A Question of Faith

By:  The Vampire Sweets

 

            I used to believe that anyone who could stand up and believe in something was strong. Now I wonder if someone just wanted me to think that. How could they presume so much? How could they not know that one day I would reach a crossroad where everything they were withholding from me would come rushing at me from every direction? When you shelter someone too much you lost that person even faster than you normally would. Granted, you may have a tight grip, and total control for awhile, but once that prisoner finds a way out there is no going back.

            Iím Aurora Kennedy, and only after 17 years of misery did I come to the conclusion that I never really bought any of this religious garbage. Iíd been resentful about it since I can remember; I would not go to church without a fight, and once I arrived I created a thickly insolated world. Everything going on around me seemed soft, dream-like and meaningless to me. I passed right through it and when it was time to go home I felt like somebodyís footÖasleep, and tingling with sensation after being deprived of motion, and blood for four straight hours. Nothing but the anger and boredom seemed real. I was angry at having to pretend to be this sweet little, naÔve, little girl, when what was really inside was a million curses, and choice phrases. Even the pastor, our loving shepherd seemed like he may have been running a slaughter house in his spare time away from prayer meets and retreats.

            My entire world did not fit around me, but they made it fit because they wanted a certain effect. I remember my clothes being an issue particularly going into high school. My mother may as well have gone shopping for me by herself. She knew exactly what she liked, and what I absolutely would not wear. My clothes were not just my clothes; they were a reflection of her, my father, and how closely we followed our beliefs. What would the brothers and sisters say if they saw me out, or even in church wearing a pair of snug jeans or a halter-top? I believed her when she told me I didnít need make-up, but I had no choice but to believe her, and conform. She wasnít about to let me wear any in the first place. I did buy lipstick my freshman year, and only in my senior year did I buy the powder, and mascaraÖ. that didnít go over well, but I thought it was more acceptable. I also believed her when she told me that I didnít need to shave my legs until a guy in my sophomore history class asked me if I had EVER shaved my legs. I went through they day trying to hide behind my skirt, and my backpack, and when I went home I shaved. Other things happened that day, and I will remember that day for the rest of my life. Oct 31, 1992.

            When I cam home my mother announced that she had a little surprise for me. There was no reason for it that she admitted, but I had my own theories. I was never allowed to celebrate or go out for Halloween, and I think it was a consolation for that, although I donít ever recall them giving me things before. Deep down I thing felt guilty, but they genuinely believed that they were depriving us only of the harmful influence of the world and itís demonic temptations. You see, anyone who didnít believe the way did was a certified demon possessed miscreant. If you werenít FOR god, you were against ďhimĒ.

            My motherís present was a double CD of Amy Grantís greatest hits: Praise and Worship. I told her that I had not asked for it, and that I didnít even like Amy Grant. That began an argument that lasted about and hour. I covered all the bases: how I felt about she and my father, and their narrow, authoritarian parenting methods, the choice of my clothes, my music, my friends (or lack thereof), the fact that I was not allowed to go to the movies because it was a pagan activity, and we were not to sit in the seats of pagans. Finally I tackled the issue of church, and how I was forced to go, and sing, and pray like the rest of them. I told her that when I kneeled and it looked like I was praying I really just had my eyes shut thinking of what I would RATHER be doing. I said I wouldnít go and pretend anymore, and that I NEVER subscribed to their beliefs. ďItís a big, phony, drawn out, overdressed circus, and I will have no more part in that bull shit. I hurled a bible along with Amyís praises at my mother as I screamed those words and stormed off.

            Mom didnít tell me to leave because she had hoped to ease me, and manipulate me back into my quiet corner. She didnít want to acknowledge it, but she knew that I meant every word. My parents always talked and criticized other parents whose children had ďgone out into the worldĒ. Dad always said that no child of his would be condoned that way, and that if you leave the Lord you leave his house. ďÖand just like the prodigal son youíll return when you see that the world offers you nothing while it takes everything youíve got. No one lives here that does have the fear of God in them.Ē

            I left. I took nothing, except my coat and my backpack. I didnít want my clothes, as I had not even chosen them, and I had nothing of value, and I had no money.

            That night I Trick-or-Treated for the first time ever. I had to eat, so I followed a band of kids my age through the area till about midnight. I met a guy in the crowd named Stone, and after hearing what I had done he offered me a place to sleep that night. He lived with his mother in a trailer home, and after seeing it, I opted to sleep in his 1987, hunter green Thunderbird. He understood. His mother worded nights at a bar and grill and slept most of the day, so we never met.

