06 November 2016

Time is ticking away


When I was an Evangelical, for most of my life until I was about 21, I was convinced the world was going to end imminently. I worried daily — it hummed in my subconscious like you imagine the drones in Afghanistan, just waiting to take you out. I would walk outside and project Jesus coming from the sky suddenly, and it being over like that. In everything, in the literature, the sermons, the audiobooks we listening to: a constant drumbeat of time running out; DC Talk rapped, 'Time is ticking away/ tick, tick, ticking away'. I worried that I would come up short when this happened, that I wouldn't actually have been a Christian. As I grew up, this was less of a concern, but instead I worried that Jesus would appear before I had a chance to have sex, this black hole of unknown pleasure that no one talked about. I remember seeing a naked picture of Pamela Anderson in a CD recycle shop and being burdened for months. Whom do I tell, what do I say.

The silence of the early morning brings up these thoughts. I stood twice in the cold at the bus stop this week, waiting to be taken away to work somewhere, feeling impotent and tired and fat. I wanted to smoke, like I had the week before on the back stoop of Yoko's friend's house, a guy whose kids she teaches Japanese and who is lovely. He's a psychotherapist and an immigrant like me, but older. We were smoking and listening to the M5 in the darkness and talking about how you get older and forget about everything — forget about the curiosity about doing acid, for example. It would be silly at 44, isn't it. We took long drags — the cigarettes were from Sri Lanka and we talked about vices and death and how we need to accept death. Indeed, no one wants to accept it anymore. The conversation kept falling into silence, the sound of the motorway. None of it makes sense, isn't it: how you buy a house and wonder how it was that you bought a house. You are still a kid with a backpack in some foreign country, just trying to get through the year.

I saw DC Talk in New Mexico, at the NMSU basketball arena, when I was 12 or 13, I don't remember. I saw them twice, once with my parents and sister on the Free at Last Tour, my parents insisting on sitting throughout the concert while my sister and I stood nervously. Then again, when they were touring Jesus Freak, their crossover album with the video directed by someone who had directed a Nine Inch Nails video. That time, I was with the youth group and awkward in a different way, but we jumped up and down while they played. We were close to the stage, and I remember that my calves hurt badly the next day.

I don't remember who I was worried I might not ever get a chance to have sex with, who I had a crush on then  — perhaps it was still Sarah Bush, who was several months older than me and studied Spanish with my brother at the homeschool co-op. I was in a class below them, having been born in 1982 rather than 1981 and was with my sister and some other kids I don't remember. Our teacher was a Mexican woman named Liz who would make us copy Spanish sentences into our notebooks, a mixture of a grammar-translation and audio-lingual method I can recognise now as a kind of expert in these things. There was rout memory of irregular verbs, but we never said much of anything, just repeated her for hours on end. I don't remember it now even when it might be useful like when running into our Spanish neighbour and thinking about saying good morning.

There was a mother at this homeschool co-op, a vivacious woman with two boys. She was intimidating and sexual in a way that at thirteen you can't put into words. She would hug you and speak to you directly and loudly. She was convinced suddenly one day that untucked shirts were a sign of disrespect, so we had to tuck our shirts in before we went in. I remember this so clearly, standing on the stairs of a Baptist church which was old and had a 'Fallout' Sign above it, looking back at the car as my mom watched me tuck my Looney Toons shirt into my cut-off jean shorts. The world is ending soon enough — with some luck, before it all falls apart, I will pass Sarah Bush in the corridor and perhaps she will say hello.

The things you remember when your calves hurt — I have been going to the gym again after taking the summer off and trying to be healthy but not crazy, which seems to be a kind of balance I can't manage. I can reject the existence of god, sure, but I'm still 13 and convinced that it will all come to an end. I still want to take communion. I'm 34 now, I think, looking at myself sweating in the gym mirrors and feeling 34. The world didn't end, did it. I sit back in a booth at a pub, drunk and tired, all the conversation spinning around me. The world didn't end, did it.
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