I sat myself beneath the window, on the window seat. I’m going to pray, I told myself. My throat automatically clenched in resistance. I’ve got to, I said to it.
I had no right to ask God for anything, and I wouldn’t have usually, but by now I was willing to try anything. And I suspected that everything else I’d tried in the past month was an excuse to avoid trying this.
“Dear God,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
I paused so long I must have looked like I was expecting a reply. I took a deep breath. “I’m sorry for what I did. I wish I hadn’t lied to everyone so that I could see him, and I very definitely wish I hadn’t seen him. If I could take back that night, believe me God, I would.
“I’m asking you to forgive me and even though I wonder how I dare, I’m also asking you to help me. I know I deserve to suffer. But I want the dreams to stop—I want to go through the day without guilt weighing heavy on my stomach. I want to go out with my friends without asking myself if they would associate with me if they knew. I want to look my mother in the eye. She doesn’t know and she won’t find out—being sorry I lied doesn’t mean I’m sorry I’m a good liar—but every time she tells me she’s proud of me I feel like I won the game but cheated to get there. She loves me but I don’t deserve it, and I can’t let myself cry in front of her, it would be so selfish, but the tears fall on the inside like drops of acid. I almost wish she would find out, but she deserves to think she has a good daughter even if it isn’t true, doesn’t she? Just as I deserve to be suffering.”
Tears had welled up in my eyes at this point and were edging their way from the corners. The words were tumbling out now but I didn’t feel better; instead, I felt like I was reciting a list of all my shortcomings and confirming their existence. “I think I’ve suffered enough, though!” I added defiantly. “I’ve hurt myself more than anyone. Please let me stop hating myself. I haven’t seen him in a month, and I’m never going to again. I promise.”
I felt no change. Why should I? If God was how they said, He was angry with me right now. I unclasped my hands and looked up through the window at the full moon shining brightly in the sky—pure, whole, beautiful. If only those words could have been used to describe me. Perhaps they never could have been used to paint an accurate picture of the girl I was and had been, but suspicion and assumption deal much softer blows than hard knowledge. I had never been what they wanted me to be or what everything around me told me I ought to be, but I had never acted on it before. Last month a line had been crossed, and now I was ostracized from the ranks of the righteous even though they did not know what I had done, rather because I knew where I did not belong and had ostracized myself.
I walked away from the window and took a small paper bag off of my dresser, reaching inside and pulling out a dreamcatcher. It had a round straw frame with string wrapped around it like a cobweb, and feathers and large glass beads dangled from the bottom. The woman I had bought it from today had informed me it would keep nightmares from reaching my sleeping head. This proposition had a decidedly pagan flavor to it but I figured since I was already outside acceptable moral territory I might as well get as much as I could out of it. And maybe it would make the dreams stop. Now as I looked at it, I wondered why I should have so much trouble believing in God or a divine plan when I was gullible enough to throw away cash on a straw net to scare off nightmares. I hated myself at that moment for buying something so silly. Then I hung it up in my window anyway and hated myself a little bit more. As I lay my head down on my pillow, waiting for sleep to engulf my mind, I reflected that this was at least a break in the monotony of hating myself for the usual stuff.
I awoke to the weekend sun warming my face, and I shielded my eyes as I opened them and began to stretch. At least the moon was a gentle reminder of my sullied virtue—the sun, bright and intense with its unblemished light, I literally could not look at. I threw my feet out of bed, but to my surprise, when I looked down I saw a dozen little rainbows dotting the floor and tattooing my skin. My eyes went to the dreamcatcher in the window, and I saw that the glass beads had acted as prisms and split the white light into all the colors of the visible spectrum. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet…Roy G. Biv. The colors of the rainbow as taught to me by my third grade science teacher, and all the wonder I had felt at the time, the wonder that all those vibrant colors could be disguised in the hue of nothingness, came flooding back to me. The sun blinded and shamed me, but the rainbows enthralled me, and yet they were really the same thing.
Nobody could look at the sun, could they? I thought. All the natural light and color in the world came from the sun, but nobody could look the origin in the eye. They washed it down, diluted it, and divided it because they just couldn’t take the real thing. Some people saw the moon and adored it for its gentle reflected light, but others got their sun running down the beach watching it dance on sea-green waves like folds of sequined satin, and still there were others who shut their eyes and were content to feel the sun on their skin, knowing they could never use their primitive human eyes to see it for what it was but that love did not require understanding. Then there were those who couldn’t take the light of the real world at all and glued their faces to mirrors and TV screens, or, in my case, to their reflection in a teardrop. But there was no reason for me to do that anymore, because in that moment I realized I’d ever seen anything so beautiful as a rainbow.
I didn’t fall to my knees and pray that morning. I wouldn’t for a long time. But a few of the stones dragging down my heart were gone, and over breakfast when my mother smiled at me, I liked it. And I smiled back.