            That morning we had boiled eggs, crackers, and grape Kool-aid, because that is all there was. When he lit a cigarette I asked for a drag, and thought that I would die as the tears welled in my eyes, my chest tightened and began to cough and wheeze. I was determined to at least learn how to smoke even if I didnít actually become a smoker. Everyone knew that it caused cancer and made you sterile or impotent. My grandfather was a smoker and thatís what he used to say. He also said that when he accepted Christ as his personal savior God miraculously healed him while the pastorís daughter stood before him with her hands on him praying.  ďIt was like a mysterious downpour, and suddenly I felt like virile, young man again. Praise God!Ē heíd said. Maybe it didnít hurt that Minny was a gorgeous 26 year old, 5í7, 125 lb, red hair, green eyes, full lips, wearing a thin little dress which brushed up against him when he embraced her in his conversion to Christianity. That was the kind of thing that always went on. How did nobody notice? They must have just chosen not to know because then their entire world of beliefs, and all their good efforts were for nothing. No one really felt that there would be consequences, and people had their lust, and their sin, no matter how they tried to be rid of them. When you suppress them they become even more grotesque, and overpowering.

            That is beside the point. That was all I could think about as Stone drove me to the bus station on his way to work. He quit school in his junior year and got a job at a Subway station to help his mom out with the bills. He gave me $30, and the remaining five cigarettes in his pack. I thanked him, and let him go. I donít know why he was so nice to me. Possibly because he saw in me the same reckless abandon that he and his mother had lived in, only mine was internal abandon. I had forsaken everything I knew, but only because I realized that I was at a point where I should know something about myself and didnít because I was never allowed. My entire life until now had been someone elseís choice and design. That is a scary feeling. I wanted everything that I was capable of, good and bad. I wanted to have regrets, make mistakes, get dirty, be afraid, be drunk, be high, be alone, be tough, and still survive. I wanted to be respected, and known, and even sought after for good or for the wrong reasons. I had no idea how I would proceed, but I knew that anything would be differentÖI wanted challenges. No one ever challenged me. When I realized that I should have been in school, and wasnít I knew that I would never, and didnít want to go back. I had been cheated out of a quarter of my life, and wouldnít get it back, but I would make up for it. I asked how far I could go with ten dollars and hopped a bus to a town two hours from my own. Tyler Teas. No one would recognize me, or find me there. My family wouldnít know where to start looking seeing as how they didnít really know me, and they had no clue where I might even go since I had no connection to anyone. That was their fault. If they had let me have friends, they might have known where to start looking.  

            I thought a lot about Stone during my travels. I liked him because he was the complete antithesis of everything I had ever known. It would be much later before I came to understand how people could hate one another just because they were different.  Right now anything different was a welcome, refreshing and interesting change.

            I met Kassody Ramone on that bus, and for the first time since my childhood I felt completely connected to someone. I had no idea it could happen so quickly. She was a dancer going home from some job she had done in Vegas. She worked at a club in Tyler originally. She knew my life story in 90 minutes, which doesnít say much about my life, but she liked me, and offered me a place to stay. She had always wanted a family, but felt that she would never have one now given her chosen paths. She was only 27. Ten years between us didnít seem like much of a stretch. We had so much in common.

            She drove a yellow pick-up truck. Her little apartment was small, and old, but much cleaner than Stoneís mobile home, and she actually had real juice in her refrigerator. This, I knew would be different.

            It was a dirty town. Life had always been such a limited experience for me, so what I had seen of the world at large in these short hours had overwhelmed me.

            Kassody took me to a diner nearest the club where she worked and introduced me to a friend of hers who also happened to be the manager, and he gave me a job. I wasnít old enough, nor did I have the proper experience to do any work at the club. I needed some ďschoolingĒ as Calvin had once said. Calvin was a guy I worked with who actually took a short-lived interest in me. He was 22, and working as a bus boy, but he was very bright for someone who spent of most of days completely stoned. My first psychedelic experiences with marijuana were with him, as was my first drunken stupor. Who knew that a Martini on the rocks could go such a long way?

            All I remember of that first date was feeling really good in the back of his truck, laughing a lot until he kissed me, and the world shattered and disappeared around me. I couldnít believe it had finally happened. I thought, for some reason, that if a boy kissed a girl it meant he wanted to see her again. I thought it meant some kind of commitment. It had never occurred to me that people kissed just for hell of it.

            When I told him I was virgin, and didnít want to change that he stopped, and looked at me and then he drove me home. He ignored me at work in the weeks that followed, and it bothered me.

