We weren’t allowed to have TV Guide in the house because Helen believed that Jesus was coming back any day now. If He saw it tucked away among the Good Housekeeping and Guideposts, He would just naturally assume we watched the sinful programs described inside its thin, tempting pages. The idea of Jesus barging through the door, giving us a quick once-over before determining if we were worthy and then sending us up into the sky via holy jet propulsion terrified me.
I spent languid moments in the bath at night, hands rigid at my sides, careful not to touch any unclean part of myself. “Jesus sees it all,” Helen would say. “Everything you do, every thought you have.” I wondered if that also meant He saw the things that weren’t my fault and that maybe those would give me a little wiggle room in the final test. Jesus had a front row seat as I soaked my despair in cheap grocery store bubbles, hair fanning out around me like a profane halo. I would fill my lungs before sinking under the water, child spine meeting porcelain with a soft thud. The world clicked off like the mindless flip of a light switch before you leave a room and the silence became a womb; another chance at redemption, a clean slate for divinity.
I’d stay under until my anger and lack of breath met each other in a thunder clap and then I would break free and gulp down the same stale air, the same fears and wounds. “Fuck you,” I’d murmur rebelliously, letting my palms graze the tops of rigid nipples, knowing this was all a game of madness, of fear, of control. But before I’d get out, I’d whisper, “I’m sorry. Save me.”
Just in case.