Hounded By His Presence

That autumn I was nearly always upset.

I was broke.

I hated the cold and the rain.

I was still attending the church meetings—hating them, hating Zuri, hating God.

I hated myself even more, though. If only I’d been more careful this wouldn’t have happened. If only I could just stop, then I could go, bang on Zuri’s door and her to get lost with her church and her prayer meetings.

She was convinced that only with the help of God would I ever be free–How I wished I could prove her wrong.
But I couldn’t. I was only a dumb animal. I had no self-control, and no strength to refrain from destroying myself. The intelligence I had been given was absolutely wasted on me– Or so I thought.

“How long?” I’d asked that fateful afternoon she found me out
“Until you stop destroying yourself like this”
“How would you know that I actually stopped? I could just lie to you.”
“You’re right. I wouldn’t really know. You could lie to me. But in the end your life trajectory will show it. And besides, you could never lie to God.”

While on the subject of self-hate, I really hated myself for clinging on to my belief in God. Millions of people–indeed, whole countries–had abandoned the idea of a god. So why couldn’t I? Why?

And why couldn’t he just leave me alone? The knowledge of an all-knowing and omnipresent deity hounded and tormented me. Worse, He had begun to make himself present there on the bathroom floor in those moments when every thought or trouble should have been erased from my mind. My heartbeat and breathing could become dangerously faint, but even then I could sense it…

His presence, which had followed me down into my darkness.


part 9 of If You Only Knew


An Interlude of Misery

Things with Terry remained strained. On the surface He was pretty much the same as usual, only more quiet. I was the awkward one. I could not meet his eyes for the life of me. For two days we worked in that terse environment, until relief came through a bright-eyed perky freshman who volunteered to help after school.

To Terry went the job of training her, and she was so eager and willing that she eventually she took my place in processing books and shelving, and other librarian duties. Meanwhile I fully devoted my time to the after-school tutoring services—rightly so, for my grades were the best. When I’d first came to the job of tutoring at the library, I was more advanced than most high school applicants, and even though I had technically been a sophomore, I was already in Pre Calculus and had been planning to take the AP tests for French, Spanish, and Physics.

At home, things were the same drab monotone–and only because Zuri had not disclosed my secret.

Why she chose to strike a deal with me rather than tell mom I didn’t understand then. But now I know that if she had told Mara, I would have felt as threatened as a cornered animal, and who knew what kind of outcome that would lead to? The only chance to keep me pliable, I think, was to let me think I was still in control.

October. The Indian summer left me. Autumn rains came in earnest.

I gave up the struggle one of those gloomy days–and then was so sick I missed school the next day. After that, my money ran out so fast that I considered contacting my father (I quickly squashed that idea, though). Instead, I asked my brother for a loan, then begged mom to give cash as a Christmas gift—and to give it to me in advance.



part 8 of If You Only Knew

On the Couch

Monday and Wednesday evenings found me in Zuri’s car on my way to her church for Small Groups and Prayer Warriors.

The Small Groups meeting was held in the church’s Community Services Center. The first day I ever went I was welcomed and was promptly given a Bible. I was invited to take a seat.

I did so in style, plopping into an old dusty-looking loveseat of a vile pink color. For good measure I put my feet up to keep people from sitting next to me. They tried to strike up conversation, but as I was not encouraging it, they gave up.

Ha, ha.

When the study began, I was invited to sit in the circle of plastic chairs with them. I refused as civilly as I could. Zuri did not glare at me as Mara would have done. She placidly took her seat.

I did what was agreed: I sat, I listened. Zuri led the testimonies and prayer time. I didn’t kneel. I was angry at God, and told him so in my prayer—if it could be called a prayer.

A man with a balding head led the Bible study and discussion.

Yeah, Yeah. John 3:16. Everyone knows about that…

After the Bible study there were refreshments. Everyone seemed to brighten up. I saw coffee, and pastries and sandwiches and soup and fruit. I was not taken in, however. I remained where I was and watched everyone chat and stuff their faces. I hated them.


Church people.

I knew what they could do. I was not taken in by their nice appearance.

8:30 came at last, time for me to go back home. I didn’t immediately spot Zuri, until I saw her praying with two other people in a quiet corner of the room. Suddenly I was incredibly exasperated. I had liked Zuri quite well before she found out my secret. Of all my mom’s friends she was the only one who was not toxic. She was kind, and she knew how to treat everything naturally from migraines to menstrual cramps. Every Christmas she gave each of us a small gift. She had taught me how to pay the piano years ago, and though I had stopped playing, I still enjoyed falling asleep to her Bach many a rainy afternoons.

Now I hated her with an intensity that was almost scary in my emotion-parched life. But what could I do? I’d approached God with a business proposition—what I got in the end was outright blackmail.

And I was trapped.


part 7 of If You Only Knew


I didn’t get a miracle.

The next day I got a pounding migraine.

So this is what you get from trying to negotiate with the Almighty. Punishment, indeed.

It was so bad that mother called Zuri, our next-door neighbor who knew how to treat everything with natural remedies. None of the painkillers found in the drugstore worked on me, only her natural remedies did the job when it came to my migraines. We used to think she was like a shaman or something, she and her family were that weird, but they claimed they were Christians.
Well, whatever, lady. Please, just do something about this pain.

Usually no one was ever admitted to my room until I had made sure all evidence had been safely put away. I was never careless, but that was always an extra precaution. The day I was found out I was so wrapped up in my misery that I completely forgot about it.

