Rows and rows of sleeping heads were resting in scratchy, blue and fluorescent purple seats. The hum of the bus rolled on, a deep rumbling, like an old man’s snore.
He slept next to me, or at least he was pretending to. He picked up his arm and twisted and turned until it found its way around her, leaning in with pursed lips. She shrugged back. I looked out the window.
It’s midnight and after a week of camp cheers, Christian how-to’s, raised hands, and emotional vulnerability, I should be sound asleep. Dots of yellow headlights speed through the rain. Bobbing heads ease up and down with the drumming of the bus. Someone’s snoring in the front. It’s nice to hear my own breath for once.
He goes in for the move again, but she pushes away and lays down on the floor. I chuckle. He pretends to sleep again.
I look out the window and sigh. The score for “lives reclaimed” was six this year–a banner year. For some reason I was apathetic. Here I am, staring out the window in the middle of the night, having paid a few hundred dollars to get a spiritual high, shelling out hard cash for a good Jesus hit. But nothing happened. No epiphanies, no miracles, no revelations, not even one of those week-long, whirlwind camp romances.
I’d prayed hard and meant every word. When they said to think of your “lost” friends, your “non-christian” friends, I prayed for the two I knew. I sang every song, savoring every word. I participated in cheers. I played all the group games. I was honest when we talked about our “struggles.” I admitted to saying not-so-nice things about that girl no one likes. I knew I wasn’t enduring the slavery, abuse, or persecution that all the starving kids in third world countries in the videos were, but to me, those were struggles.
Nothing. All my friends had revelations, all my friends talked about Jesus like they knew him, all my friends “rededicated” their lives, claiming all their religious acts before that point had been a result of following Baptist protocol.
I’d meant it from the start. I’ve been reading that Book voluntarily for years. I could tell you what we talked about in church last week. I invited the annoying girl to eat lunch with us. I’d been at this for years! I deserved something.
But this year, nothing worked. No hymn got my heart beating fast, no long sermon pulled any tears from my eyes. I was dried up, a lonely island in a man-made lake.
I’m thinking at the speed of the cars passing. My heart is pounding to the beat of the tires on the pavement. I rest my head on the seat in front of me.
I let it out. In whispers, I chant my anger. I press my hands to my chest, I cover my mouth. I rock back and forth, back and forth. What seems to me like a reenactment of crazy, naked dancing scene at the beginning of The Crucible, is probably just the sound of a whimpering puppy to the bobbing heads I’m trying not to wake.
My head is so loud. It throbs with the screams, curses, and demands bouncing around like pinballs. The suppressed anger of one week full of non-stop exposure to a Being that wouldn’t even show himself to me burst out. Words are coming out of my mouth, medleys of hymns and curses and praises and muffled phrases that I can’t even control.
I feel a nudge. He moves closer to me, puts his arm behind my head, and pulls me in. I push back. The last thing I need right now is some guy who thinks he’s smooth, blurring the friend/lover line with his girlfriend two feet below us.
I look out the window into a deep blue, blurs of yellow dots coming at me. My face is hot and wet. Tears beat down like rain. They come in steady 3/4 time, with every blink. There’s a cacophony of voices inside my head. I feel delirious. There’s a bubbling inside of me, a hot boil, a nervous, vibrating heartbeat. I can feel it shaking, feel it bouncing around frantically inside my body. He asks if I’m okay. I push away. He falls asleep.
I look out the window. It’s white. Completely white. A bright light coming towards me, blending with the cars passing. It engulfs me, swallows me and all the cymbals going off in my head. It was a soft light. Pure and eerie, as if satin were a gaseous state. It was alive.
I felt thin ribbons of grass beneath my feet. The light was bright like the sun, but I could stare at it without any black spots appearing after I blinked. The light was sitting on a throne, I’m not sure how light sits, but it was. I walked towards it, stepping delicately on large, pale stones peeping out from below the grass. It pulled me in, enchanted me.
White-robed figures stood to each side. I never saw their faces, but they felt kind, something just told me they were. My fingers touched an airy dress flowing down to my knees. I started dancing.
The light danced with me. I could feel myself smiling and laughing. I twirled and jumped, the whole white world moving with me. I chuckled. I couldn’t stop. I just kept giggling and crying.
I felt the cold window against my forehead. I laid down in the grass, felt it between my fingers. I was still dancing, still laughing, still crying. I put my hand over my mouth to stifle the sound. My hand rested on my stomach, on the white dress, soft like flower petals. The brightness so brilliant, so ethereal.
My face hurt from a wide grin. I couldn’t stop. It stayed like cement. Tears streamed down my face, racing the rain on the window. Headlights flew through the dark.