I have always been a dreamer. Waking hours filled with daydreams of a younger, more vibrant self living other, more exotic lives that take the edge off the stupor of middle-age suburbia. Sleeping hours filled with images of places I have been before that morph and change, nightmarish Wonderlands, and places I have never been that haunt me just the same. Some nights I languish in cages built of my rigid small town girlhood; other nights I am prey climbing out of impossibly small, high windows, crawling through rough stone tunnels, hiding behind faux fireplaces on the run for my life. Or at least for my freedom.
Some dreams find me on my knees, lips and tongue forming the shape of silent prayers, fingers anxiously reading the silver chains that confine me like a blind woman’s rosary. My waking self is a recovered Catholic who rarely walks through the doors of a church willingly. In solitary rebellion, I refuse to kneel and sing loudly to myself to drown out the traitor chorus of “Our Fathers,” “Hail Marys,” and “Amens” that play in my head. They are etched more deeply onto my impressionable neurons than high school calculus or chemistry ever were.
I envision a grim future where I will forget my deep distrust of organized religion but my muscles will still remember how to genuflect like the most devout of believers. It strikes me as cruelly ironic that dementia may one day steal my lifelong oppositional defiance but that the empty rituals of Catholicism will never die. I have always suspected the Christian-Judeo god of being a wily bastard, always needing to have the last word.
The shadow filled rooms are always too cold, the kneeler cushions too thin and covered in grit. Debris digs into my bare skin, leaving odd-shaped impressions, Rorschachs of sin to be interpreted at another time. Frankincense and myrrh a miasma of smoke that makes my eyes tear, my throat itch.
It is never clear to me who I am praying to. Have I made peace with a monotheistic god in these dreams or do the Goddess and Green Man listen to my entreats? What I am praying for is also a mystery. I only know that I bow my head in atonement.
Christine E. Ray lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A former Managing Editor of Sudden Denouement Publications, she founded Indie Blu(e) Publishing with Kindra M. Austin in September 2018. Ray is the author of Composition of a Woman and The Myths of Girlhood. Her writing is also featured in We Will Not Be Silenced: The Lived Experience of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Told Powerfully Through Poetry, Prose, Essay, and Art, Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective, Swear to Me, and All the Lonely People. Read more of her work at https://braveandrecklessblog.com/.