Friday, August 04, 2006

Poetry Friday: The Word is VACATION

Oh, I need a vacation...I'm not picky, really, somewhere that I can be half-nekked and be waited on hand and foot by strong, tanned young men, maybe by the ocean, with cable teevee and wireless hookup.

The Poetry Friday Word is VACATION. Feel free to use it in your blog post today, however whatever way tugs your bobber.

I have two offerings today, both stories based on fact (but the extent of which is questionable). I'd yammer on and on about them, but really, I have to pee now and get back to work.

Have a good weekend, y'all!

A Child’s Vacation from God

When I was a young child, my parents hung a sign in the room that my brother and I shared. In blue and white lettering were the words:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take

I spend the entirety of my childhood convinced I was going to die in my sleep. Every night I’d squeeze my praying hands together so tightly my knuckles turned white, and I’d beg God with tears in my voice not to let me die. Please, don’t let me die. I didn’t care if my soul was going to God, I much preferred it in my little kindergarten body, thankyouverymuch.

I knew for certain God was watching me through that sign…making sure I prayed hard enough, putting my name on the list of ‘Possible Souls to Gather’ for the night, threatening to pull me face-first through the clouds and into nothingness.

This was the cause of many unexplained stomachaches and bouts of insomnia.

This was why my parents took me to a panel of doctors and specialists to determine why I threw up so much, especially in bed.

This was why, every summer, I begged my parents to take us on a vacation, somewhere, anywhere where that sign wasn’t.

When we went to the cabin up north, when we went on a tour of Lake Michigan shoreline, when we went to the east coast to play in the ocean with sharks, I was free…free from God, free from the specter of death that awaited me in my sleep, free from the knowledge that any second, my sweet dreams would be interrupted by a loud boom and God's mean voice and my breath and soul escaping my small body and never returning.

I was free. Thank god almighty.

That sign found its way to the bottom drawer of my dresser when we moved my younger brother to his own room. Then the dresser was moved to the attic. Without the sign there, my dreams returned like summer peaches, sweet and warm, and the stomachaches subsided. I still prayed, sometimes, but I made up my own prayers, full of asking and thanks.

And nothing in them about dying in my sleep.

Brother Monk

Two of my best friends and I were returning from a college Spring Break trip to Florida, where we got drunk, sunburned, and lucky nearly every night. We each had a handful of cash left from the Week of Debauchery, enough to pay for gas on the way back and one good meal. Somehow we stumbled across a restaurant of a different colour, outside the bedlam of college students and nearly beyond our means.

It was staffed my monks.

These men were gorgeous.

Now, I don’t know if they had the best-looking monks serve the customers while the older, more character-actor-looking brothers worked the kitchen and the staff, or if they were all hunks of cheesecake. I just knew that our server, Brian, was the handsomest thing I’d ever seen. And I’d just ogled thousands of guys half-naked on sunny Florida beaches.

Brother Brian brought us freshly baked wheat bread and sweet churned butter.

He recommended their wine, which we ordered and drunk with our eyes half-closed in heady appreciation.

The menu was small and hearty, and our boisterous burnt voices lowered and calmed as we sat in the white stone room, the salty breeze from the open windows fingering our hair, the wine so warm, the food so much like home, the gentle rustle of robes slipping in and out of the nearly-empty dining room.

Into our second bottle of wine, we asked Brian what it was like to be a monk. Why did he become a monk, where did he live, what did he own, what did he do every day. He answered each question with a grace and quiet excitement of someone who is certain, absolutely, that he is living his own idea of a perfect life. Then I asked, in a whisper, “Did you take a vow of celibacy?”

Brian blushed. With a small smile, he said that yes, indeed, he did. His eyes searched mine for something, some sign of understanding, and I smiled and mumbled, “Oh…wow….” Brian smiled again, with finality, and walked away to tally our bill and fetch us a bottle of wine each to take home, to the cold winds of our Michigan winter, with Florida all purple inside a bottle.

I wondered if Brian was telling the truth. Could someone so nice, so gentle, so good-looking, decide not to experience the joy of sex? Wouldn’t he miss it? What if…what if we were stranded on an island together, could I persuade him to bed me, for the experience, for my experience and his, to wave off the loneliness, to expose the wrappings of that robe, to rub some of his goodliness onto me?

Brian returned with the bill and three brown-paper-wrapped bottles. He wished us a safe trip home, bowed his head, and gave us a smile that broke my heart.

Nowadays if I see a monk in town, I can’t help but wonder if he’s taken the vow of celibacy, and muse the depths of gentleness he could teach a partner. What a gift, what a find.

I think about Brian every once in a while, and wonder if he’s still there, serving and Serving, while college girls have dirty thoughts of him as he brings them sheperds pie and warm bread.

That wine, by the way? We toasted Brian when we uncorked each bottle, in the misty gray cold of March.

It was delicious.


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