Monday, April 27, 2020

How To Be A Good Episcopalian by Yash Seyedbagheri

Yash Seyedbagheri's character considers joining the Episcopalian Church as a way to deal with the trauma of an absent mother.

Join the Episcopal church one winter day after run-ins with fundamentalists on campus. This is a particularly difficult day for you, sitting through creative writing classes (you are a graduate student), contributing nothing of value in comments or in stories, lost in a creative malaise. You are that guy who babbles incessantly, but whose words simply do not add up to anything of value. They hold a certain emptiness.

It is just before Christmas, when smiling Santas and families together put you in a bad mood. On top of this all, you have to deal with being branded a sinner by angry bearded fundamentalists who look like a combo of Hemingway and child predators.

"You're going to burn," they shout, waving their hands into the charcoal-colored skies, as though they've snorted too much cocaine. Their eyes are wide and crazed.

"This campus is a den of sin. Fornication."

"Turn away from evil pleasures." The only thing you've pleasured lately has been your right hand.

They bellow homophobic, sexist, racist comments and make you feel utterly like there is no love, like you are in the middle of a pit of nothingness. It's like love is a fucking construct. Something you preach, but don't practice. Love is as fleeting as the moon on a Rocky Mountain evening, as fleeting as your own mother, a flame-haired stranger who has flitted in and out of the world.

"You're fascists," You yell. Staying classy aren't you?

Walking past this church on an evening stroll, you see the sign glowing in the dusk, proclaiming ALL ARE WELCOME, its light spilling out onto the sloping lawn, filled with fresh snow. This sign seduces you, seems to call. It's as though you could be any number of people in the world and still be special at the same time.

You send an email to the rector, the Reverend Nancy Botkin. When Reverend Botkin asks you reasons for being attracted to the faith, you can only admit that you don't know. You were drawn in by the positive message, by the inclusiveness (you did some reading on the church after the moment with the sign). This is all you can say. You cannot describe your experience with the sign. It might seem absolutely silly, even to a priest whose life is predicated upon faith, upon the unseen, the unknown.

A blunt truth, which you have so conveniently not disclosed to Reverend Botkin, and which you have tried to abort: Your mother has been having an affair, a fucking affair, with an Episcopal priest, Father Cooper (along with a pianist, a waste management consultant and a park ranger over the years).

So she told you in her last letter, written a few months back, a letter written as though you were some acquaintance, some old chum, not her son, the byproduct of her loins. You recall terms, written in her oddly graceful penmanship, such as "fucking awesome" and "the fucking light of my life." He was supposedly the most engaging, dynamic figure on the planet. So were the other men your mother gravitated towards, and they ultimately left her in the lurch. You feel anger and pity reading all this.

What is the appeal? What is this man's magnetism? Is it something in the faith itself? Your mother doesn't really have any fixed religious convictions per se. How does one measure the "light" of one's life, one's innermost sense of success, really?

Of course, you leave this out. Reverend Botkin might think you joined the church for all the wrong reasons. And you like to think you haven't, that your mother had nothing to do with this all, that this was all pure coincidence.

At least you don't spout platitudes about being Christ-like. You know your limitations. You might withhold your mother's Episcopalian connections, but certain truths are abundantly clear, as much as you try to push them back, resist. You have a volcanic temper, a foul mouth, a tendency to lash out irrationally even at friends and there are times when the intensity catches even you off guard, makes you feel as if you have been taken over by some Incredible Hulk-like being. You blame people for being too organized, too focused on their lives, when in fact you envy their abilities.

Thankfully you do not tell Reverend Botkin all this. Not just now anyway. Reverend Botkin seems to take your simple response with good humor.

"I don't expect a concise answer," she chuckles, when you meet in her office with its faded white walls, its commanding, yet simple cross, and elegant rows of theological tomes, filled with the weight of centuries, of conflicts and peace. "It's not like asking someone why they like a movie. Unless, of course God is, in fact, Morgan Freeman."

You cannot help but like her sense of humor. It is as if she is not some calculated construction, but a spontaneous and dynamic and flawed person, not ashamed to exhibit it. Perhaps she has lost much in her life. Perhaps she has been losing and losing.

