An hour isn't a very long time. When you're watching an episode of Supernatural, for instance, it goes pretty fast. Especially when the older brother spends a considerable amount of time on screen tied in a chair and gagged. And if you do like I do, and not fall for the trick of going along with the "well that's over!" that they always do because you see with a glance at the clock that there aren't two minutes left to the episode but fifteen so you know the demon or whatever is gonna pop up again, then the hour flies right by.
But when you spend an hour with God, time slows down and every moment is comparatively jam packed.
Last Sunday after church, I signed up for the vigil at the Altar of Repose. After Eucharist on Holy Thursday, the consecrated host is removed to the little chapel down around the side of the church. When the altar party gets back from that particular mission, they start to strip the church, and I've described plenty on here how much that effects me, seeing the church turned into a big building, hard to heat. The folks who say 'God is dead' are right when they say that for a couple of days every year.
My shift for the vigil was from 12:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Thursday night. I drove to church, not passing a single car on the way till I got into Doylestown, parked in the lot, entered through the side door, and took a seat. The chapel was lit only by candles. Along with the consecrated host, wrapped up and sitting on the altar, several of the altar cloths were folded about the room, and all the plants--palms, daffodils, the odd philodendron--had been deposited here as well.
The shifts were staggered so there were always two people there, so I overlapped with a woman doing the midnight to 1 a.m. shift and a guy doing the 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. shift. (Although he was late, so for fifteen minutes, I had the place to myself.
I started out whispering Compline to myself from the Book of Common Prayer.
Such a beautiful office. By far my favorite. Such poetry in there.
"Keep watch, Dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen."
That is my favorite prayer, committing to God's care all of humanity. I especially love the "shield the joyous" part. That's sublime.
And then, I just sort of went with that. I started out with thanksgiving, offering my gratitude for all the gifts God has given me. For my life, for my health and strength, for my mind, for the material things I have. But mostly, of course, for the people God has put in my life. The list went on and on. One by one, names and faces floated into my head. I felt all but overwhelmed.
For no good reason, I thought of hot tub guy. More than most, he really seems to me to have sort of airdropped into my life by God. And I feel blessed by that.
I moved on to remembering the people I love who have died. My sister (always first on that list), my mother, my stepmother, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, friends, my lover Terry... Sitting there in the dark chapel, I felt particularly close to them, feeling their presence, as if they were only at the other side of a curtain.
I prayed for all of our troops serving over in Iraq and Afganistan. So much suffering. So much terrible loss. And for the people who live in those countries, the children who are growing up amid violence and bloodshed. A terrible, terrible world we live in.
Almost as an afterthought, I threw in a couple of intentions for myself. I asked God for strength, for wisdom, for a kind heart, to bring a healing Christ into a broken world, to be an instrument of God's peace.
And, guiltily, I asked for something purely for myself: for what I quaintly termed a "special relationship." Qualified, of course, with "if it is Your will" and that kind of thing. Don't attribute that so much to humility on my part; mostly I think it's about how I don't quite want to admit to myself how much I long for that and want that.
Towards the end, I sat quietly. Just watching the candles burn, the shadows flicker on the wall. I sank into sleep once or twice. (Saint Theresa of Avìla said that's just fine, so that's good enough for me.) I noticed my watch and found that I had overstayed my welcome by twenty minutes. I girded up my loins and headed back out into the cold, dark night, driving home in silence with the radio off.
It was easily 2:30 before I went to sleep. And an odd thing this morning. At 8:00 a.m., I was wide awake, an hour and a half before the alarm went off.
And I woke up full of self-recrimination: stupid, stupid, stupid. Specifically, I was thinking about when I split with my Ex and the brownstone we owned together was sold. And my portion was $65,000. And with that, I made a huge mistake, and purchased a condo down in Fort Lauderdale. Renovations quickly became a money pit, and at an association meeting I missed, it was decided to redo all the common areas of the complex and landscape the grounds and pave the driveway with gold or something, and the association fees went from $210 a month to something like $650. Not to mention my mortgage. I couldn't keep up with the payments, and about the time I moved back here had to sell at a loss.
And the thought running through my head this morning was this: you should have taken that money and gone back to school.
And I should have.
Now, I realize full well that's all proverbial spilled milk at this point. But I used those extra hours added to my day to poke about on the interweb looking at the offerings of colleges and universities within driving distance, and putting some thought into what I might study.
On the one hand, I'm not working right now. On the other hand, I have not a lot of revenue to cover the costs of education.
But still... If I could do anything, what would I do?
I started a load of laundry when my father got up, and headed down to the post office in Point Pleasant to pick up the mail, then did some things around the house.
Good Friday is supposed to be a day of fasting and penitence, somber and quiet. Tonight, again, was church.
