No Church in the Wild

Writing, from the writer’s perspective, exists in some perpetual state between dreaming and waking. Charlene often finds that her best writing is done when writing to someone about things that are happening in real time. These moments often evolve into characters and stories and books– beloved, treasured, with minds and hearts and lives of their own. People often ask, “How much of it is true?” All of it, in a sense. 


from: Charlene

to: Jo

date: Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 9:47 PM

subject: No Church in the Wild

Hey Jo,

Thanks for doing this, here goes!

A couple of months ago, I met a girl. We were at a bonfire– one of those things we rarely do anymore. There were a handful of us– old friends from childhood that had all drifted apart in one way or another. But we get together about once a year to do a thing, and this year– this was that thing. I was sitting on a blanket, facing the water when I saw her from a distance. She was walking towards us and I still remember the way she looked. She felt so ordinary to me from afar but then, all of a sudden, she was close enough to touch and I swear I couldn’t see a single other person on the beach; which was mightily inconvenient since the last thing I wanted to do now was introduce myself.

I don’t remember what she said. I was too busy concocting a bland expression of warmth and normalcy in my greeting. I swear I had known her from somewhere else.

The evening went on, and the night grew darker and people began to filter out. As did we… and that was the beginning. Over the next month, we met up for coffee, and then meals, and chatted incessantly over text, about everything—from the stars and the moon and the seas and art and God and… absolutely nothing. Sometimes I wonder if we were talking to make sure the other person actually existed. You know, Jo, I am a person that dearly loves my sleep but I found myself awake at the small hours of the night, revealing some of the deepest most intimate things I’ve never been willing to reveal even to myself. I was in this constant swing between knowing this was the most right and familiar thing I had ever experienced with another soul, and being absolutely afraid to continue the conversation.

In between all this, I stopped and then started going to church again.

And then, a few weeks ago, something started unraveling in me—slowly and deeply. I would cry uncontrollably at nighttime, sometimes in my waking sleep and I felt my navel pull upward and downward, like my intestines were trying to fall out of my body. I walked through my life, my lackluster absolutely boring life—except everything seemed just a little bit altered now. My co-workers looked different to me, sentences felt funny to me. Words were confusing. Work was confusing. Sermons were confusing. I didn’t understand what was happening. What would my family think? My friends? My church? People I didn’t even fucking know? Everything was in an utter tailspin. So, I ended things with Gisele.

It began last Friday, the crying had gotten particularly bad. I’d woken up and changed the wet pillowcases again and trudged to work. I had spent that next day, doing nothing but crying in my bed. Writing shitty words that I didn’t understand but that also felt more familiar to me than anything else I’d ever written, wondering whether it was silence or screaming from God and wondering whether it meant that he hated me; until it was morning and I forced myself to go to church again for God only knows what reason. And I can’t explain to you how I felt on Sunday, Jo.

In the morning, I cried some more, got up, and went to church. I sat there, lips pursed, hands pressed under my legs. I didn’t understand what any of the words meant anymore. Everything felt new—as if I hadn’t seen the Church before, as if I knew nothing about the world and about me, and everything locked inside me was out and was terrifying.

I’d never felt this kind of vulnerability or terror in my life, never— not through almost drowning in Lake Washington, not through studying for the bar, not through my father’s three heart attacks… I felt every inch of my body exposed and exhausted from existing and doing nothing… and hiding. I cried throughout the entire sermon. I don’t even know what it was about. I tried to sing really loud when it came to the singing, to drown out wherever ends of the fucking universe my soul was trying to crawl to. I came out of service thinking, no. This place. This place that raised me, and fed me, and was my family and my soul—the Church, capital C, will never understand what it has done to me.

I ran into an old flame on the way out the door. A blue-eyed, sandy blond hair(ed?), incredibly fit and objectively beautiful man. But when I looked at him, I felt like I was physically looking back in time to a day when I felt my body was on fire whenever I was around him. Fire. Just a year ago. And I looked at him now, and he just looked really tired, a little older. Nothing negative, nothing positive. Abso-fucking-lutely nothing. Neutral. I don’t know why, but I felt that screaming silence in me drum louder and felt lonelier than I had the whole week.

Whenever I feel remotely upset, I drive west until I hit the Pacific Ocean. I found myself wanting to talk to Gisele more than ever, and tried calling to no avail. She had been so offended by my abrupt end of things that I was sure she’d never talk to me again. I had left her in a lurch, in her own coming out– and she was more fragile than I was. So I sat there, watching the sun set over the ocean and I couldn’t even cry. I just didn’t know what to do. I felt emptied. There were occasions over the past several months where I’d feel like I had to pray, like words welled in my chest and they would sit there like coals burning through my skin until I let them out. I wrote these prayers on scraps of paper. They were always for Gisele. And another welled up, so I wrote it down—

I’m sorry I can’t be there for her right now.

Heal her, Jesus, from her wounds—her deep wounds from childhood, from infancy. From being misunderstood, from being alone her whole life, from feeling so fucking alone.

Loneliness is the absence of a reflected humanity. We need each other, I mean generally—as a goddamn species—because the irresolution of loneliness results in emotional death. Resurrect us. Bring her back to life—like Lazarus. Healing is in Your hands—joy and courage, may they be restored to her soul. So that we might have peace.

And I looked up, and watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean; and I heard a voice inside me reverberate warmly throughout and I knew it was the first time God was speaking to me in half a year. And the Lord said— “Who do you think you are?

Anyway, thanks for reading my story, Jo. It’ll turn into something someday. Clearly, Gisele doesn’t exist… actually most of this was from a dream, an extraordinary and very weird dream– like it was whispered to me in a few seconds on that beach yesterday as pictured above. Hah. Omg, but never mind about me– how was Mont Blanc??? In FRONCE? I already miss you.



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