But you cannot fully trust. Not just yet. You feel a certain shame, a sense that there is a wall between you and the world. But you also need to defend yourself. Perhaps it is her duty to disarm, to give the impression of openness.

"I'm afraid I'd need a flashlight to find a reason," you joke, pursing your lips into something of a scowl. You insist on maintaining a poker face. "I don't really know where I'm at now."

"That's why we're all here," she says gently, patting you on the shoulder, an almost motherly gesture that makes you want to burst in half. "Everyone has their own journey."

This is a priest who has stories to tell, and who has heard many a story. You can tell this, even if you cannot fully understand her yet. You have an instinct for people, for their mannerisms. You can feel it her wry smile, the way she surveys you with a certain detective's eye. In a way, priests are like detectives, trying to plunge their holy flashlights into the soul. You wonder if Father Cooper has plunged his flashlight into your mother's mysteries.

Plenty of people have tried to figure you out, tried to add you up according to their own ideas. Your Aunt Betty, who saw a potential lawyer or businessman, if you just gravitated towards it. Your principal, branding you a troublemaker. The policemen and policewomen who typed the reports after you were brought in for your share of pranks, their words permanently making you a delinquent. Yet, you do not get this vibe from Reverend Botkin. She seems to hold a certain understanding, or the desire to understand if nothing else, as if she knows there is something more than meets the eye.

You cannot sink any lower. You can only traverse a different path.

So what harm is there in going?

Attend the first service. This is the first time you've set foot in a church since you were a teenager. You must present yourself like a gentleman. Trust me.

Jesus might have worn sandals, but he earned that right. You have no claim to greatness. You have not healed the sick or the least.

You haven't even healed the mess that is your life, figured out your path forward in life. You don't know exactly what you want, but that's not the point. Point is you need to radiate grace and verve, convey a sense of sophistication, as if you hold much knowledge.

Dress nice.

Wear khakis and that nice dress shirt Aunt Betty sent you a year ago. Or that nice purple shirt you found in the thrift store. Both are classy.

Become engrossed in the richness of the liturgies, the organ music which fills the Gothic spaces with a kind of warmth, the ghosts of Bach and Handel swelling before you. It seems a stark contrast to the lazy rhythms of your classes at school, where you seem to be simply trying to make sense of theories and principles of writing, without any of the pageantry or glory.

Reverend Botkin's sermon moves you with its unpretentious focus on love and applying it to the modern world. She speaks of love with such fervor that you cannot help but listen, like a student trying to become immersed in a foreign language, something that sounds seductive and mysterious, but whose meaning is unclear.

She does not speak in platitudes, but vivid, specific images. Looking into the audience of young and old, men and women in the polished oak pews, the aged and the youthful, she recounts how her younger brother Nick dropped out of school, and became a drug dealer a la Scarface, and she struggled through seminary. You feel pity, you may feel anger that she has endured such injustice, and you wish that you could say something to assuage these truths. But you also believe that empty words sink people.

You will be drawn in by the exchanging of the peace, the simple utterance of the words "peace be with you", the shaking of parishioners' hands as you move up and down the aisle of the Gothic church. It is as if they can wash over the tides of hatred and weariness that fill your soul. You will be fascinated by the idea of Communion, by this idea of being worthy. At the same time, it may seem like a bullshit scam, a way of peppering over certain truths. Does God have a list of who's worthy?

You will be greeted kindly by the parishioners during coffee hour, who seem to make an art form of shaking your hand, looking into your eyes, as if you are the most important person in the room, as if your twenty-something life is of absolute fascination. This is bullshit. This is an act. But they are good at it.

"How did you come here?" one may ask.

"It's good to have you here," an old woman tells you, smiling beatifically. "I'm delighted you chose St. Matthew's."

They will tell worldly jokes, about politics and being miserable and happy in marriage and life. They will even joke about booze being the third sacrament, and they will let you in on the joke, as if you have been a part of their world for eternity. This is the first time anyone's welcomed you anyplace, at least without a grimace or a scowl. Well, there was grad school, but that turned into its own world of grimaces and scowls fast.