At 2 p.m., I was cleaning the kitchen. (Long overdue.) My phone rang. It was hot tub guy.
"What are you doing?" he asked. I told him I was cleaning up all the mouse droppings on the counter in my kitchen.
"Better idea," he said, "come on down. I have the day off and we can hang out."
And so I did.
Okay okay okay! So I cut church! So sue me!
But there's a little bit of a coinky-dink going on there, no? Although we've talked on the phone plenty, I haven't seen hot tub guy since December. And last night, I felt so moved when I prayed about him.
So there I was, shooting down I-95.
We met up at his place in Fishtown. I called when I was getting close. As I drove down his block, I saw this guy come out of his building. From a distance, he looked way hot. I pulled into the first parking space that presented itself and hustled to get a closer look at this fine specimen.
Who turned out to be none other than hot tub guy, come to meet me.
We spent the afternoon and evening together. Nothing special. We went to a Greek restaurant on Pine Street he likes, then walked up to Brew-Ha-Ha on 12th and sat talking over a latté (for me) and hot chocolate (for him). We caught each other up on what we've been up to.
And the conversation took an interesting turn. We started talking about this haunted, supernatural world we live in. About night visitors and those strange entities that populate our dreams. Beings that we experience as being far too real to call them hallucinations or delusions. I talked about how when I was writing my Great (Gay) American (Werewolf) Novel(la), it was the experience of Gary, the main character, visiting me every night, telling me "what happened next." And how, when I sensed that the story was drawing to a close, I realized with sadness that meant I wouldn't get to spend time with Gary. One night, driving home from somewhere, I conjured him in the back seat of my jeep, and we talked. I told him how much I was going to miss him, how much I had liked spending time with him, hearing his stories. He thanked me for listening, and said that he thought I had done justice to his tale, and that Vic, his... uh... significant other, thought so, too. (And Vic would be by far the harsher critic.) And I talked about Wolf, my spirit guide, who visits me from time to time. When he does, the rule is that I ask the questions, and Wolf gives the answers. When I start talking, Wolf goes away. "Since you seem to know so much, you don't need me, so no use me hanging around. See ya." And I'm left alone.
hot tub guy has his own Wolf. "Right," he added, "and he's never there when you need him, he only comes when you're ready for him to come, which is different."
I talked about my Demons of 4:30 In The Morning. Sometimes, when I'm under stress--and occasionally when I'm not--I'll suddenly be wide awake at 4:30 a.m., regardless what time I went to bed. Not 4:25. Not 4:40. I look at my alarm clock and see that it's 4:30 on the dot. And then they show up. I experience them as snakes, slithering out of the corners of the room, up under the covers and into bed with me, and whispering in my ears: "What if...? What will you do then? If you fail, you'll never recover from this. You'll end up alone. Abandoned."
It's terrible. Full of self-doubt. Undermining.
I once mentioned to Diabolique how my one phobia is of snakes. I'm terrified of snakes. If I come across a lenght of garden hose in the lawn, I'm screaming and jumping around.
Diabolique imparted a bit of shamanic wisdom: That means you have something you have to learn from them.
I thought about my whips, how whips resemble snakes.
And later, I remembered the Demons Of 4:30 In The Morning.
And the next time they showed up, I welcomed them. "So what do you have to teach me?" I asked them.
And I learned a lot that night.
And still got a good night's sleep.
And I mentioned waking up this morning. And why. The anger at myself for squandering that opportunity. About wanting to go back to school.
"Well why don't you?" asked hot tub guy, "Y'know people go back to school who don't have $65,000 dropped in their laps. You get a student loan."
I thought student loans were just for high school students, I responded, and realized how wrong that sounded as the words came out of my mouth.
"Talk to an admissions counselor," hot tub guy advised, "they know about those things."
Yes, they do.
And yes, I will.
We headed back to hot tub guy's apartment. hot tub guy has a beautiful apartment. Filled with plants and candles. It's not minimalist, but there definitely is a fine sense of curatorship that went into it. It's such a wonderful place to be.
Together, we watched last year's King Kong on cable. Maybe not what I wanted to see. Since it's all about life-changing love.
Although it doesn't turn out well.
But sometimes life-changing love is like that.
I love hot tub guy.
Not in the same way I loved him oh those many months ago, wanting to possess him, wanting (needing!) the security of making him Mine.
But just loving him, pure and simple, for the man he is. And being grateful that God has put him in my life.
King Kong was over. We hugged and kissed goodbye. I went downstairs, got in my jeep, and drove home up I-95.
Even though I missed church tonight (the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Solemn Collects, the Veneration of the Cross, the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified), I'm not quite feeling like I missed anything.
Today was a Holy Day.
Spring feels like winter,
but like the crocuses, love
pops up everywhere.