            I cut my hair short, pierced my ears, my nose, and navel in a monthís time. I also discovered eyeliner and black nail polish. I was having fun. About three months after my first date with Calvin I was raped coming from a late shift at the diner. Often I thought and cried about how much I would have preferred if it had been Calvin. Months of counseling and recovery led me back to the diner and I asked him to come out with me again. He did, and I decided that if he wanted me I would welcome him. I wanted to regain control of my life, and my decisions. I thought that if I CHOSE someone, and it was consensual that if would over ride the pain of having been violated, but it didnít help, and only felt stupid, desperate and dirty. I quit my job at the diner because I got tired of watching Cal act as if I didnít exist.

            I was fortunate to never get pregnant or sick. Those fears as well as stronger convictions lingered in my mind, and I knew that I had found some of my own codes, or values that I wanted to keep. Some were of my parents, and some were new, but I was happier in the end. I worked at a record store for a long time, and Kassody was always very supportive. She talked with me about some of the things I had done over the past few months, and she opened me up to a new side of myself. We spent more and more time together. That year flew by, and we celebrated the holidays together, and the New Year came. One of her resolutions had been to be completely honest with me. Kassody was a lesbian and she had liked me from the first day we met. I felt this sinking feeling inside, and although I loved her I didnít know if I could live with that.

            I began to see what I wanted rising slowly from the ashes of everything I didnít want. Things stood very still for the months that followed while I processed everything that had happened. I called my parents, and they begged me to come home, but I assured them that I was happy and that I had formed a life of my own. They screamed at me, and told me that they would not interfere with me if I came home, but I refusedÖthere was no turning back. They knew it. I just wanted to know how they were.

            I knew more now. One thing I believed was that religion was the destroyer of all things sacred. As ironical as that sounds itís true. People take their insides out, and abandon true self. They fill all that extra space with false religionsÖstern godly judgment. They live their lives as martyrs and servants to some ominous obscure god whose ass you have to kiss unless you want to be cast into the proverbial lake of fire. Religion is fabricated to make the weak and ignorant feel strong and full of hope. They want to believe that this life of misery, and inferiority will eventually be replaced with some divine euphoria where everyone sings and dances and strolls on gold plated streets.

            I do have convictions that stayed with me, and those are very real, and very legitimate, but over all there were more that did not last, and those were never real to begin with. Mom and Dad would say that the world has desensitized and demoralized me, but I believe that this has only helped to make me a stronger, wiser person. I have shape now, and I no longer feel dead inside. I feel more alive, and more appreciative of life itself, and even all the good my parents tried to do. They really believed in what they taught me, or maybe it was just a safer, quieter road, but nonetheless, they wanted me to be well.

            I now believe that it is possible to be a good person without religion. In fact, religion makes people ugly sometimes. It changes you and makes you self-righteous. You can find spirituality and communion with yourself without eve setting foot in a church. Itís not about sermons, or doctrine, or singing a song, or saying a prayer each night. That is all practice, and motions that easily become thoughtless, dry habits. Spirituality is about not losing yourself to anyone or anything in this life. Itís about being your own personÖpure and unmarked by things that you donít believe. Itís a question of faithÖbut itís the kind of faith that makes you optimistic, and open while your values and principles stay the same.

            Kassody, and I became lovers about a year after she told me how she felt. That has been the most rich, and rewarding relationship of my life, and I canít imagine my world without her, although I did occasionally bring men home. She was very loving, and supportive. She always said I just needed time to make the transition, and sort out my feelings, and my preferences. I always liked men though, and eventually it caused us both a great deal of pain and strife. We stayed together nonetheless because more often than not it was her that I wanted to be with. I loved her as I still do, and she knows it. We moved to New York, and I went back to school. Kassody decided that she wanted to teach dance, and she found at a Manhattan Dance studio. We were happy for a long time, just working, traveling, studying, and living. I donít know what ever happened to Calvin, but I did meet stone again years later at NYU. He was studying Engineering, and design. He didnít recognize me, but I knew him. He hadnít changed much in four years. We became good friends, but he died of a drug overdose about six months after we found each other again. I felt that to be the greatest loss of my entire life. He was like a guardian angel to me, and I never did tell him that.

            The world is an amazing place. Itís not all evil. Itís got a combination of everything. That is the beauty of it. If the world were all good, people would all be the same. I still donít know if I believe in a God, but I do know this: if there is a god, and he is worth meeting someday he wonít expect you to waste your mortal existence fearing life, and shutting yourself away from others. He will want you to live, learn, love, and be human. He will want you to be smart enough to question, and believe and love on your own mark. Life is not about following a religion itís about endurance, determination, strength, and fearlessness, itís a question of faith in yourself and what you want for yourself, and wanting it badly enough to fight for it, no matter who tells you that itís a sin, or that itís unattainable.   Question everything, and know that itís okay to do that, as long as you go out and find the answers for yourself. Never take someone elseís word for your life. Like I have learnedÖ. a second hand religion, or lifestyle doesnít last long, and it can destroy you.