Surrounded by a sea of parishioners, among the scent of incense, cigarettes, and old-building muskiness, you think of being shuffled as a child, and now it seems, you are being shuffled again, amongst parishioners bearing love, or at least the semblance of love. This is an odd, delightful little feeling, but you cannot help but wonder when it will end.

You went from your mother, to other relatives, after she said she needed to find some inner peace. "Some living space," she said. If you'd been wise and worldly you'd have reminded her that this was also what a certain German dictator wanted. Living space. Living space to wipe out the past occupants of a certain land.

It was three years before Aunt Betty finally took you in, a period that involved being propelled from one home to the next, without any sense of settlement, any sense of roots. Belonging. You remembered only vague half-images, of weary men and hostile women, people connected to you by blood, but not by love. You remembered images of cracked flowerpots and loose porch swings and rotten walls, of commands and edicts.

Sit up straight.

Eat your dinner.

Do your homework.

All commands that seem general, that could have been lobbed at anyone, that didn't acknowledge your being, your existence. That was so long ago, and yet all so recent, the words still seem to hang above you, taunting you.



"How do you like it?" Reverend Botkin says, greeting you after the postlude, the organ music dying away like some beautiful vision, the sound replaced by the clatter of high-heels on the floors and murmured voices. People moving out into their little worlds. "You haven't seen anything like this, have you?"

"Fuck," is all you say, albeit in the way that connotes wonderment. You do not want to commit just yet, to lock yourself into a world of people whose connections to you are tenuous. But you do not want to feign hostility either.

Reverend Botkin laughs, as though she understands the feeling, as though she once made this leap from a world of unanswered questions and despair, into an equally bewildering world, but a joyful bewilderment, an exploration of the deep theological questions. How do we serve God? How do we "do good" without becoming sanctimonious? Who the fuck is God?

Slumbering in your small apartment late at night, you picture this day forever, the energy, the people whose lives you have yet to know. You will descend into a pleasant dream, one whose beauty will linger with you in the morning, even though you cannot recall what the dream is. That's the problem with beauty. Its spirit makes itself known, but it cannot be pigeonholed into concrete forms.



Make your viewpoints known, once it becomes evident that you are in communion with most fellow parishioners where the world is concerned, politically and socially. Do not poke bears, something you used to do. You had too much trouble pretending to like Hitler in high school. Besides, people have gotten wise to your bear-poking. It has lost its fun.

Espouse dislike for racism, homophobia and sexism amongst fellow parishioners, who are whiter than a White Christmas. You can all agree on this, even if you share different views on liturgical matters, such as transubstantiation. You feel a sense of connection, even though you are not a member of said persecuted group. You can pretend to care about social justice, even though you've never waved a sign, and as much as you don't want to admit it, three hundred immigrants could get beaten up and you wouldn't give a hoot, if it didn't affect you.

Try to avoid thinking about your mother. Of course you inevitably slip. You did try to conjure her spirit once during prayer, when you kneeled and confessed your sins before the big guy. You don't know why you did it, but you felt the impulse stirring at you, invisible, yet all too present, its spirit taunting you. Teasing you. You conjured the bloodshot eyes, the messed flame-colored hair, the look of despair or happiness. This fascinates you. She was either despairing or in a kind of disturbing euphoria. There was never any in between, no room for nuances between those two opposite poles.

At points, you feel like she might be hiding in this very parish, and that you might have an encounter by chance. You know this is ultimately bull, but cannot help but imagine it.

An image that you play over and over, like a Geto Boys rap song: Your mother is walking up the aisle, settling into the same pew. She has grown older, has more wrinkles, looks even more world-weary. Or perhaps she looks younger, has found the happiness she claims. There is a look of shock as she sees you, her long lost son, gone from delinquent to tenuous Episcopalian. She will try to add it all up, fumble for the words to bridge this gap of awkwardness. Perhaps you will tell a dirty joke (your go-to method) to diffuse the situation, a joke about racist chickens. Or maybe you will ask a dozen questions about Father Cooper, trying to find out what makes him special, different from the other men, how he speaks to forces within your mother she cannot put into words.

