She sat in the pew day after day, listening. Listening to the creak of the rickety pew when she sat down. Listening to the rain drip through the old church ceiling into a small puddle on the battered wood floor. Listening to the sound of the preacher's voice...booming yells or dramatic whispers. Listening to mothers' joyful tears as children were momentarily drowned.
She sat in the pew day after day, smelling. Smelling the warm cherry pies that the old women brought to the potluck. Smelling the pages of ancient, dusty hymnals. Smelling the sickeningly sweet perfume of her mother every Sunday morning. Smelling the flowers and the grass and the breeze through the crack in the stern window...beckoning to her, begging her to go outside and join in the fun.
She sat in the pew day after day, tasting. Tasting the putrid breath of the preacher when she sat in the front row. Tasting the weak and unsatisfying coffee that was handed to her as she walked in the door. Tasting the old grape juice and stale crackers that guaranteed she wouldn't be shunned by the old ladies in the corner. Tasting the blood on her tongue as she bit it, impatient to escape from the constricting white walls.
She sat in the pew day after day, seeing. Seeing the chipped, faded cross that hung crookedly on the wall; it seemed an unworthy representation of the story the preacher screamed so adamantly. Seeing her little brother squirm and get ungraciously smacked by her father. Seeing the smile on the preacher's wife's face that couldn't possibly be genuine; it couldn't hide the unsmiling, tired, empty eyes. Seeing the words “Be thou my vision” on a yellowed page and knowing that she would never see.
She sat in the pew day after day, feeling. Feeling the weight in the room that should've been freeing. Feeling the heaviness where there should be hope, the guilt where there should be grace, the hypocrisy where there should be sincerity. Feeling the constriction, the feeling of being confined. Feeling that she didn't belong and she would never belong. Feeling longing for the outside where the sun shone and the rain didn't drip but poured freely, and the violets' perfume wasn't sickening, and the only hypocrisy came from the dandelions who claimed to be flowers.
Feeling the glares from her family and the old ladies in the corner, the shock from the preacher's wife, and the fury from the preacher as she stood up during one of his fire-and-brimstone rants and ran from the room, through the door, and out into the sunlight. She didn't belong there and she never would. She couldn't find Jesus in a crumbling off-white shed. Maybe she would never find Jesus. But if she did, it would be out among the grass and the butterflies and the sunlight, where she could let down her hair and throw off her shoes. She was free.