Sandra Dihlmann, Instructor
ENG 272—Creative Writing Nonfiction
Assignment: Write a personal essay.
So Let Me Be
I used to hate God. I used to hate a lot of things before I knew her, before what she showed me. I hated the world. I didn’t want to hate it, but I felt it hated me. I didn’t belong anywhere, because I had been everywhere, moving around most of my life. I had seen, heard and been too many different things. I was “punk,” “gangsta’,” “rebel,” “emo,” “the perfect child,” “the problem child,” “jockey,” and “geek.” I was looked up to and looked down on. I was almost every type of person you could put a label on, but nobody who really knew me could fit me into a stereotype. I didn’t fit in anywhere. I didn’t belong anywhere. If I had friends I was “hanging out” with, I could never just be myself. There were always so many different parts of myself I had to hide. If I acted “punk” or “emo” when I was with my trash-talking “homies,” who were all about being “gangster,” they would say stuff like, “Are you gay? I think you trippin’ homie. You’ve been smokin’ too much weed, man.” There was no part of the world I could find that would accept all of who I was.
I remember wanting to commit suicide at times, because it seemed nobody understood. It wasn’t that they couldn’t understand. It was that everybody refused to understand. Like when you try to explain to a police officer why you were speeding. You try to tell your story, but he doesn’t want to hear the reason you were doing 80 in a 50-mile-anhour zone. Even if he is a caring individual, he refuses to understand.
I remember the razor blades. Sometimes I would cut myself. If I was asked why I did it, I could never really explain. I wasn’t sure then why I did it. I knew there was a reason; I just didn’t know what that reason was. Looking back on it, I think it was because I couldn’t express what I was going through emotionally.
It sucks being a guy sometimes. When you’re a guy you can’t just go cry to your mom that nobody understands you and that you hate the world. By cutting myself, I could express what I was feeling. I could transform it into something physical—something that could be seen, perhaps in hope that someone would see and understand what I felt. Nobody did. I hardly understood what I felt. Was it anger, or rejection? Was it anger from rejection? Was it all because my bike was stolen when I was twelve? My shiny blue BMX that I would ride around the boring streets in that insignificant Missouri town, the nasty, smoky air making me choke because somebody was always burning something. Was I still bitter about my bike? I didn’t think someone stealing my bike would anger me for that long and make me feel like an alien to the world. Was it just utter and pure hate? I think it was something like hate, or resentment because I felt rejected by the world. In return, I loathed the world, and I despised God—hating with raw passion the jerk who stole my bicycle. But that was before I knew her.
I remember the first time I saw her. She was standing with her back to me when I ambled into my living room. At first all I could see was her long, jet-black hair flowing down like a waterfall. My brother had her over for a movie he was filming. She looked interesting, but I didn’t think too much about her. I just went on with my regular daily life. I had no idea then how much she would affect me, how much she would mean to me, how much I would love and respect her. How much she would change my life.
I used to hate God. I blamed him for everything I went through—for everything the world goes through. All the pain and hurt everyone feels. That was before I loved her, before the long talks about anything and everything in the middle of the frozen night, when we would just sit there in her white Honda Civic, staring at the labyrinth of stars and the harsh glare of the street lamps. We would talk about life and our beliefs. That was when she showed me. She helped me to understand.
I remember the first time I actually talked to her alone. We were supposed to go to the park with some other people, but they all bailed on us, so we went alone. We just sat there under the metal and cement shelter, like pigeons, and talked. We didn’t usually talk about much. But, that day at the park, sitting on the uncomfortable benches under a lackluster shelter, we had a serious conversation about the past, about who we were. She actually seemed to understand. It was amazing. I found myself wanting to tell her everything—all of things nobody else ever understood. It wasn’t romantic; we didn’t start making out and then have our lives flash forward to the scene where we are having sex or getting married, like the movies. It was better.
After that day at the park we would see each other whenever we could just to talk and be crazy. Neither of us cared how crazy or weird the other one was. I could finally be myself. I remember going to Wal-Mart with her and another friend. The ear-piercing shrieks of children not getting some toy they wanted, the smell of stale air and dirty diapers.
Sometimes we would just sit and talk about the most random things, like her burping or our favorite lightning storms. She listened when I told her stuff. She cared. She understood. She loved God. God was everything to her in the world. I lived for me and nobody else. I saw God as somebody whom weak and mentally ill people looked to for help out of desperation. I believed the idea of God was like a virus, running through people too weak to resist it. But how could that be? She was so strong and powerful and here she was, saying she had given her life up entirely to God. I was incredulous. Why did she love him so much?
Then I realized it wasn’t God I hated. It was what people used God for that I hated, the way they used Him to condemn others and raise themselves up. She wasn’t like them. She showed me who God really was. So many times I had been told I was going to Hell. That who I was was wrong. I had awesome friends who were gay, and, of course, we were all condemned to burn in Hell and suffer God’s wrath for eternity. Why? My friends because they were gay? Me because they were my friends? But she didn’t condemn me or anyone else. She loved me.
I remember the first time she told me. I remember when she explained everything to me in a letter. When I read it, it was like getting hit in the face with a soccer ball but not quite so painful. It made me see that sometimes other people do understand and care. That not everyone uses God to justify their holy wars or raise themselves above others.
I could finally let go of pretending to be someone I was not. It felt wonderful. I could finally be myself without being judged or ridiculed. At the same time, I was scared. There was still the possibility that she, like so many other people, would not accept me for who I was. It was like the sensation I get when I’m rollerblading down what seems like a seven-mile hill, and I know I can’t stop. If a car pulls out in front of me, I’m dead. And there is this thrill, as if I’m flying. She was the one who gave me the thrill for life; she gave life meaning.
When I was little, I went to a fancy restaurant with my grandparents. I never understood why they set the table with two forks, until I dropped one on the floor. Then, it all made sense. We all need an extra fork, so when one falls, there is another one to take its place. I used to hate God. I used to hate a lot of things. But everything makes sense to me now.