I swear to you, I have the most interesting life. Ever. It appears to be unbelievable, but alas, here it is in all it's glory, unfolding year by year, story by story... and it's - my - life.
My new church, Bibleway House of Prayer, had an interesting visitor last night. I almost didn't go to bible study this week. Usually, my daughter and I go together, but she was at camp, which meant I would have to go alone. I hem-hawed around. Picked up my purse. Put it down. Thought about it. Picked up the purse. Decided to go. Decided to screw it. Decided I'd better go to church and pray after that last thought. Okay, I'm going! I ran out the door and was a good ten minutes late. Oh boy, am I glad I went.
Had I not gone, I would not be able to tell you about the possible zombie apocalypse I feared I might see unfold right before my very eyes.
I sat in my usual spot. I noticed two strangers in the front pew, a young adult man and a woman I assumed (correctly) was his mother. At first, they were unremarkable, but as the minutes ticked by, I could tell something was wrong. Very wrong. I don't exactly know if I saw it so much as I felt it. There was a presence of something being very wrong and although I couldn't put my finger on it, I stared quizzically at the back of this man's head.
His head was shaved. It's a predominantly black church, so I will point out that the young man and his mother were both white. He was wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt which was cut down both sides, exposing his sides all the way down to his camouflage shorts. We don't dress fancy for Wednesday night church and nobody would have cared on Sunday either. That's not the point. Come, we'll love you, that's all. If your church disses you for the way you dress and you're sitting in there in earnest, you better find another church. I'm just sayin'. That's not the love of God. Run, don't walk, to somewhere that accepts you for you.
He had tennis shoes on, but took them off at some point, revealing short grey sport socks underneath. He was tattooed from head to toe. I mean literally he had tattoos on his head, down his exposed sides, arms, neck, everywhere. I could barely see his socks because his lower legs were "sleeve" tattooed as well. He probably had hundreds on his body, although I couldn't tell what any were. I was interested, too. I wanted to know the story behind each one.
I hope you're not reading me wrong here (that has been known to happen). I don't mind tattoos at all. I have one and I forget it's there until someone notices it. I swear, I had no idea what a tramp stamp was when I got it and I would never call it that, but I digress. I'll post a pic someday with a story. Anywhooooo, this young man's tattoos were hard not to see. It wasn't the tattoos that drew my gaze, however. I was mesmerized by that feeling I referred to earlier.
His mother rubbed his back as they sat there and she spoke softly to him. I saw her mouth say, "Do you want me to? I'll do it," and he managed to nod in agreement.
Pastor Patrice was taking testimonies and people were sharing their stories of goodness from the week. The house was filled with the presence of goodness. I watched the young man intently. I was strangely drawn to him. Then, I noticed the behavior changes. He stood up unexpectedly. He paced. He seemed agitated and confused. He sat on the platform stairs. He began to cry several times, but kept stopping himself. He sat down again. He covered his ears and rocked. I wondered if he was mentally challenged, but the story of the tattoos told me that wasn't the case.
He stood again and turned to the left, facing no one in particular. He had a rubber band twisted around his wrists. You know, the kind kids wear as a bracelet that are colored and form into a shape in their natural state? He began to lift his hands, as though reaching out to God. The rubber band was twisted in a figure 8, one loop over each wrist. It was as though he was handcuffed. He noted it and sat back down.
At one point, he stood abruptly, turned sideways, and thrust his arms out wide. The rubber band broke. He looked at it in dismay, as though he had just been unsure of what was on his wrists in the first place and why it was now in pieces. He handled the rubber band with puzzlement. Why was it on his wrist? What was it? What did it mean that it was now broken? It seemed symbolic to me, but to him, it was a mystery.
He sat back down. His mother got up and gave a testimony last. She talked about a product she sells that she was excited about and the fact the it could heal the sick and she felt like it was sent by God and she brushed over a mention of her son, who was having "issues" and "definitely going through some stuff" and needed prayer. It was blatantly obvious that he needed more than whatever Jesus Juice she was hawking and that he was in distress. She said that she had raised her kids to know God and that her son knows God and wants to share that with people as well. He stood up and unexpectedly attacked her with a huge hug in the middle of her sentence and she warmly reciprocated, then he just as abruptly sat back down.