Of course, you cannot dwell on this too long. You came to move onward, to put the past behind, like a child riding a bicycle, looking only forward. Onward. Onward. Onward.

Feign interest while listening to parishioners' stories during coffee hour and after services. Become genuinely interested after placing all this into perspective, after letting the facts make themselves clear.

You are among people. You have no need to go home, where you will drift alone, idly and celebrating all things wasteful and superfluous, amongst beer cans and half-discarded stories you have yet to revisit.

These parishioners' stories are fascinating, but seem to hold a certain gravitas that your own life lacks. One woman was the first in her field to train mountain lions. Another gentleman rescued 300 orphans from Eastern Europe in a move out of a spy-thriller. Operation Suffer The Little Children. Another woman built homes for the poor. Another did scholarly research on Rasputin and his dismembered penis and even wrote some sort of liturgy for the dismembered unit. Perhaps Father Cooper too is accomplished in this way and your mother relishes this achievement.

These people have purpose, a focal point that beckons them day after day, like a lighthouse on a wide, crashing sea. You can tell by the way they tell these stories with a certain grace and composure.

They have the strength to plunge into the maelstrom of love and hope and disappointment and despair. You try to imagine yourself in such a position, imagine yourself assuming strength, pushing it like Atlas, holding it upon your lanky shoulders. You wonder how anyone can move forward, what keeps them from being propelled backwards into the abyss.

You can only tell parishioners that your purpose is to write stories that convey tales of humanity. That convey the human experience. This is partly true, but you also like to write because you consider it a ticket to fame. You cannot admit this, admit this fantasy of being on top, and discarding modesty and humility for achievement. You cannot explain the sheer power it means to find some semblance of success, to distinguish yourself, to transcend your family (as pompous as this sounds).



Learn how to be meek. You'll inherit the Earth. Although having a mother would be preferable. Or money. Honestly, you'll take a mother. The mere word itself connotes something soothing, something mysterious and wonderful.

You wouldn't mind having the sort of childhood home that seems to permeate shitty Lifetime movies. The sort of home filled with warm scents. Goodnight kisses and inane arguments over clothes and school supplies. Cheesy music playing softly on some hi-tech sound system. Normal things, really. You wouldn't mind a mother who smells like perfume and musk, rather than booze and cigarettes and such. Someone who can encourage you, shape your artistic vision. Someone who has achieved herself, who can point you to greatness, and someone who can brag about you, referring to you as "my son" or "my dear child" - things that might seem corny, but hold a kind of warm possessiveness.

But God made up his mind. No mother for you, young man.

So learn how to accept the unacceptable, how to compartmentalize the past among the present and the future that has yet to be formed.

You've heard some dark stories from parishioners, and you envy their ability to move forward. And yes, they involve dead children mowed down by freight trains, house fires, and diseases (something out of the most clich├ęd country song, you think).

Go into classes at school embracing the fact that you know nothing. This is how you get organized. Wipe the slate clean, boy. Experiment with life, try to shake things up. Try to give up drinking, or at least cut back to once a week. Clear your mind of everything you know about your life. Try to imagine yourself as a successful author. A respectable middle-class teacher. A man with a family of your own. These brim with possibility and pitfall. You'd fall into laziness, you'd fail your family. Or God help you, you might succeed. But you have time.

Give up something of yourself. But don't pat yourself on the fucking back. Perhaps you volunteer to teach fourth-graders how to write, kids with gusts of energy and dark minds, who write about evil warlords named Lord Cheeto. Or maybe you play piano at an assisted living facility, which the cynic in you still refers to as "Geriatric Junction", a symphony of aged flesh and fading dreams. These are things your mother could envy, things she has not achieved. You can change the cycle of family lives.

Go to movies. Release your cynicism the right way. Laugh at the inappropriate moments, and relish this release. Laugh when a guy gets shot in the dick. Or impaled with a pencil. You don't know anything, so why not laugh it up a bit? Who's to say someone being shot in the dick isn't funny? Or can't be?

