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80 The easiest (and perhaps most truthful) explanation of his disdain for Nazareth Chapel was the color of the population. I don’t recall seeing a single black person at Farm Loop, but at Nazareth Chapel, in the “ghetto” of Anchorage, the racial slice was split evenly between Latinos, blacks, Samoans, and whites. At Farm Loop, he felt comfortable singing and dancing along with the white congregation. But when Sister Gloria, a stern black woman of 50, led the half hour of “song and rejoicing” before the sermon, Josh was the only person who stayed seated. He started to come in only once the singing had ended. He said he wanted to think about God, and didn’t see the point of all “the hooting and hollering” before the sermon. He worshipped Pastor B. Edmunds, a man of middling height with flaxy brown hair and imposing blue eyes. Josh watched Pastor B. Edmunds perform on Sunday like a kid watching Circus de Solei. He referred to the Pastor as a genius. Wednesday night bible study was by far his favorite. The church had splurged on a highly detailed map of hell. It spread across the entire expanse of the sanctuary, approximately the size of Guernica. It only came out on Wednesdays, and only when the topic of scrutiny was about the netherworld. Josh lived for these occasions. He sat in the second row, leaning forward from the edge of his seat as Pastor B. Edmunds pointed with a slim baton, like a General laying down for his troops the path to ultimate victory. He explained in intimate details why this feature of hell existed, what it did, and what type of sinner it would ensnare. These Wednesday sermons scared me so effectively that I often felt the need to forgive those around me and repent for all of my real or imagined sins. A few Wednesdays, I went so far as to tell Mom that I liked Josh. “He’s just what the doctor ordered,” I told her through a painfully fake smile. She was always surprised at these statements. She wasn’t proud of the divorce or re-marriage, and any sign of acceptance was a much needed boost to her ego. She had heavily annotated Blended Families and Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life, eager for the insight that would make me more accepting of this new family dynamic. And seeing the stunned joy play on her face over a statement that cost me nothing but pride and dignity--I nearly believed it myself. • The only time I encouraged a break up was the day of their wedding. I was 11. We were in the rickety

CIRQUE Mustang, driving a weaving road canopied with trees. Mom wouldn’t tell me where we were going, so we sat in silence. She was so lost in thought she forgot to turn the Christian radio on. It was a welcomed change; I enjoyed the unaltered space to take in the warm smell of the Mustang’s vintage seats, the warm glow from the glass, the dizzying green of trees. “So, Matt,” she said, startling me out of the quiet. “Josh and I have decided to get married.” They had been dating for five months. The divorce had been official for one year. The prospect of Mom in a wedding flooded me with joy. “That’s great news!” She smiled and kept her eyes on the road. “Congratulations!” I said. She glanced at my hands, and a clip of nervous laughter rolled out of her. “Thank you Matt. I thought you wouldn’t be okay with it; I know it’s a big change and all, but I really think it will be good in the end, for all of us.” This statement hurled me back to reality. I did not think of whom she was marrying or how it would change my life. She was going to marry Josh, the man whose best friend killed his mother, whose dad beat his entire family, who supported his video game addiction with my child support payments, who was 21 to her 40, who was racist and called apple juice whiskey. “Don’t do it.” She said nothing. The humming silence reminded me of a heartbeat flatline. “Mom. Please don’t do it. You hardly know him. And I honestly think you can do better.” More humming. “Mom—have you really thought this through? I think this is a terrible idea.” “The wedding’s already set,” she said in a near robotic voice. I had never heard her devoid of emotion. This was a woman who found joy in minuscule actions like replacing a new roll of paper towels or watering a rose bush in June. “We’re expected at Nazareth Chapel in four hours. I’m taking you to a store to buy you a suit for the ceremony.” And at that, the conversation ended. I sat bolted in the passenger seat until we arrived at the wedding store. It was in a standalone strip mall. The summer sun brought into relief the maps of dirt on the window; the wedding dresses behind it could barely be seen. Mom had picked out a few suits for me

Cirque, Vol. 7 No. 1  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

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