Friday, August 15, 2008


Heaven is a place
a place where nothing
nothing ever happens.
“Heaven” by David Byrne
Talking Heads album “Stop Making Sense”

Delivering Church Fish Fry flyers, I walk down King St to the Legion. Two ladies are standing by the door waiting for opening hour. I ask them to post a flyer inside for me.

“You’re the Minister aren’t you?” one asks. I look into her eyes as we shake hands. I am sure I’ve met her before – but she says no. She is going to start coming to church in the fall she assures me. She is sick and she wants to talk with me.

…yeah I’m sure I’ve met her a thousand times…in cabs, in bars, in funerals, in moments of weakness when God seems close and a young minister seems like a good substitute for another drink – at the time – or maybe tomorrow – or next Sunday for sure.

Meeting that young Minister stirred something up in me I haven’t felt in a while. There’s a thirst – a hope – that the fire down in me might get quenched. It’s the place where Heaven should be – used to be - but instead the fires of hell rage. They burn and burn and I drink and drink and they won’t go out. They incinerate every good thing that goes down there.

Sometimes I’m sure that God can save me from this hell. But then I’m just as sure that He’ll laugh in my face, turn away, wash His holy hands of me. My children have. My husband did. My father couldn’t wait to leave us – to get away from the pressure cooker of sad bickering that was home. The fires that cooked that pot back then burn still under my bed.

I can’t sleep. My health has left me just like everyone else. My only friends are those who commune with me at the Legion in liquid spirits around tables overflowing with memories spilled out, old laughs, good times, bitter lessons, lost hopes, regrets and resolutions sopped up by the waiter’s rag – wiped clean like a priest’s absolution - and I am free.

Sedated, it takes all my foggy focus to make my way home again. To get to bed where I search out the sleep of the dead. The sleep that I once knew. I once knew a sleep that would give me peace and restore my strength. Dreams that would inject just enough curiosity to get me out of bed for another day’s searching after lost hope. But the demons I once could battle in dreams, could run from until daylight now wake me - running in my head like mice on a wheel in a cage.

I cry out to God to make them stop but the mice just run faster and the trundling of the wheel sounds like mocking laughter inside my head and I can’t hear the angels singing. I know they’re there beside my bed. I just can’t hear them - can’t feel them bathing my sores. I can only feel the heat of the fires cooking me; steaming the soul from my bones.

Then, standing out of the sun, waiting for the Legion doors to open, God sends a flesh and blood angel for me. He tells me he’s the Minister at the church and I reach out to him like a liferaft dropped from the heavens into my stormy seas. He looks into my eyes and tells me he knows me. He throws me a rope and I grab it but …but…don’t pull myself in. And I don’t hold it tight enough to let him pull me in either.

I can’t risk him rejecting me, throwing me from the boat. I can’t risk him turning away from me. I know that eventually he’d get bored with my failures to win the battles. He’ll give up on me like all the others. So, I’ll give up on him before he does. Before the sting. The days of hope and support and feeling like maybe I belong to someone or something just aren’t worth the thousand cuts of rejection that always follow. Thousands of little paper cuts that sting and burn every time I look in the mirror – every time I let my thoughts drift – every time I turn to GOD. They flare.

No, it’s enough just to know that my lifeline is there. He tells me to come and see him. And that’s all I need. I am assured of my hope - that Jesus will one day welcome me home. If there’s a Minister who will pray me into Heaven’s sleep, then Jesus will open his arms and pull me from the fires of hell where I live. Jesus will know that I’ve paid for my sins with sacrifice and offerings. My pension food money doled out in drafts of all the forgiveness I deserve – all the life I can stand. And finally the angels will cut the chains that keep me burning here. I’ll be in Heaven. Heaven – where nothing ever happens.

1 comment:

brenda said...

Allan, you remind me in this piece of one meaning of compassion - walking in another's shoes. You surely have done that here - in flaming detail. All the alcoholics I've ever met were present in that piece, including one in my own family. Thanks for juxtaposing heaven with each of them.

Brilliant writing!