It's still getting worse after everything I've tried.
What if I found a way to wash it all aside.
What if she touches with those fingertips,
As the words spill out like fire from her lips?

I went to church yesterday for the first time in years. And I went because of her. I worked alongside her all of last summer in that lab. She was my academic inspiration that summer; I showed up early some days, I stayed late some days. Some days we both stayed late and ordered dinner and ate and talked on plates as we precariously perched on stools over chemical dirtied lab benches waiting for centrifuges and ovens and atomic absorbers to finish their traditionally long cycles. Some days I would go home and call my girlfriend and cancel dinner plans because I had eaten at work, or we had stopped for a quick bite right after our shift. My girlfriend was convinced I was cheating on her. The girl I worked with, I never touched her.

Today I went to church with her.

And if she says come inside I'll come inside for her.
If she says give it all I'll give everything to her.
I am justified. I am purified. I am sanctified. Inside you

I have been a non-practicing Roman Catholic since about third grade in elementary school. That was about thirteen years ago when I was eight. What set the stage for this was the year prior when I was seven and, one year later than all other children my age, enrolled in the local church’s after school Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program. My parents initially had not insisted upon my enrollment, but after family pressuring from a grandfather… let’s just say the matter was taken quite firmly out of my hands. Everything went fine for the first year and a half. Then I went to a cousin’s Presbyterian baptism. At CCD later that week I talked about this in front of the class.

And the nun in front of the room called me a heathen in front of the rest of the class.

And the nun suggests that I not return to the class.

And I take that to heart and stepped into a church maybe half a dozen times since those words.

Today I went to church again.

Because she asked me to.

Heaven's just a rumor she'll dispel.
As she walks me through the nicest parts of hell.
I still dream of lips I never should have kissed.
Well she knows exactly what I can't resist

We’re sitting in small metal chairs in a room that is actually the basement of the church, because there is apparently stifling heat and/or renovations on the main level. We’re sitting close to each other; so close our legs are almost touching. Her legs are crossed in such a way that her leg has slid out of the side of her skirt and bobs next to my leg, in my little bubble of personal space, in such a way that makes her irresistible. She’s singing along with all the hymns and praises, while I’m just mouthing the unfamiliar words. I can see her hair drying throughout the sermon and every time she plays with her hair and pushes it behind her ear and every time she bobs her right foot in that nervous energy way I find myself watching her instead of the Reverend. I ask to borrow her pen to write something down, but this is really just an excuse to brush her shoulder and catch her eye.

"Have you ever been completely in love with one person,
or had one person completely in love with you?
You share a special place in your hearts, and in that place
you both are completely indefensible against that other person."

One year ago I broke up with my then current girlfriend. I then made the critical mistake of going to her to seek solace. I told this girl that I was happy when I got to see her, happy when I got to spend time. I told her I was happy because I loved to tell stories and, well, she loved to listen to them. Maybe I had said a bit too much, maybe she had read a little too deep into what I had said. In any case we didn’t see each other much in the fall and just as seldom during the spring. Today though, she asks me if I’m on campus, and if I’d like to go to church with her. A smart person would have considered graciously declining.

Me? I’ve generally been known for my book smarts.

I'm still caught up in another of her spells.
Well she's turning me into someone else.
Everyday I hope and pray this will end.
But when I can I do it all again

After the service I ask her if she’s eaten yet and she says yes. But then promptly invites me up to her new dorm room that she’s in the process of moving into. So of course I do. We share some carrot sticks, and we talk about what people talk about when they can't think of anything to talk about. We talk about what dorms we lived in and when, and she relearns that I had noticed her before she had noticed me, and then she mentions that she just remembered that she has to go check out of her old room at the main building on campus. We make plans to watch a movie later tonight; we make plans to go out to dinner sometime this week. These plans may or may not hold up. Right now, it really doesn’t matter. Right now I’m happy because I got to spend some time with her. I’m happy because I got to tell her some more stories during the walk to and short stay in her room. I’m happy because, while she repacks her down comforter in her duvet, she’s listening to these stories of mine, and smiling while she listens.

And that is what inspired those original feelings for her. That smile when she can’t hide that she’s happy. A smile that means my story works well. A story that means I’m going to get to see her again. I smile a goodbye as I walk out.

As surely as the blade's course is run.
Maybe my kingdom's finally come.

Small italic type: Trent Reznor album recording of Sanctified as appears on Pretty Hate Machine.
Small quoted type: Quote from Reverend Tony Hinchliff of the Presbyterian Church of New Jersey.

Sanc"ti*fied (?), a.

Made holy; also, made to have the air of sanctity; sanctimonious.


© Webster 1913.

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