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Wednesday Night Angels
In my younger days I shrunk into the backseat of the car.
Didn’t know where the big people were taking me—church, a new house, a therapists’ office, a grocery store, a psych ward.
Now on Wednesdays for years, I’ve been diamonded over with a feeling of space and loneliness and drama—I couldn’t describe it.
In my younger years, I had an AWANA shirt that came to my knees and a smile that didn’t reach the lowest windowsill.
Back in my old town on Wednesday nights, there were big kids and memory verses and beanbags, and once we were outside, headlights and stars and new moons. The night was like a great big banana that was unpeeled. When we moved, the church they packed off to for AWANA had this rancid-cigarette smell I couldn’t pin down, along with coffee stirrers, sugar packets, tracts, and missionary posters.
At AWANA, when I wasn’t desperately reciting Bibles verses to my beloved leader, Mrs. Gibbons, I was squashed into the small places of the church. I was crouched in the windowsill, picking at dead ladybugs. I was on the duct tape mark for getting hit in dodgeball. I was making ridiculous faces while crammed on a line, waiting for Mommy or Daddy to pick me up. The old man yelled at us for not shouting YOUTH ON THE MARCH loud enough, and with equal ferocity ordered us to be QUIET. He had this nasty handkerchief he blew his nose into. He had this grizzled signing voice that was cracked from yelling kids into the kingdom of God, for which he was an approved workman who was not ashamed. We boys and girls were for his service claimed. I hoped that did not mean I was Mr. Zeto’s little Bible-verse nymph for all eternity. The leaders signed their names in my handbooks, and I tattered AWANA bucks as a reward.
In my younger years, I was swallowed up by the hugeness of sixth graders and embarrassed the piping sound of my too-cute voice. An unexplainable melancholy followed me as I gazed at my reflection in the church window, hearing dodgeballs whip and crash and kids scream. I gazed at that reflection and made believe I was a hero who was short but STRONG. I gazed fearfully, as thought I expected more than darkness to rush back into my eyes. They said If I asked Jesus into my heart I would go to Heaven. So I did. Soon, I went downstairs to dodgeball and got a perfect analogy of hell.
My family life was falling apart. My family was nothing but a sea of food pantry leftovers, broken cars, delinquent or autistic brothers, antidepressants, screaming mother, crying father, cold days at homeschool co-op, long and drawn-out phone conversations I wasn’t supposed to hear. I was the little sister. The only one not in the psych ward. The family car was full of screaming. I was glad I got to be by myself at church and hear nice peaceful things about God. Why didn’t those heartless screaming kids who called me a shortie and tripped over me, why didn’t they ever ask what I had just seen and heard my house? Didn’t they know how insulting it felt to be nine and have a boy say, “Gosh, I thought you were four!” I was glad when I befriended Katy Jo, and we did handstands on the sidelines of dodgeball. Neither of us cared for the rude boys or the destructive games. That was halfway normal. I liked AWANA.
In my younger years, the distance led me many strange places. But they always led me back to Bible Church and AWANA. Now the distances lead me on and on. And I’m still going nowhere at no speed.
Today. Tonight. Nobody’s fighting and no brothers shrieking. But my parents’ bibble-babble echoing through the silent house makes me feel as revolved as in the old days of family fights. I want to claw and tear at the world. Why do they think the house is peaceful? My thoughts are passionate, hot, and violet. Nobody knows me.
And I feel sad. Tired. Old. Thought I am still a child, I feel old…
In my younger years, at AWANA, I’d chew coffee-stirrers, take off my shoes, and feel my tiny sweaty feet. I’d stared fixedly at a tract marked CAN I BE FORGIVEN? with a creepy picture of a woman on the front. I read the tract. I pretended to understand God.
The world is nothing but a great big ocean of loneliness. The world is ending.
On Wednesday nights, alone in the gym, I’d wave my arms, twirl, and dance. When Mommy and Daddy came to take me home, reason and logic and memory were gone. I was looking for a shooting star as we passed Gjovik car dealership. Looking for a light in eternity. Looking for myself. When the morning came, my Disney Princess alarm clock woke me and I was forever moving forward farther, farther on.
I have faith and will see an end to these strange Wednesday nights. My angels carry my packs, my bags, my burdens. So many angels. So many dreams! From morning to night, they know and cover me. Nobody is too tiny to feel the wings of angels on a black, beautiful Wednesday night.