Between the playground and the church was the parking lot where I cried in Renée’s car when she said her family was moving. Her car had a tape deck. We listened to “Elvira Madigan,” and I traced the paths of rain droplets on the windows, my fingerprints slicing through the window-fog.

Renée took a Polaroid of me to put on the wall of Sunday school. On the border she wrote “I am Special.” Christina poked her head around the corner of the door, visible at the edge of the frame. Christina was special to God too.

Christina’s hair was white-blond, and she frightened me. She and her mother had the same wild blue eyes. Her mother was quite nervous. She went with her father to Mexico every winter. Her father was a pot farmer, and he was not interested in coming to church. Her mother could not leave her father, because it was a sin to divorce. It was a sin, though, to be yoked to an unbeliever, my mother told me. She was quoting the Bible.

We knew that church was out when we heard laughing and chatter. The grown-ups drank tea and ate cookies. They opened the door to the Sunday school room, and we were dismissed. We ran back out to the playground.

Our congregation fellowshipped at the pastor’s house. This is where my mother had run when she left the city at twenty. She’d moved in with the pastor and his wife on their land, miles off the main road.

They had come from the city too, years before she came to live with them. They were back-to-the-landers, but they weren’t like the hippie parents of my friends. They didn’t grow pot. They didn’t believe in nudism. They believed in Jesus. They were older than the hippies. Still, though, they ate health food, lived off the grid, raised their own animals, built their own house. A second pastor they hired played the guitar. When my father joined their church as a young man, he had hair that reached nearly to his shoulders and big sideburns. They weren’t squares. The Petermans had come up to Mendocino County to build a new church.

I didn’t know why the Petermans had left the city, but I knew that God had moved them to Philo. They had to move out to the country so that my parents would meet one another, so that I would be born. I was inevitable.

from The Book of Revelation

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