You have a new body every 7 years. Skin and cells shed, rejuvenate. A rebirth. A resurrection. Flesh is sacred. Skin protects muscles, organ, bone. Body. The glove for my ghost. The first home I remember. The material I build myself with. This place all too familiar. The journey of the body lasts a lifetime. It is the only place you can not escape from. The religion you are raised with.
The first time I noticed myself, was not a revelation. It was the way a blonde haired boy saw me. The way my body took up space. How gravity pulled me back down to Earth as I sat on a seesaw in the park. Hey fat girl. I do not keep pictures of myself as a child. The photos of me between the ages of 6 to 13 are secrets hidden in the back of albums in my parents closet. I do not remember my reflection, only how my father made me stand naked on a scale every week, recording the number on the frame of the kitchen door, like some parents proudly display how much their children have grown. I always knew how much weight I still had left to lose until I would be “right”. A magic number I could never reach.
Where can I find god here? I am not the most impressive of buildings but they say it doesn’t matter what the church looks like as long as gods can find their way inside. All temples are beautiful; from the dustbowl congregation in Oklahoma to the Angkor Wat, as long as the door is open, there is space for prayer.
The second time I am noticed is in middle school. Catcalled by the men who sit on the side of the street. Windows open in passing cars with sirens of sweat and spit salivating over my 14 year old breasts. My legs like a meal they want to sink their teeth into. Their hands eventually find me and I am nothing more than something to be digested. My flesh consumed, and bones tossed to wolves.
These pieces keep me together. Memories lodged in my skin waiting to be shed like a serpent, but I am nothing more than parts. A machine of stimuli and reaction. Of cause and effect.
When I am 21, I starve myself. Hidden in exercise and health food. Never thin enough to cause alarm, but you can find my ribs through my skin, like a cage I am trying to put myself into. I am smiles and praise. Strangers comment on my physique. Friends compliment on my change like it was the only thing that ever mattered. The weight is lifted. My stomach is flat and empty. I am exhausted, but I am skinny. My father calls me beautiful for the first time.
I have forgotten to praise you. To treat you like the church I pray in. You are just the crumbling remnants of a relic destroyed by wartime bombs. Ruins of something that was once holy.
7 years later I am drinking 3 bottles of wine a day. This is the way I feed myself. My cup is always half empty and I am always thirsty. My brain is the executioner leading me to a grave I am trying to claw my way out of. I am the scraping hollowness of dry heaves as I stumble through mirrors. I speak a new language of hangover and regret and I give my flesh willingly. This is all that I am. The physical form. The heavy load. Tethered to the cruel Earth. I cover the cracks in my face with a dirty sheet and gather broken glass off the floor.
I am waiting to feel the rapture of seeing myself as something worthy of worship. Each stone placed around me instead of muscle and bone. One by one with each molecule I scatter I am waiting to touch my skin and make it mine. To see my body as a the place I want to live instead of the prison I am trapped in. The spirit will find its host with a purpose. This church will find a god who speaks through it.
I grow a person in my uterus. The first member of my congregation. My belly stretches with elasticity, and I become full for the first time. I am forgotten. I lose myself in the probing of hands on my stomach. Strangers comment on my physique and reach out their hands to feel for his body beneath my skin. I find my flesh once more when I scream and he leaves me, holding his warm pieces in heavy arms and I begin to rebuild myself again.
I am the house. I am the pieces of the puzzles that have no purpose. I am the hymn sung on a sore throat. In 4 years I will be a completely different person. A new body ready for the next rebirth. I don’t know the prayers to grow the love I deserve, but I am learning to read the pages of my scripture. This holy place I want to call home and welcome willingly, not as the image seen through the eyes of others, but as the amazing location I choose to reside. The temple holding all of the communion of a lost believer making their pilgrimage. A body, divine.