When I heard him say what he said, I physically felt it. “Grab her.” Years ago, I had laser surgery on my cervix. If you’re a man and you don’t have a cervix, a woman can’t exactly feel her cervix, just that it’s up in there somewhere, not with super nerve endings like your fingers, but some nerve endings, you know it’s you.
It was the only time I’ve felt pain inside that was really inside, in a place I couldn’t touch. Not like stomach cramps, or a headache, that you can soothe from the outside, you naturally want to touch or grip that place, it’s some comfort to tense up and lay your own hands on it. You can’t do that with pain inside.
It was a few short minutes, that pain, and not severe, and the procedure was over, a few precancerous cells burned away, they had to go. They never came back.
I was having dinner with a friend and she said, “Did you see the latest Tr*mp thing?” “No,” I said. She summed it up. Eh, more of the same, I thought.
I got home and watched the video. It wasn’t the same.
There was another time I felt internal pain, specific, internal, when students called me a cunt, when they talked about my body, if I had sex, or how I had sex.
Some places I worked the kids wouldn’t dare say things like that to me, because our community was strong, because I had colleagues who would suspend them if they talked that way, and because I had plenty of other students, particularly male students, who were protective of me.
Other places I’ve taught, if I wrote these things down, they would be completely ignored.
If I went to an administrator office to pursue it, they would tell me to call the kid’s parents.
Or that they would have a meeting with the kid, when they could schedule one.
Or they might tell me that I needed to handle classroom problems in the classroom on my own.
I had to go back in the next day and let the kid say the exact same stuff as much as he wanted to.
Sometimes another student would come up to me and say, “He shouldn’t be allowed to say that stuff to you.”
“I know,” I would say. “But I can handle it. It’s all right.” That’s what I had to say.
What’s hardest for me is to know that millions, millions of my fellow citizens, my brothers and sisters on the planet, voted for That Guy. That’s why he’s up there. They did this on purpose.
What do we do as Christians? We pray hardest for That Guy, because he’s obviously messed up real bad. We pray for our sisters and brothers, that is, everyone, who is angry, for all of us frightened, that is also all of us. When we are frightened we stay still, so we can stay ourselves. Run in place if you must.
Mary and her precious body, Christianity saved from Greek ghostliness by leaders who held us in our bodies, Mary’s precious body, Jesus’, which was real, which hurt and bled, Mary, who was held and kissed, a real woman, Jesus, who ate bread and fish and made wine and drank wine at weddings, just like we do, exactly, exactly like that. No different. Bread like I had bread with my friend at our dinner, with our soup. Bread you need for your real body, your real belly and arms and all the cells, down to your lovely cervix, if you happen to have one.
That’s why we have real wine and real bread. Not ghosts. Not talk. Not theory.
I’m just as much a sinner as That Guy. That’s the only way out. That Guy’s ways out don’t go out, they go in circles. I am he, he is me, we’ve all fucked up, we all suffer, we all will die. And our tradition is that we’re all absolutely, equally redeemable, every minute of every day.
What we do as citizens, I can’t get there yet. This is how they got Hitler, I’ve thought again and again, horrified, we almost elected Hitler and our economy isn’t even awful, our country isn’t even humiliated and broken like Germany’s, it isn’t anything like that. We’re actually doing all right. And this happened. Maybe we stopped it. Maybe.
The other front page stories in the Times today are about the after effects of torture (shit, there are some, officials conclude), the destruction in Haiti (Jesus, things can get worse for them). Then there’s one about how guys are brought in from far away to help slice lox at Zabar’s for Yom Kippur.
Lox is gross.
I wish my tradition was having our big festival of quiet and fasting this week, sitting around saying to ourselves, What the hell? How can we possibly fix this?
Christians will get to that in the spring, when we have new mistakes and aches and pains. What the hell? I don’t know. How can we possibly fix this? I don’t know, but I’m trying to figure out how, from right where it hurts.
Image: Shrine of the Virgin, Metropolitan Museum of Art.