My father would kill me if he knew where I was…where I have been this whole time…kill me with his own cold white hands.
All I had to do was open my eyes, and I’d be back there, dead asleep beneath those old wooden pews, chewing gum hanging from their undersides, like tumors or hemorrhoids. I knew that all I had to do was simply look up and I’d see the fat swinging legs of my baby sister Ruffles, who was obviously unaware of my presence just beneath her, otherwise, she would have blown my cover, she being the princess stooly of all pigeon girly-girls! All I had to do was look straight ahead, and see amongst the dirty heeled boys and lavender varicose, all the other sleeping darlings, some appearing now strangely morbid and old like dusty sarcophagi. Mother’s little angels fallen far from grace, like myself.
I wondered if they too might be dreaming.
Dreaming like me now, still here, so many years later.
One filthy little scab of a boy, toward the front row, closer, particularly brave…brazen! Did he not know how easily one can be spotted from behind the pulpit? Nickel-sized stains from red licorice on his cheeks, like dried blood from the pocks or scarlet fever. Did he not know that if any preacher were to see him there, slumbering beneath the seats, it would have been considered a direct affront, assault and insult to him, to his sermon, to his family, but worst of all…to his God?
But I did not look up.
I did not look straight ahead.
I did not open my eyes.
I stayed right where I was…and have always been. Underneath those old wooden pews. A slightly fat kid one day, a full-grown man the next. My eyes bitterly tightened down like presses, the lids pulled shut, closed and locked up like one of those old roll-top desks, hiding away all its contents.
And of course, during those more than just uncomfortable years, when I was becoming a typically dirty and deluded teenager…(later on you will learn that at this particularly treacherous point in life…that escape was clearly the act of a truly desperate human being)…even then I was here. Though some, including myself, considered it downright embarrassing! I was not, however, altogether without shame. But even the deepest felt shame can be dreamed away…if not at least…for a little while.
And so my body grew. And I had to pull my legs up tighter, closing myself in so that no one could see me. Or…so I told myself. Or were they, as always, just ignoring me? My father…my mother…did they see me there?
The half-crazed preacher running rampant down the aisles, polyester thighs rubbing together, hell-fire hot! Making this zzzzinging sound, foaming at the mouth, spit sometimes dripping down on me…(but I daren’t say or do anything…dare I lose asylum!)
From the first, I knew it would be no easy task to achieve, when I came here seeking sanctuary. Each Sunday morning, my family would arrive. I would see that dark crawlspace, eyeing it like a thief’s prize, my eyes narrowing, knowing it to be my one and only, and true salvation.
But I had to wait for just the right moment. Opportunity is a hole to be filled.
And then, finally, the chance came. And when no one was looking, I bent and crawled underneath, my heart beating faster…and I lie here still.
Still on the soft red carpet, which through the years would become so hard and rigid from so much deceit and drool.
And the truth is you know, I don’t know if I’ll ever come out from under here. For I have, through the years, grown to like it. It may be true that one day I will be discovered here, or some stranger…some fool might point me out and say, ignorant, toothless mongrel, “say! What is that there…underneath that seat?”
But until then…until then I’m fine. Just…fine. And in fact, if they want me out from under here, they’re going to have to pull me out!
And of course, if I should one day…die under here, undiscovered, an old man held together by too much knowledge and bitterness, then and only then, take me out…and take me away, to a place where I don’t have to hide…to a place where I can finally sleep…in peace. But until then…I’ll be here. Dreaming in the house of God.