God help you. Perhaps the act of being humble will transform into something real. Or perhaps humility and ego will fight each other, a sort of steady struggle that will leave you helpless.

Suck at singing every hymn. But sing. Sing away. Release the energy. Pray that fellow parishioners don't beat the ever-loving shit out of you while belting, "Crown Him With Many Crowns." Of course, Episcopalians are exceedingly polite. They would ask permission to beat the shit out of you, and then apologize following said act, no doubt. Of course, if they knew you long enough they might be inclined to beat the crap out of you anyway.

Just sing away. Lip-synching is acceptable too. It's the Episcopalian way, especially when more than four stanzas are involved.

But you want to speak truth to power, release all that pent up energy, that misplaced energy, so you sing away. The sorrows, the confusion, every ounce of energy within you. Look around you at your fellow parishioners and feel a connection, a sense of being part of this majestic experience, with stained-glass windows spilling across your face, as if to wipe away your tears with palettes of blue and red.

Let yourself loose. Lose yourself in the majesty of the hymns, the organ swelling like your heart, and forget the world outside, the utter facts of your life. Relish being a part of this unchanging church, whose rituals are as predictable, as smooth as a Swiss watch. Relish the sameness of the processional, the Communion, the exchanging of the Peace, the people moving about with grace and verve, up and down the aisles, in and out of the church, and amongst the parish hall at coffee hour.

Try to forget the what-if questions that used to dance through your head at night, like ghosts. What if your mother didn't drink? What if she found her own contentment? What if she'd taken you with her? Where might you be now?

That's a question that you've thought about many times, watching families moving about, seemingly connected, relishing the rhythms and rituals of shared histories. You've not been able to come to any particular conclusion, your answers shifting day to day. Perhaps you might have found some semblance of peace, a sense of belonging, even as you and she fled from town to town, like ancient Israelites fleeing a phantom Pharaoh. Or perhaps you would be a carbon copy of her now.

Who knows? It's counterproductive to dwell. But here are the brutal facts to consider:

You lived with your mother for ten out of your twenty-nine years.

You've seen her exactly three times in the last ten years. She occasionally writes, of course, but her letters are full of "I", self-absorbed accounts of boyfriends, of lost jobs, and dreams of attaining something "grand and splendiferous" as she calls it, a dream that changes from letter to letter. Living in the wilderness, away from the bullshit. Becoming wealthy. Becoming an actress. All things that seem delightful on the surface, but have no thread, nothing to tie them together.

The last good memory of your mother involved going to the park and releasing balloons at sunset. You were ten, and it wasn't long before she left. She seemed so captivated by the rising balloons, spinning, twirling in the thick purple dusk, by the freedom inherent in them.

"Wouldn't you like to be up there," she said. "Just drifting, with no sense of being or place at all?"

She looked so at peace, a contrast from the brusque, bitter-tempered woman, arms outstretched, as though holding onto this moment, as though this moment were the sweetest thing in her entire life, a life about which you knew so little. And you wonder now if this is what she wanted, through the drunkenness, the liaisons. You wonder if this is what she truly wanted, or she wanted something deeper, something she wasn't letting on. And perhaps you want this sort of moment too, if nothing else.

In all likelihood you are a chapter she has put behind, spread to the winds like stardust. This is somewhat understandable. You can only move forward, put the sins of your mother and father and ancestors behind you. You are a being that has yet to be formed, even if it seems otherwise.

Your grandmother was a drunk from childhood. She had her first hangover at ten, according to a story your mother told. Your great-grandmother got drunk right off the ship from Liverpool or London or wherever she was from, in 1901. Your cavemen ancestors were undoubtedly drunks.

You feel like you're on the brink of following in their footsteps, hanging over the edge of a cliff into an abyss full of beer bottles, tantalizing and seductive, laughing at you with their gleaming metal. Sitting in the pews, listening to tales of douchebags turned saints, with their road to Damascus moments, you can only hope for some moment, some semblance of clarity, some moment when the world unfolds around you, and you look at everything around you with a new understanding. Do you expect to lead followers through a desert or preach good news? Hardly. But this is a start.



