From time to time I wonder when it will happen. I imagine what her face might look like with slack expression, barren chestnut eyes. My presence won’t be frightening, but inquisitive. She’ll stand in front of me with the patience of a monk, but the answer she seeks may not find her. I’ll speak my truth to her, deliver her the answer with an undertone of subdued dread. She’ll furrow her brow, scanning for recognition, if any. I know repeating the words will likely be in vain, but I do it anyway. Again. And again. And again until the brine of my sorrow spills out of me, manifesting what I already know to be true. I can repeat myself a thousand times, a desperate ripple of perseverance. Maybe if I shout it? Or speak it underwater? Or tie it to a tree so it waves to her like a triumphant banner in the breeze. I could give it to her in the form of a pebble. Let her roll it around the crook of her palm, pick it up to examine its entirety before setting it on the ground to nestle amidst the nothingness of the rest. I’ll whisper it in her ear, hoping the softness of my voice will breathe the truth gently to life.
With each attempt to tell my monk, a desperation will ascend. Still she will stare. Still she will ask me to speak it again.
“One more time. Who are you?”
I cannot bare the thought of this moment so I write it down and keep it tucked away from my body. I give it physical life so that that when the time comes I can tip a burning match to it, incinerate its existence with the flick of a wrist.
There are many monks like this, precious beings unwillingly dedicated to a quiet, destructive god. They pray with their mouths, forming words out of order in a language few can comprehend. They wander on pilgrimages to places we cannot see or imagine. They sacrifice their bodies, pay tithing in memories until there is nothing left to offer but organ and bone.
Heathens like me pity the monks. We understand no efforts can change their ways. There’s no untethering from this religion. So we take over what the monks cannot do for themselves. Too indentured to their parasitic god to eat or bathe or speak or blink, we take them in our arms and homes. We brush their hair and feed their soft bellies. We keep them from harm or further influence as best we can. We offer them our own memories as anti-sacramental bread, hoping to poison the god. We kiss their eyelids so as not to show our own tears when our efforts inevitably, and always, become futile.
The monks are lost souls who were never lost in the first place, not really. They’re right here. And yet they’re also so very far away, walking further and further from our reach until we have no choice but to let go.
When my monk finally disappears into the distance I will say one last time, “It’s me Mama. It’s Lauren. I love you.”