant.
And then, on second thought, the equalizer, the constant, has a beauty of its own, perhaps more precious than what you were trying to attain. There is beauty in the dirt, love in the mire, and grace in the earth.
Then why do I feel like there’s no sense on earth for this? No sense, because truth be told, I’ve forgotten how to remember that there aren’t any holes in the Bible—that there aren’t any questions that can’t be answered by a cover-to-cover interpretation of tissue delicacy. I’ve forgotten how to remember to explain translation, context, and history, while simultaneously holding that translation, context, and history have little to do with it. I’ve forgotten how to speak at all, but I guess I never really knew. And now I wonder if I have to know—if knowing is really the burden that God has set upon me. I don’t know. And trying to know while knowing I don’t know makes me weary. Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. I am weary of trying to know. And I think God knocked me on my ass for this purpose: to remember why I have faith—it fills the gap where rhetoric fails.
I’m really sorry. I want to be better. If only I could say I’m a good girl; if only I could say I’m a virgin. If only I could say that I can’t cure cancer. But, no, that’s not it at all. If I could give someone my responsibility, have him hide questionable things behind his back, then life would be so simple. It could be so simple again. Tell me what to do—like that. But he said, “Whatever you want,” and all the mess rushed out. All the mess as I sat on the porcelain toilet, looking at my feet, forcing myself to feel unhappy, to cry. All the mess as I finally walked back to bed with his coaxing and laid my hand across his chest. All the mess as he woke up in the morning and caught my eyes and asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?” And I said, “Yes,” and then he kissed me and brought me white roses the next day. All that mess.
But maybe what [X] and I are doing is beautiful. Maybe what we’re doing is fine. Certainly what we’re doing is only between the two of us – so why does everybody else want to judge? The consequences are mine. And his. Our consequences are mine and his.
If I had a little more confidence, this would be more convincing. I used to go to the Bible for confidence and I used to go to church. Now, I don’t trust myself with either, but somehow feel God is with me, oozing through my skin.
My roommate just walked in.
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