Every month Denver hosts the literary combat cage fight known as Write Club. My topic was church. I wasn’t sure what to write about until…well until I found religion.
So my dad had this thing he told that made a huge difference in my life.
I'd come home from school a little upset because some kids were interrogating me as to why we didn't go to church.
And my dad said, "You do go to church."
And I was like, "I'm pretty sure we don't go to church."
And he said, "You do. Church doesn't have to be some building somewhere; church can be wherever you want it to be."
And for my dad, the church was the woods. He'd worked in the woods his entire adult life.
And I thought about this recently because I was in my own new place of worship.
A gently used Subaru Forester.
It's church like. It has higher than normal ceilings. It has a lot of windows. It's also has AC like one of those wealthier suburban getups. And I was worshipping this particular day because I was praying to Jesus because I was caught in traffic. And because I was pretty sure that I was going to shit my pants.
I don't know if you've had this happen where you're in your car and everything is fairly normal, you know might get a gurgle or two—and you think you’re good—but then the abdominal fanfare blares and suddenly it's full on clench. You have to stand and drive. Have you ever done that where instead of being in a car, it's like you're on a tractor? If I were a yoga coach I'd call it the Scared Stiffie.
Well just last Thursday I had to go full Scared Stiffie. Rigid, terrified, religious.
I'd purchased the Subaru but it was in Loveland, so I had to go up and get it. I worked from home and did that thing where I was so busy working and trying to arrange a ride that I didn't eat. When my lift showed up, I realized I'd better consume something. I threw open the fridge and discovered the answer to my problems: a quick meal replacement that my wife enjoys. It's called Soylent.
It was good, too. Although, as I drank it on the trip up the Interstate to Loveland, there was this bit of a conversational aftertaste that haunted me. A few weeks prior I'd seen a Soylent in the fridge and I announced that I wanted one. My wife leapt to attention and said, "Maybe you shouldn't!" And then she paused... And thought for a moment before finishing with, "Because it has caffeine." Now through that pause, that ellipses, is where I'd fall, buttocks clenched, a throat full of desperate cries to Jesus hoping that I would not leave a literal stain on the family legacy.
Now I do have a thing with caffeine. It makes me chitter like a randy bird and I've kicked in a door or two in my own unsettling quest for thrones. So my wife left it at that. She didn't volunteer all of the information about the precarious starting point for this kind of beverage.
So I get to Loveland and get the car and it runs and everything is fine. That's the thing about coming into town on the interstate. There are a lot of amenities until there aren't. You're driving past all these island paradises of cold beverages and bathrooms, but if you don't stop you drain into the Russian roulette of unmarked urban exits. I remember passing Furniture Row, and there were some tummy trumpets--no big deal. I thought. No torpedo squeeze of great alarm.
But then I got into the city, and traffic slowed, and I was clenching. I don't know what kind of workout that is, but you sweat. Weird amounts of sweat. And then traffic would slow down even more. I got off the interstate to get home and would get stuck at three light cycles at one intersection. This is where I went deep. One body function turning me into an animal. I was growling. Like a fleshy didgeridoo. Wailing at the gods. Doing my tractor driving—going into survival mode, locking my body with the exception of my feet wriggling around the pedals like panicked marionettes.
So my head's bent against the ceiling of the car and I can barely see what with the opaqueness of the roof and what I believe are properties of hyperventilation. I was doing the pregnancy breathing trying to unbirth my demise. And people were looking at me. I'd already crossed that threshold where I didn't care what people thought of me. A family parallel to me at three light cycles was probably thinking I was passing a hedgehog, but I gave no damns.
I burst through the intersection and I'm the Exxon Valdez of sweat as I pray for anal strength I never thought I'd need to possess. Speed and legalities were of no object. I imagined a new law where everyone gets their own siren they can use three times per year. Maybe certain colors for certain emergencies. Turn your terrifying transit to the hospital into fun gender reveals with blue lights for arriving boys and pink for baby girls. People would get the hell out of the way for the brown one.
I got to about a mile from my home. There was another busy light, so I screeched a hot left into a quiet neighborhood. I didn't know my plan. Was I going to beat on a random door? I mean if someone pulled a gun on me at least my inevitable reaction would be merited. I whirl through the quaintly named streets of a seventies suburb and find an empty lot. I get out and start doing these stretches to the sky as I mumble to myself. I know there were at least half a dozen people on NextDoor discussing a creepy dude sweating hard and breathing heavy next In their neighborhood. And then I saw a reflection of me in the window. I asked my likeness, who are you? Father of three and husband of 17 years. Get in that car and make it. Like a man. But I could barely bend. So I loaded myself like I was a stolen mannequin and, with the necessary sweaty levitation, made one last launch towards the house.
That last 300 yards were tough. I think my body kind of knew it was coming. I screamed past my retired neighbor who sits in his garage waiting for news events like this, what with me standing and driving a new used car.
I lurched up to the house, almost hitting the door. Burst into the living room--the kids greeted me and I stiff armed my daughter as I C3PO-ed to my new church.
Oh sweet, sweet Jesus. Bhudda. Great goddess of Hinduism. I held my head in my hands and stared at the linoleum floor whispering to myself about gratitude and how it's the apex of attributes and I loved everybody so much. I love everyone so much. I was evolving out of the puddle, rising to the exact opposite of what I had been. From a crazed animal to somewhat human again, exhausted but cognitive and flexible and reaching out to the gods. It was all coming back. And then words formed deep inside of me. Roaring out of the soul of my soul, I seethed through my teeth a most powerful message of redemption: