My friends know that I’m always mad, that rage is my armor, that I want to be seeing red or nothing at all. When I can’t be loud, it’s easier to wrap myself in a blanket of silence than to hear the sound of my voice. Soft. Vulnerable. I don’t want to cry unless I’m angry. Don’t want to talk about emotions unless they’re so deftly woven into a fabric of psalms and red letters that it doesn’t feel like I’m talking about feelings at all. I strive to emulate the personality of my steel-toed boots: loud, invincible, electric shock resistant, unwavering. Not even wanting to step into someone else’s shoes but wanting to be the shoes, themselves.
I write multiple endings to every story, and I write stories about everybody. I fashion myself fairytale endings and tragedies, romances to compensate for the fact that I proposed to my ex with a plain cardboard box wrapped in twine. I find inspiration in a story full of stories, the greatest book ever written, one breathed into existence by the Most High, Himself, and I find solace in the most important thing I was able to take out of my apartment the night me and my sister ran away.
But my creativity is no match for a box of saltine crackers, crumbled up in chicken soup for the white man’s soul. How can I contend with you when my eyes alone will give me away, siphoning out my credibility even when the sun refuses to show its face? Fighting with you is living life on a seesaw, going flying at the whim of your family’s schemes. I write fiction but the real story was the one where you convinced me that I was a thief.
I grew up with the Amar Chitra Katha version of Ramayana and Mahabharata, but even Dasha Avatar had nothing on you. Maybe a chipmunk got its stripes from Rama and helped build a bridge from India to Sri Lanka. Maybe Krishna fed the world with a single grain of rice. Maybe Kali really does wear a necklace of skulls. Because it really was incredible, what you got me to believe.
I started writing when I was a kid because when I met you, I was a child; a blue barn and a red tractor, loud colors from a vibrant heart. Cows and ducks and pigs and chickens way out past the city limits where the only things I’d be able to count on would be corn fields and bigotry and walking down the double yellow line at night because I’m afraid of who’s hiding by the roadside. A shoebox of paint chips and kids’ names and road trips and whitening my name like Crest toothpaste to try to be the woman of your dreams. The story has a beautiful ending but the protagonist isn’t me.
I bought markers to write God’s words on the wall when my own mind won’t spin a web of words for me, rainbow colors minus indigo to try and capture the joy I’m feeling. But walking by faith is more than knowing I’ll get home safe after spending the last four of my twenty-three hours asking a friend to be the editor of my situation. It’s more than knowing that even as I cut across Genesee on a bike with no lights at midnight, God will carry me home. It never occurred to me that sometimes, walking by faith means walking away.
I’ve been rising with the sun to study Jeremiah, reflecting on the sin of idolatry but when you’re zoomed in, it’s hard to see the forest from the trees. Differentiability implies local linearity. I’ve been highlighting and circling and drawing maps and word clouds but more than it was for my best friend, the message was for me. Warning me about bowing down to the law of man before the law of God. Asking why I’d ever think that the protection of a piece of paper would take precedence over protection from the Lord, Himself.
Images made of wood and stone have never been able to call my house a home, but still, I can feel God’s anger burning against my misplaced faith. I can hear Him asking why I would forsake Him, the spring of living water, for a legal order to be enforced by the very institution I rally against. I talk so much, the never-ending stream of words has been running up my water bill but the only One I answer to has rendered me silent. I have nothing to say. My idolatry is the source of His anger. Anger to mask His pain.
I always want to be angry, but right now, my God is the one who’d see red or nothing at all. Red because my stubborn heart wouldn’t turn from its ways until it was forced to. Red because a lump of clay convinced me that I could set myself aside from the will of the potter, Himself. Red because I had the nerve to put Him in a box of my design. Red because my body is not my own, but I have desecrated it as though it was an object of my creation. Red because once upon a time, I put you before You, him before Him. In an eight year fight that was eight years too long, the final blow was a matter of capitalization. I’ll never bow down to a man again.