Hudson looked at me over the top of his cards. He shifted the sunflower seeds he’d been chewing on to the other side of his mouth. The short black stubble on his face rippled like the quills of a porcupine in motion, reflecting the dim light of his wood-paneled loft. “So, what’s your deal lately?” He asked, laying down a card.
Normally jovial and quick to poke fun, as he was on the day of my epic jellyfish battle, Hudson now looked seriously at me from across the table.
“What do you mean?” I countered, putting down a card of my own.
“You’ve been weirder than normal.” He spit some shells into his cup.
I raised an eyebrow, “Ummmm… thanks…”
Hudson was undeterred, “Yeah. So what’s your deal?”
I had just finished my weekly Bishop’s appointment. Apparently, Hudson could smell the stress on me. I didn’t think I seemed any different. Then again, my face had been starchy and my heart raw for … How long had it been? Weeks? Months?… Years? It seemed like forever ….
“Imagine a white rose,” the Bishop had explained, “That is your soul. Now dip that sweet, white rose in black, disgusting tar. That tar is sin and that ruined rose is what you have done to your soul. You can’t clean that off. I can’t clean that off, but God can. When he is able to forgive you for what you have done, he will tell us.”
I was the tar saturated rose. God loathed me.
Hudson was staring at me expectantly. Normally, I would have said something like, “Oh, you know… life.” Or, “I’m just a little stressed, no big deal.” But Hudson didn’t deal in bullshit. He was as upfront and blunt as it got. He would have seen right through me.
“I got dis-fellowshipped,” I said.
Hudson spit out another mouthful of seeds and nodded, “Are you staying in school?”
I nodded in return.
“How’d it happen?” He asked, laying down another card.
“I decided to talk to my Bishop,” I replied.
Hudson smirked. “And how’s that working out for you?”
“Why’d you do it?” He asked, slapping another card on the deck.
“You’ll have to be more specific,” I chuckled ruefully.
Hudson looked amused. “Why did you talk to your Bishop?”
I shrugged. “I was feeling a little adrift … I thought I needed a … spiritual anchor. I thought that maybe I was ready to invest and that I should straighten everything out ….”
Hudson’s face was inscrutable. “And now?”
I shifted my cards from one hand to the other. “I don’t know. I’m all over the place. I don’t know what’s up or down anymore. I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know what’s right or wrong. I don’t know what to do.”
“Are you sure?” He looked at me intently, before glancing back down at his cards and spinning one gracefully onto the table.
“Am I sure of what?” I asked, confused.
“You said you don’t know what’s right or wrong. Are you sure?”
I paused. “Well, I know what’s right and wrong. I have been paying some attention in Church ….”
“That’s not what I mean,” he cut me off. “I’m not asking if you’ve paid attention in church. What I’m trying to say is that I think you do know what’s right and wrong. I don’t think that’s the problem. I think your problem is that you’re trying to force yourself to believe conflicting things.”
“Maybe,” I shrugged. “But how do I know which of those things are true and which aren’t?”
Hudson leaned back in his chair. “You already know.”
I hesitated, “Ummm… yeah… I hate to disagree with you, but I really don’t. I have no clue what I’m doing.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty obvious,” he smirked.
I shot him a look, but he continued anyway. “You do know. You just don’t know that you know. You obviously don’t trust your judgment. Or, you’re subconsciously choosing to override it for some reason.”
I looked at Hudson. “Well,” I replied, “Since you seem to have all the answers, what do I do to fix that?”
Hudson smiled, “Work backwards. Start with what you know and build from there.”
“I think that’s easier said than done.”
Hudson was serious in his response. “No. That’s the easy part. The hard part is deciding what to do, once you’ve figured it out.”
That night I lay awake thinking and watching the reflections of moonlight dance across the ceiling above me. Across the room, Kesa’s calm, rhythmic breathing provided a soothing auditory backdrop to my inner monolog. I envied her peaceful, contented sleep. My mind wandered back, retracing the conversation with Hudson. What did it mean?
I tried to take Hudson’s advice and start with what I knew. What did I know? I knew where I’d come from … I knew where I was … Did I know who I was? I didn’t know anymore. I used to know, I thought. Thinking of it now filled me with sorrow.
I missed her – the old me. I missed the person I was for those first few, sweet months of college and beforehand. I missed the joy, the passion for life and the freedom. I missed the simple feeling of the ground beneath my feet. Where had the earth gone? It was all numb and nothingness now ….
I didn’t know much, but I knew something wasn’t right. My soul had felt strong, healthy and alive prior to my confession. I had felt conflicted, of course. Lost and confused even. But I hadn’t felt broken or defiled. I knew because I felt that way now. Now, I felt blackened completely. It was hard to ignore the correlation.
I was doing everything right but I was spiritually starving to death.
How could something so sacred and special for everyone else be so difficult and painful for me? It seemed strange that what fulfilled one person could so completely demolish another. How could I ever know what was real? My mind was overtaken by existential vertigo.
And, with that, my grasp on consciousness eased and I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
This is the latest installment in my story. If you haven’t yet read the previous entries, click here to start at the beginning. Then continue to read each post in numerical order.