As the congregation participated in some prayer and thankfulness time, he covered his ears and his face contorted. He was in pain. I could feel it! He turned around and stared intently at the woman behind him. His face reacted with great animation to what he was seeing. It seemed as though she was telling him something very profound or disturbing and that he couldn't believe what she was saying. Later, she told me that she hadn't said a word to him. I realize now that he was looking at someone or something else in his mind. Poor Margo just happened to be in the way of his delusion.
After his attempt to get up on stage and several times of wandering about while looking panicked, they decided to escort him to a room in the back to talk to him privately. He felt affronted by this action, even though it was meant with no malice whatsoever. The drugs were making him paranoid. They gathered his shoes and took him to the room. He hesitated at the door, putting his hand out, finger pointed, and a look on his face as if to say, "Wait, I think you're out to hurt me and I'm not sure I want to go." It was about then that I started praying intently.
I could feel that there was a possibility that he might blow at any moment. It became clearer and clearer that he wasn't in a good frame of mind for some reason. They got him to go back into the room and he shot back out of there within a few short minutes. They re-directed him to another room, away from the congregation, where a dear lady was trying like heck to give a presentation on the sins of the flesh. Her subject was "wrath." I was up next with "envy." We both made it through our presentations without further upset, as they had succeeded in getting him to the back dining hall area. I knew one thing. I didn't envy my (thankfully very large) black brothers one bit for the task of calming this poor soul.
Later, I learned that he said that he had been doing mushrooms. Now, from what I hear, mushrooms are typically a nice, light, fluffy trip around the universe. Our poor pastor did not even know what he meant when he said he had taken mushrooms. She asked him if they were fresh mushrooms. I think she thought he ate some bad fungi or something. I suspect he may have been on multiple drugs.
I've never done magic psychedelic mushrooms, but I have taken a few acid trips and done other drugs aplenty in my old "colorful" days and I can tell you right now that there are good trips to la-la land and there are bad trips to la-la land. Bad, scary trips. Trips where you wonder what in the heck the dealer put in your batch. Apparently, that's where this guy was. He was in zombie la-la land and I would not have put it past him to try to eat somebody's face off, thinking they were a threat.
I felt truly sorry for him. I could tell he was afraid. I could tell he was hallucinating. I could tell the church was a little afraid too. I wasn't afraid myself, but I was fully prepared to duck and cover if necessary. Who knew if he had a "nine" in his pocket? Not me. And I had been in that state before and seen plenty of people in that state before, so at least I knew what I was seeing. The man I was looking at wasn't the man I was seeing. He was a body inhabited by something else. He was possessed by the drugs. He told one of the men he was afraid to be near his children because he was afraid he would hurt them if he listened to the wrong voices. This was not a good trip to la-la land.
His mother cried and agreed to stay with him overnight. She said he had just gotten out of jail and he wasn't like that before he went in. She said he was a good person. She said they'd been to the hospital to try and get him something to calm his nerves. She was in denial. That wasn't nerves working on him. It was his own personal demons. His "friends" had probably gifted him with all sorts of drugs as a reward for getting out of jail.
She said that they didn't know anything about the church and that they had been driving by and she said, "There's a church and there are people there. Do you want me to go back?" He did. And just that easily, if he had been in possession of a deadly weapon and mistook our congregation's motives to move him to another location to give him personal attention, we could have all been statistics in an unbelievable tragedy that night.
Once, eons upon eons ago, I went on an acid trip where I thought our toilet was trying to eat me when I went to the bathroom. I called my boyfriend into the bathroom to verify that it was really reaching out to grab me and whaddya know? He said it tried to eat him too. We decided to hold our pee until the drugs wore off a bit. I remember parts of that night very well. I remember looking at a picture of he and I on the bookcase and saying, "Do you think we'll ever be those people again or do you think we'll be stuck like this forever?" It was scary as hell. I'm so glad I'm not that person anymore and I never tripped on acid again. One bad trip is enough. It's a wonder we hadn't killed somebody that night driving to the house, the drugs already in effect. In our eyes, both the truck and the road were bending out of shape and things were distorted and the colors were all wrong.What do you see? It's all a blur...
I can only imagine what this man was seeing. I wonder, what will that man remember about Wednesday night bible study at Bibleway House of Prayer? Did we appear as horrifying zombies out to devour him? Was our toilet trying to eat him? Were his chains broken that night?
He said he wants to testify and I hope he comes back and does that. I'd like to meet him again. The real him.
As they exited the front doors, the pastor said, "You two come back again. You're welcome here."
I love my church.
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