It wasn’t my mother who found me out. She had been too preoccupied with getting the neighbor and with getting herself ready for work on time. Zuri helped me as best as she could, then after telling me to rest, went back home, promising to come in a few hours to check on me.

When I opened my eyes hours later, Zuri was sitting on my swivel chair, looking grave, and in her hand. . .

Oh. Sh—


part 6 of If You Only Knew

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If You Only Knew, Part 6

Negotiating a Miracle

I began to contemplate having a relationship with God for entirely selfish purposes. But what does it matter to Him why you come, as long as you come to him?

Wretched and feeling incredibly lonely, I was sobbing in the restroom after having been sick. I looked at my face in the mirror.

Oh, man…

I’d only lasted two weeks.

“How pathetic,” I said to the bloated face that stared back at me, “if things are like this, who would ever come to love you?” I splashed my face with cold water, and dried it with a towel. Then I trudged on to bed.

“Who would ever love you?” You say? Idiot. Terry said he liked you.

Yeah, but Terry—come on! Terry?

I thought about my good friend of almost two years; saw his crooked smile, and the awkward gait of a guy who is still trying to get used to a considerable growth spurt. Gone was the pudgy boy of my childhood, and in its stead was a guy who was not at all bad-looking. I remembered the long afternoons at the library as we processed books and chatted about life. He’d never judged or said an unkind word about me or about anybody—but then I’d never really told him everything.

My face crumbled, “Oh, Terry. If you only knew…”

It wasn’t that I liked him and I regretted turning him down. Romance was unthinkable. I was more upset about the things I’d said, and the friendship I’d lost. How great it would be to have an undo button in life. That’s not possible, or won’t be until some genius invents a time machine. To end it all is also impossible, as I said before.

Then, is it possible to wipe everything clean and start over?

I thought about it. Once in my life I’d been granted that wish. Can a miracle be repeated more than once in a person’s life? Could I somehow negotiate a miracle, the way I negotiated…other things?

It was then that I prayed for the first time in years.

And I think I was still under the influence.


part 5 of If You Only Knew

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If You Only Knew – Part 5
Wednesday Word Count: 354

Love’s a Joke

In a way I’m writing this (telling you about Terry and all) as a way to apologize to him.

I hurt Terry a lot, and I’ve always regretted it. He was a very good friend—timid to the point of being made fun of, but affectionate. Sweet, loyal, and hopelessly optimistic. Furthermore, he was the first guy in my life that ever really liked me, which means a lot, because this was back when I was “morbidly obese”, and I had nothing much going for me except, perhaps, my GPA.

Someone once said that in order for a person to love someone they first have to learn how to love themselves.

So then what was I to do? I who did not fit in the school desks and who waddled comically when I was supposed to be “running” the mile? I who was hopelessly trapped in a torrid vortex of self-destruction?

The end conclusion is that Terry picked the worst possible timing to tell me all about his feelings for me. Or he simply picked the wrong girl. He was shortsighted, you know. Or maybe some buddy of his dared him to it as a cruel joke.

But who am I kidding?

The real conclusion to this is that I did not and I could not believe there was anything attractive about me. The fact that anyone thought I was beautiful when I was an absolute mess, and that somebody wanted to cherish me when I only wanted to hurt myself, was too much to believe.
Nothing good came out of this affair, except a new low point in my life—and a broken friendship.

That is how some people come to think of love as only a mean joke.


part 4 of If You Only Knew

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If You Only Knew, Part 4
Word Count, ~300 Words

The Leftovers Kid. Part 3 of "If You Only Knew"

The Leftovers Kid

Terry and I went back a long, long time.

We were both in fifth grade and attended Crescent View. I was one of the many non-entities of the campus. Terry was the pudgy, aptly-named “leftovers kid,” who would spend all his lunch break gorging on the  school’s cafeteria food: chocolate milk cartons, the obligatory weekly meat loaf, the occasional corn-dog, and the rare, prized, Red Baron pizza slice. Fruit cups and jell-o cups aplenty. Bean-and-cheese burritos galore. In short, anything that the others didn’t want to eat was considered his property.

Obviously He didn’t have any friends, and he hardly spoke at all during class. Consequently, it came as a surprise to both of us when (due to some crazy circumstances that I won’t go into now) it became necessary for me to approach him with a business proposition. I pounced on him mercilessly.

“That looks good!” I said, right before he took the first bite of his corn-dog. He was so shocked that he forgot to close his mouth and simply gaped at me in great confusion with the corndog still midway up to his mouth.

Quickly producing my brown lunch bag, I extracted a turkey and cheddar sandwich, a Capri Sun, a chocolate-chip cookie, and a bag of Doritos. “Wanna trade?”

By now he was past the initial shock, and he assumed a very suspicious look.

“What’s wrong with it?” He said

“Nothing’s wrong with it. I just feel like eating corn-dogs today” I glanced over his shoulder and saw my friends coming, “Hurry! You want it or not?”

He eyed the Doritos greedily. “Them too?”

“Uhh…yeah. But you gotta give me the chocolate milk”


The first transaction was complete—the first of many more for the remainder of the school year. Aside from the lunch-trading during fifth grade, however, there was nothing to justify us becoming friends in High School. But so it happened. Terry who had been the leftovers kid, was now Terry the Librarian Assistant. Just like me.

And he was the only friend I had in school, now that I was no longer “normal.”


part 3 of If You Only Knew

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Word Count: 349
If You Only Knew, Part 3