It rained this morning, which confused me. I sat in my room listening to it outside my window and could not figure out how to get to the gym on my bicycle in the rain. For ninety minutes, I did nothing.
Having missed the W.O.D. (workout of the day) scheduled for 7:30 am, I created a new plan to ride my bike to school. I used the same rain poncho, rubber boots, neoprene gloves and umbrella I would’ve worn to rain-proof myself on the way to the gym. But this time, daringly, I ventured out into the weather.
I arrived on campus semi-thrilled that I had not been injured in the rain on my way to school. Immediately, almost instinctively, I knew my targeted destination—the chapel. “I need to pray,” I said out loud.
I rolled my squeaky squirting bicycle up to its rails, locked it up and before mounting the stairs—assumed the Crossfit position. I sucked in my abs, squatted slightly to activate my glutes, arched my lower back, leaned back and shifted my body weight onto my heels. I climb stairs in the same stance I would lift a barbell. What’s the reason why I do this? Because it’s ergonomically correct for my wimpy body type and prevents me from hunching over.
At Harvard, the details of my breath, steps, posture, route to and from school, and class assignments are all plotted out, measured, time-managed, analyzed and programmed into my subconscious in a way that takes the least investment of energy while proffering the most benefit. Most of the other students do the same. The very few who do not—learn quickly or drown. Like the privileged first-class passengers on the Titanic after it sunk, we watch them from our life boats as they float in the ocean slowly freezing into corpses. The expressions on our faces devolves from slight interest to pallid disenchantment.
There’s a woman, perhaps in her 50’s’ with a grand bouffant blonde hairdo who sits in an office crowded with leather bound books at a cherry wood desk with her door wide open facing the hallway that leads to the chapel. Whenever I go there to pray, which is almost everyday, she sees me go in. An hour or two later, she also sees me leaving. She’s privy to the timings of my secret ritual. I think she knows that this is where I come to talk to God.
Today, I have a specific list I want to go over with God. One, the rain. Two, the commute to the gym. And three, my feelings about a friend. I start by thanking him for all the cool things he did for me yesterday like giving me the energy to stay awake from 5 am to 11 pm and basically writing a paper for me in less than an hour, during lunch. Then, I ask him for help.
I say, “Tell me what to say to my friend, because I’m going to botch it if I think of the words myself.” I sit. I breathe. I say again, “Just tell me. Go ahead.” Then, I immediately interrupt and make a suggestion. “Because what I want to say to him is this: I want to apologize to you. When you asked me if I liked to give or receive massages, I lied. I said no, because…”
I felt God finishing my sentence, “I was embarrassed.” Then, I began to cry.
I started to make stuff up again, but then stopped myself. “Just tell me what else to say,” I said to God.
He continued, “I don’t want…” As he said that, I realized that I didn’t say what I wanted. I masked it with funniness, quirkiness or jokes. I didn’t confront my desires, face-to-face. God waited patiently, as he always does, for me to digest the realization. Then, he said, “I don’t want to do anything physical or sexual unless it has a holy energy, because it degrades my spirit.”
That felt so true to me, but I wondered if I could say it that plainly. “What else?” I asked him. He said, “When I honor the woman and the spirit of the goddess within me and I honor the man and the spirit of god inside of you, then the energy is clean enough for me to participate.”
I paused. I thought about how I would explain my vow of celibacy to my friend. I rehearsed my spiel to God, as though I were conversing with my friend. I said, “A long time ago,” I was practicing how to be honest, like how God had just modeled it for me, “twenty years ago.” I glanced up at the stained glass and looked at the space where I thought God might be standing before me. “I used my sexual energy to control and manipulate men. I’ve regretted it ever since.”
Then I felt a wall inside of me tumbling down like Jericho. It was a wall of regret of what I had done to men in my past. With tears streaming down my face, I looked up at the stained glass and admitted, “I vowed to God that I would never disrespect a man, sexually, ever again for the rest of my life.”
I felt the ties that bound me to my sexual karma being cut. In that moment, my hair fell loose and hung like a veil over my eyes. This was so not about a massage.
For so long, I was not a preacher because women were barred from the pulpit. For so long, I was not sexual. All of my power, spiritual and sexual—withheld—because I could not forgive the mainstream white Christian church for what they had done to me and what I, in turn, had done to the men who ruled the world they lived in.
I fell onto my knees. My army green rubber rain boots folded beneath me. I leaned my forehead against the back of the chair in front of me, as though it were God’s chest. “Give me my power back!” I commanded him. “Give me my power and I will give to you, my life.”
Years ago, I gave God my celibacy, but not as a gift. As a safety deposit so that I could not abuse it. “But we must wield this thing, together,” I felt he was saying to me. “It’s not mine or yours, Vicky. Your sex does not belong to a church, a pulpit, a god or a man. Not even to yourself. It’s a relationship and a journey. It is your inheritance.”
I heard the women who bequeathed it to me—a lineage of earth mothers, singing softly in the back of the chapel. My forehead was still pressed against what I felt was God’s chest. I kept crying and asking myself if I was ready to have all of my power back, to trust myself to hold this warbling fiery orb in the palm of my hand and use it to heal rather than to harm.
Then his voice came to me, “What are you waiting for?” Even though my eyes were still closed, I saw letters being flashed in front of my face like a neon sign, “V-I-C-K-Y-L-E-E, plus one.”
I asked him right then and there, “God, will you be my PLUS-ONE?”
Not waiting for an answer, I ran out of the chapel headed for the cafe. As I passed by the woman with the blonde bouffant sitting at her desk, I wondered if she had a little smirk.