Personal Essay: Victim of Tragedy

flower 2017

It was a Tuesday.
I never listened to the radio in work – I was more of a compact disc person since I just figured out how to make my own CDs with music I ignorantly downloaded from the Internet.
I met a guy the previous year – also ignorantly on the Internet – which is a story in and of itself. He walked out on me after a disagreement about money and drove his car down to Virginia to see his sister whom he had not seen or spoken to for three years. After two days he had called me to beg for forgiveness; for a home.
Anyway, my co-worker, who was in the business of talking customers into an extra bundle of pizza boxes, yelled from the back office, “An airplane crashed into one of the twin towers!”
My first thought: What are the twin towers? My second thought: That’s what happens when you drink on the job.
I continued to print reports while working on a short story for my creative writing class. It was nice to have a job where I could get things done for me.
It made up for the shitty pay due to my lack of office skills.
My coworker shouted from the back again: “Another plane hit the other tower!”
Okay, so I guess it’s not drunk flying. I turned on the radio and listened to WMMR as Pierre Robert told me what he heard so far.
The phone rang.
It was my boyfriend.
“Airplanes flew into the twin towers,” he breathed.
“I know,”I said. “I just turned on the radio.”
“Oh Jesus, something just flew into the Pentagon.” He screamed.
“Doesn’t your sister work there?”
“Yes. This is unbelievable.” I could hear the panic in his voice as he sipped his 56-ounce refill cup of Pepsi and dragged on his cigarette.
I looked out the door again at the vehicles whizzing by. Did they know what was happening? One of the owners appeared outside, framed in the aluminum door – it was the one with the cane and the pimp daddy suits. He was a large man; Jewish; arrogant.
I didn’t like him.
My boyfriend told me he spoke with his dad. Her promotion carried her to the side of the building that was hit.
I was crying. The arrogant Jew asked me what was wrong. I told him. He asked me to come in his office. He held me and said it was going to be okay; everything was going to be fine and he would take care of me.
Suddenly, I was on my knees, under his desk, between his legs. When he finished, he helped me to my feet, handed me a hundred dollars and a Percocet. He gave me a long, molesting hug and said, “I’m sorry.”
I stared at him right in his eyes – silent and searching like a wounded doe searching the eyes of her hunter.
“Sorry for what?” I finally managed.
“Sorry for your loss,” he said.

*This story is a personal essay based on factual events.
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The Moment I Rejected Christianity

What you believe is your business.  This is not a judgy post… This is about how the interpretation of my Higher Power changed around the year 2015.  If you’re interested, read on my friend.  If not, no harm… have a blessed day.

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I was baptized Catholic and grew up in a place called Bridesburg – a small Philadelphia, Pennsylvania neighborhood tightly nestled in a corner between the Delaware River and Frankford Creek. Less than 10,000 people live there and while some moved out, generations of families linger like the smell of freshly smoked kielbasa.

This neighborhood, roughly five blocks by eight blocks, has eleven churches and three cemeteries (two are connected to churches – one is not).  Two of the churches are Catholic, one is non-denominational, then there is a Baptist, Emanuel, Presbyterian, and Methodist church.

I left Bridesburg in 2005 and have visited less than five times since my bittersweet departure.

Anyway, I met this local guy when I was fourteen and his family was very Catholic. Like, so Catholic that they were all blinded by the God thing (when it served their purpose) and when I got pregnant at fifteen, we had to get married or the baby would be born out of wedlock and I’d go to hell. This chaotic, close-minded, archaic thinking would envelop me for the next twenty years of my life (even though that guy and I divorced when I was 24).

It was so bad (memoir-worthy, which I am writing) that one time (and only one time) I said ‘Bless You’ when my mother-in-law sneezed and the look I got, well, you may have thought I asked if she would be so kind as to stick her face in the garbage disposal.

“It’s not Bless You. It’s GOD Bless You. What the hell is wrong with you? Heathen. You’re a no good white trash heathen.” I mean, I had no religion. I didn’t know then that the word Heathen was not a nickname for the Devil. So, I basically thought she called me a devil… when I was a teenager. Oh, and she didn’t talk to me for two weeks after my blasphemic faux pas.

In retrospect, I should have gotten up and punched her in the face or maybe doused her face with her terrible homemade iced tea (way too many lemons), but I didn’t.

Instead, I clung to the notion that my life sucked because I sucked. I was a rotten human being and had done vile, unspeakable things that afforded me a lifetime of suffering and misery. I guess this is true if smoking pot and dropping out of high school is a heinous, shameful act.

Oh wait… I stole a pack of gum when I was seven. Shit.

My torment continued into my forties and into my sobriety in 2006, blaming every bad thing that happened to me on some unseen force that was displeased with my human nature. My drinking, lost jobs, lost relationships, everything that happened to me was because I was a bad person: A HEATHEN.

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Then, a proverbial anvil hit me in the face in 2015. None of my bad choices were anyone’s doing but my own. When I stopped putting all my eggs in the sin basket and took responsibility for my actions; when I decided that while sometimes extenuating circumstances could creep in and mess up my day, I ultimately, am responsible for everything that happens to me – good or bad.

So, I did a test of sorts. I stopped praying to the Christian idea of God for a few weeks. And started talking to my higher power as I understood it. And lo and behold, nothing changed except for one thing.

My guilt had vanished. I no longer felt pangs of regret because I forgot to pray, or because I said ‘bless you’ instead of God Bless You, or because – gasp! I ate meat on a Friday during Lent!

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No meat for you, Heathen!

The first time I ate meat on Lent (not on accident) was this year. And I have to say, I am still here to tell the tale. It was absolutely the best Buffalo Chicken Pizza I ever ingested in my life.

Again, I am not knocking Christianity… believe what you need to believe. That is your right as a human being. I believe in the earth, the universe, the elements. I believe in good begets good and evil begets evil. I believe that everyone has the right to pray to whomever – or whatever – they see fit.

It’s none of my business who your God is.

Do you consider yourself religious or spiritual?