Volunteer to be an usher. An acolyte. Carry a torch. Volunteer for every church function possible. Play the do-gooder. Volunteer to get involved in church social justice movements, carrying signs and smiling. It gives you a sense of purpose, even if it's only within the confines of this tradition, even if it has no bearing on whom you will become. It beats sitting at home, holed up with Netflix, when you should be writing.

There's a certain awe to being part of history, to carrying the communion wine down the aisles of this great Gothic church, to carrying five-foot signs protesting the injustice of the week. Carry a sign at a demonstration that reads, "Make Love Great Again" to protest an orange-tanned Oompa Loompa. You will feel a sense of inhabiting another body, another self. It will feel surreal, and yet delightful, not recognizing this side of you, a side who speaks of peace and love, who truly wants to believe in all this.

Attend every Sunday service. Get back on the wagon. Do not look back, young man. There is a period in which you fall off the wagon, miss out on services, and retreat back into drinking and stewing upon your future:

Will you teach, or will you end up in a low-end job at some movie theater? Will you keep writing, or will you fall into the abyss? This is roughly around the anniversary of your mother's abandonment, and a time when school seems to be getting nowhere. You seem to be getting nowhere, and you wonder if you are raging against forces beyond control, if your fate is sealed already. Perhaps you should give up. But the past as future is not a pleasant prospect.

That period leaves you utterly alone in your apartment, back in the arms of Lady Netflix, and movies that hold no significance to the scheme of your life. You let your stories lag. You go out only to go to class, to go shopping and procure food. One time, you actually go for a walk around the block, but that's as far as you get, seeing no purpose.

One night, you feel the sense of containment, the sense that the room is like a maze with no way out, with nothing to offer you. This is coincidentally a night in which you have received a letter from your mother in which she says that her life is the "happiest." And this seems utterly ridiculous to you. You want to lecture her, to reach out and beg her to become normal, but at this moment a kind of thought rises to you like a tornado, the truth twisting around and around: It cannot happen. The distance between you both is too unbridgeable, too vast, too wide, like the mighty sea.

An image of your mother: It is the day she left you. You are ten years old, and she is driving you to some relative or another. You cannot even recall them all anymore. She looks at you with a kind of desperation in her eyes, a look that calls out to be understood. You are driving somewhere, through some run-down section of your hometown, when she starts talking about how that area used to be so successful. Your grandfather, she said, used to work in the old steel mills there.

"Look at how things change so fast," she says. "Everything's so temporary. You don't have enough time to think about it. You either go with it, or you're screwed."

"What does that mean?"

"It's a lot of bullshit," she'd said, "Your grandfather always said that. It sounds good, doesn't it?"

It doesn't at this time in your life, a time of transition, a time when you are being swept up. But looking at it now, you think you get a sense of what he meant. You are like a stranger standing on two train tracks, uncertain of which track to take. You are looking for the most obvious route, the straight track. You always have been. But sometimes the right track is the unknown.

You look out the window, the rooftops of college buildings and apartments silhouetted in black. Students are moving through life, making love, making plans, growing old, going through it all with grace and despair and bewilderment and humor, and you feel like you exist outside of them, just watching and watching. The thought of trying on possibilities, experimenting seems exhilarating. Frightening. You think of the Biblical characters Reverend Botkin preaches about, men and women wandering into the unknown with a certain determination, a certain inner drive, people able to embrace the unknown and all its vastness, and you imagine them following you forward, encouraging you. Challenging you.

"Welcome back," is all Reverend Botkin says, when you return for your Sunday pew aerobics (as Robin Williams lovingly refers to services). She does not attempt to question your absence, and you imagine after dealing with a brother like Nick, there are some questions she cannot broach. She has seen tragedy and bullshit. She has probably seen thousands of her own parishioners come and go, and you wonder what this must feel to her, to be helpless, to lose people, for whatever reason, people evaporating like water from the pews.

