I woke from an acid in my mouth an nose. The old pain had returned, and I heard the phrase,

If you don’t wait for god,
You cannot be turned away
Or made to suffer.

Episodes of my life clicked and blinked like a Lite Brite, that toy where you poke translucent pegs through black construction paper against a backlit pegboard.

It wasn’t many times – not more than ten – and the contours haloed and bled into the dark of the room and the past,  but the centers were bright and unmistakable. There were episodes in my life when I had felt a terrible goal. Feeling it had caused such a suction, a wake, even, as if I were  being pulled from the shore, that I quit. That is the pun of the ritual rarely mentioned – the pull that we feel to follow them there. Like Longfellow’s hiker said, 

Dost thou not know that what is best
In this too restless world is rest
From overwork and worry?

So we create a ritual, a placeholder, not so that we can experience the presence of god, but so that we won’t forget entirely that it happened. 

In those times, I was woken in the dark from the wanting, and I quit the pursuit, from fear and fatigue. Or was it from deceit? The mask leading me away.

The mask affects the appearance of the moment of recognition. It takes on some salient details, and we follow it, back up to the shallows. Guilty sand between our toes. But the more profound betrayal of our path is when we leave it because of the intensity, from the acid, the sleeplessness, the urge to drink.

I noticed with the withdrawal of back pain, as a learned thought patterns to counteract the psychology of processing sensation as pain, that I would more often drum my fingers and roll my eyes. Now that my physical excuse for not focusing was receding, here came the truth. 

I drum my fingers – pinkie, ring middle – not index because I cannot point at it, even.  Only aim in that direction. The truth won’t be pressed. Even seeking the apt question causes a swell of panic. Pursuing the answer is terrible. A searing absence. It urges me to slouch and cast about for distraction. To literally slouch.

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