His hand slammed down on the bible, the echoing thumb bouncing around my brain. The migraine I had had since this morning suddenly flared to the point where I felt that two hammers were slamming into the sides of my skull. I imagined two little men whose job it was to control my migraine symptoms, and pictured them doing this. It helped ease the pain a little.
I couldn’t focus on the preacher. I tried to pretend I cared. But on a day like today, I really wish my father had let me stay home. He felt it was more important that I go however, so here I sat, listening to the preacher yell, as each word bombarded my poor aching head. Laying down on a bench (over half were empty) was not an option, though I had tried.
Finally, the preacher slowed, and asked for a song. Everyone got up to shake hands, and sneaked past my father and ran to the bathroom. I splashed cold water on my face in the dark and breathed. In and out. In and out.
I so badly wanted to stay in here, but as any good Baptist knows, the handshake is the “run to the bathroom” moment everyone waits for. So I came out, and sure enough there were two women waiting. Instead of going back in to stand through testimonies and another song or two, I went outside. Dad may be mad at me, but I couldn’t handle anymore.
The air was cool, and felt wonderful on my damp skin. Leaves fell gently to the earth, returning to what they came from. The wind was a whisper, barely moving the leaves around. What a beautiful day to experience. I sat down on the step and tried to ignore the pain in my head. You get used to certain parts of having constant migraines. You begin to function through them, as long as you can avoid certain things (like screaming preachers).
It occurred to me that perhaps I was not as religious as I used to be. It felt like an odd thought. I always remembered the church, Mt. Zion. My grandmother sometimes taking me, or going with my father. I was “saved” and at one time I believed that meant I was going to Heaven. Ninth grade shouldn’t be the time for me to realize perhaps I was no longer religious, or at least not as much as I used to be.
Did I still believe in God? I wasn’t sure. I believed in something, I suppose. I remember the time after reading several books with “gods,” and having said “gods help” and being yelled at.
Looking at nature, though, I knew that this was more spiritual to me than the church was. Thinking about my best friend, who was gay, I knew I couldn’t believe everything the preacher yelled at me, or what people told me that the bible “said.” I refused to believe that a person’s biological makeup could instantly send them to hell. What if they were “saved?” What then? The church didn’t do well with contradicting facts.
The church inside became louder, and I knew it was over. Dad was probably wondering where I was. I got off the porch steps to avoid the rush outside, and walked over to the tree line. The church was set in a beautiful location, but so few people took the time to notice. It’s funny how most people arrive at the last minute, but are the first to jet out the door to their cars – unless there is food.
I heard my dad hollering my name and turned as he saw me. He didn’t look too happy, but I didn’t care. My head had eased a little, and part of me knew inside that I was changing, growing, becoming my own person. And that person may not be what my father envisioned.