The Stranger: Matthew Ward Translation
The last chapter through the end
On Not Being Alone
In the rectory I said silently, I feel so alone, with my hands clasped and knees pressed into the pew. I did not know I was going to say this. I was looking at the large painting of Guatemalan life divided into quadrants– two bleak, two sunny and bleak– with Jesus, his arms outstretched, dead-center. His skin was lighter than everyone else’s in the painting, that’s what I noticed first. Then how handsome he was. Jesus: a handsome, strapping man. When I dated Michael he was 33, Chuch is 33 now, and other men I knew in their thirties, and how Jesus was a boy like them in a lot of ways, and how they were men in a lot of ways, and then I imagined myself walking into Jesus’ outstretched arms, my own outstretched the same, and entering his body. It was hopeful.
I thought about how I was in a praying position and not praying. At some point in my life—it might have been within the year, even—I had decided that praying was equivalent to sitting in stillness and had decided I preferred to do the second every time I could remember to do either. When I was a child I prayed nightly. I prayed every night from the first time I believed in the importance of praying until my first year of college. As a child, I remember waking up in the middle of night if I hadn’t remembered to pray before falling asleep. In the beginning of college I attended church as often as I could manage.
I can still say I genuinely enjoy church, but my faith waivered as a natural defense the first time I realized I had allowed a penis inside of me. “Don’t worry,” my first love had replied, “we can pretend it never happened.” “God’ll know,” I said. So I got on top of him and rode him cowgirl style, then had him try to hold me up by pressing me against the wall of his grandma’s apartment, then let him try hopping around like a toad with me on his laps because he’d seen it in a movie once. Just like that, the switch was flipped.
Oh, God, probably I should pray before I get up. But the problem with prayers is that, for me, they are endless. There are an endless amount of people who need help with something, an endless amount of things they needed help with, and then also an endless amount of things to express gratefulness for. I find it very time-consuming and unsatisfying, because I never feel as though I’ve prayed enough. When I walked into La Iglesia de San Francisco I saw a book where you could write your requests or thanks, to God, I presumed. Today is father’s day, so I thought I’d ask for my father to be drug-free and for our family to reunite as soon as possible. Then I remembered I should make sure no one I knew who had died was in purgatory or hell, and that perhaps I could help make sure by sending a request that they be in Heaven. Then I thought of so many other things, and how it was really unfair to leave anyone out, and finally just scribbled, “Por favor bless my family and friends,” and scurried away, because praying is really intimate to me and it made me nervous that people will walk by reading that book willy-nilly.
Intimate like, one time in the parking lot of a chain store, I put my hand on my first love’s chest and prayed out loud in tongues. I think I also cried. I did this once again later to another boyfriend, but his response was not positive and I have blocked it from memory. One thing I have always wanted in a boyfriend is a belief in magic, of which a subset is spirituality.