2223) Reluctant Convert (part two of three)

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Anne Lamott  (1954- )


     (…continued)  I could sing better here than I ever had before.  As part of these people, even though I stayed in the doorway, I did not recognize my voice or know where it was coming from, but sometimes I felt like I could sing forever.

     Eventually, a few months after I started coming, I took a seat in one of the folding chairs, off by myself.  Then the singing enveloped me.  It was furry and resonant, coming from everyone’s very heart.  There was no sense of performance or judgment, only that the music was breath and food.

     Something inside me that was stiff and rotting would feel soft and tender.  Somehow the singing wore down all the boundaries and distinctions that kept me so isolated.  Sitting there, standing with them to sing, sometimes so shaky and sick that I felt like I might tip over, I felt bigger than myself, like I was being taken care of, tricked into coming back to life.  But I had to leave before the sermon.

     That April of 1984, in the midst of this experience, Pammy took a fourth urine sample to the lab, and it finally came back positive.  I had published three books by then, but none of them had sold particularly well, and I did not have the money or wherewithal to have a baby.  The father was someone I had just met, who was married, and no one I wanted a real life or baby with.  So Pammy one evening took me in for the abortion, and I was sadder than I’d been since my father died.  When she brought me home that night, I went upstairs to my loft with a pint of Bushmills and some of the codeine a nurse had given me for pain.  I drank until nearly dawn.

     Then the next night I did it again, and the next night, although by then the pills were gone.

     I didn’t go to the flea market the week of my abortion.  I stayed home, and smoked dope and got drunk, and tried to write a little, and went for slow walks along the salt marsh with Pammy.  On the seventh night, though, very drunk and just about to take a sleeping pill, I discovered that I was bleeding heavily.  It did not stop over the next hour.  I was going through a pad every fifteen minutes, and I thought I should call a doctor or Pammy, but I was so disgusted that I had gotten so drunk one week after an abortion that I just couldn’t wake someone up and ask for help.  I kept on changing pads, and I got very sober very quickly.  Several hours later, the blood stopped flowing, and I got in bed, too shaky and sad to have another drink or take a sleeping pill.  I had a cigarette and turned off the light.

     After a while, as I lay there, I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner.  I just assumed it was my father, whose presence I had felt over the years when I was frightened and alone.  The feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there—of course, there wasn’t.  But after a while, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus.  I felt him as surely as I feel my dog lying nearby as I write this.

     And I was appalled.  I thought about my life and my brilliant progressive friends, I thought about what everyone would think of me if I became a Christian, and it seemed an utterly impossible thing that simply could not be allowed to happen.  I turned to the wall and said out loud, “I would rather die!”

     But still I felt him just sitting there in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn’t help because that’s not what I was seeing him with.

     Finally I fell asleep, and in the morning, he was gone.

     This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition, born of fear and self-loathing and booze and loss of blood.  But then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in.  But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever.  So I tried to keep one step ahead of it, slamming my houseboat door when I entered or left.  (continued…)