posted on Jan, 19 2011 @ 01:16 PM
I remember Convention the most. It was a meeting held once a year at the end of summer. I had gone with my grandparents since I was very small. It
was a gathering place of white buildings and enormous quonset huts; tied together by a haphazard configuration of gravel roads, dirt paths, and
patches of summer spent grass. It never seemed to rain... All was sun-blind, dust and heat.
The women and girls had to wear dresses, and braid our hair, or tie it up neatly in a bun. They would gather us up in the still gray morning to help
the women make breakfast, and then we younger ones would wander silently from red checker-clothed table to table with coffee, water or
bread-in-a-basket while everyone ate. The men never spoke to us. We would ask if they wanted what we carried and they would simply nod yes or no;
one purposeful head shake, but never words. We had our breakfast after.
Most of the day was spent in Meeting. All gathered in row after row in the stifling August heat in a quonset hut. Everyone singing hymns, and
listening to sermon after sermon while the adults bobbed their heads and murmured in agreement to this or that… More hymns… Preaching…
But interspersed by Confession.
For most of the day, I would wriggle like a fish, flip-flopping from bench to floor and back again, but distracted enough by the hard candy and
coloring books my grandmother brought. Or, with my head in her lap while she stroked my hair, half-dozing and content enough to be still for a while.
But for Confessions I would sit up peeking over the back of the bench, wide eyed, and attentive, but ready to duck my head, and hide away in a
They would stand in the midst of this congregation… and transform. I was fascinated. They began as hesitant, hunched human beings, sweating and
dying one cell at a time; frail, fallible men and women, but they lost gender and even mortality as they went, their voices would become thunder, and
then they changed... They became as long, thin willows, their very bodies reaching for the ceiling as if to ascend through it, or standing like great
oaks rooted to the floor… Giants with lifted, clenched jaws and shining, flashing eyes, and no arrogant aspirations for heaven... And they were on
fire... "Gods Will Be Done". Terrible and beautiful to watch, I was always afraid the entire building would be consumed with them.
The words were always the same, and mattered little enough to me; they would confess that they are sinners, but mostly their love for Jesus for this
opportunity to be forgiven, and the profound ecstasy they experienced when they finally understood what his sacrifice meant. Eventually weeping and
swaying and shrinking back into humanity and being held up by those near. Sometimes, they would crumple and have to be half carried out into the
brilliant sun, flashing beyond the briefly open door. I couldn’t shake the impression that they disappeared into nothing… Or were incinerated.
They probably wouldn’t have minded.
For the children, I remember a rusting, flaking, playground; burning and peeling paint in the sun. There was no shade to be had. Beside it was a
red-clay, barren field. Turned up dead soil every year. I don’t know what they grew there, but it couldn’t have been much. Beyond that barbed
wire fence looking out into that flat, heat-shimmered expanse of tilled wilderness, I could never shake the impression that it went on until it simply
merged into the sky. Some lost, in-between place that if you wandered too far you would simply find purgatory; kicking dirt clods, and stumbling over
hard-baked rows forever. It pressed on my consciousness like an enormous calloused palm at my temple while I careened and squealed with passing
playmates from the merry-go-round to the slide… Pretending it wasn’t there.
I think I was eight or nine when I crossed that fence as the obligatory lone girl in a rowdy gang of dirty-faced, windy-haired boys. Slipping through
snagging, barbed wire. Grim faced little thieves. I’m not sure what we were looking for… We did find an enormous cricket not twenty paces in.
It was swollen-bulbous and alien, with huge pincers and busy, questing, better-than inch long antennae. A primordial yellow-brown-grey, quivering,
shining lumps in the sun. It looked like it belonged there, vomited up by that red soil. Everyone was afraid to touch it… We surrounded it.
Hands-on-knees, or crouched down—minute, superstitious savages. Council convened, and all agreed we had never seen anything like it in all our
collective wanderings and spider-web pokings; the boys all the while harassing, with scavenged sticks and still-hot-from-the-sun-clumps of dirt and
stones… I was afraid it would grow tired of being poked and prodded and take it's True Form, rising up to trap us in that place. Finally we left
it to lurch about in the wasted soil as The Devils Messenger. I never did cross that fence again, but I still carry that field with me. A red,
shimmering half-place in the corner of my mind, that dusts my throat just to think of it.
When I was eleven one of my cousins explained that once I began menstruating, I would no longer be able to sleep with my grandparents in their camper.
I would have to stay in the dorm with the other unmarried young girls. I asked her to show me. Bed after plain bed in rows on the worn wooden
floor. You could see the yellow insulation fluffed, stuffed, and creeping like mold, among the steeple like rafters. She talked about making friends,
and staying up late, and all the fun to be had. While she painted a picture of warm, giggling, sisterhood, I looked dubiously at the sparse beds in
white linens lined up like pale soldiers fading into the darkness, and the tiny windows high up that filtered sparse light down through the dust. It
looked like a concentration camp... A prison. Those hurriedly built or half-abandoned places where they quietly tuck away the unwanted, where you
are left just biding time waiting... For reprieve or death.
That was the last year I went.