Regret past actions. Figure out how to transfer regret into action, namely regrets over the knocking over trash can phase when you were a teen. It seemed like you were in control, as though you were a mighty force then, with each can you knocked over, cans full of people's livelihoods, people's waste laid bare, like some museum on their lawns. Clippings, cereal boxes, newspapers, even boxes of condoms, things that amused you and made you feel like you had their number.

You still recall how your aunt had to pick you up at the police station so many times, they practically had a cell with your name on it. You'll be drinking a coffee, or on your way to class, or even on the crapper, when the memories will rise to you, wrapping themselves around your consciousness like a blanket.

Plus there was swilling of your aunt's booze, the spray-painted houses, the toilet-papered gyms. Weep like a sinner thinking of your aunt's world-weary face, the way she never actually scolded you, the words left unspoken, hanging in the air like shadows. Consider actually writing letters to the poor bastards you victimized. What would you say? God knows. How do you apologize, explain yourself, try to begin to make up for all you have taken.

Maybe meet a girl in church. Not likely. Old ladies and lesbians.

Perhaps at the movies. Or not. If this were a Choose Your Own Adventure, you would choose page 3 for the former, and page 10 for the latter. Of course, you are somewhere in the middle of that vast spectrum, still learning that your life is not a perfect sequence of events, but a chaotic series. If you go for her, open up to her about what has happened in your life, but focus squarely upon movies and other cultural interests. Do not exaggerate the facts. Perhaps she's a nerdy sort, addicted to Coen Brothers movies, and she can quote "The Big Lebowski" verbatim, including during sex. Or an opinionated, gruff type with a heart of gold, who can swear like a sailor in the Queen's navy. You do find a certain attraction to those types. Perhaps because they employ their manners as a mechanism of survival, a means of withstanding the ups and downs, and because they can garner respect.

If you make the right choice, you will feel a sense of connection, belonging. Pray in silent thanks during church and have a celebratory libation afterwards.

Actually try to love people on Monday too. Don't check your love at the door Sunday night at 11:59. It's tough. You run into your old enemies, the bearded fundamentalists around town, you find it tough to keep your shit together in your writing workshop when people tear your stories down like the walls of Jericho. Or on the bus, seeing the happy, smiling families, who exchange secrets and smile beatifically at you, which you mistake for condescension. But laugh at it all, try to find the humor in it. This is good fodder for stories, after all. So write a story. Let everything loose.

Love your mother. Think of her not as a bad mother, but a woman unable to give, to give love, stability. Think of her as a wanderer. Perhaps she'll wander back. More likely not. Make a pledge to conjure her only on holidays and birthdays. For her sake, stop drinking too. Think about ways to put the past aside, to plow forward. And stop thinking about Father Cooper, or try to.

Set aside all documents that relate to your past. Photographs, papers, and your mother's letters. Drive out to the edge of town. Set said documents on fire in a field, feeling the release of their weight from your fingers, the release of history. Toss them in a particular order. Or fuck it. Toss them in no logical order at all, watching as the past is enveloped in curtains of smoke, rising into the dusk. Watch the moon rise, smiling a silent luminous smile, silhouetting you in all its splendor, as you walk away into the unknown, the hills rising before you, smooth shadows on the horizon.

5 comments:

  1. An immersing account of a search for purpose and belonging. He ties the threads of his life together through his journaling here and we learn the story of his life. It takes courage to act, and the narrator's bold actions help shape and form his insights and his new and deeper character. Well done!

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  3. Loved this story! A poem. A memoir. The honesty. The questioning. Prose to savor. Correct (save maybe the caps following colons). Precise and careful, yet somehow spontaneous and flowing. The kind of prose that, for a time, leaks into your own voice (see). The kind of prose you don't want to work on your own creative writing project immediately following. Second person (the perfect choice) is not the easiest POV, but Seyedbagheri handles it masterfully, with abundant literary devices and sentence fragments that read like run-ons, streams of consciousness. A struggle for consciousness.

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  4. Agree with the previous comments regarding the narration choice and style. Fantastic second person delivery in this piece, very engaging, really draws out the character's personality quirks, sense of humor, and regrets.

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