Every night, in the tender stretch of time between velvety blackness and golden dawn, I spread my legs in bed and hold vigil. Sometimes I wake up. Sometimes I wait up. Either way it rings without fail—the alarm in my body, as regular as the vesper bell. I slip my hand between my thighs, close my eyes, lips to the skies, and pray to you. My mouth moves, slow and soundless like my fingers, tasting your name on my tongue like rich communion wine. I whisper it over and over, the way heavy-breathing Baptists beseech God for mercy: frenzied, feverish, on the edge of hysteria.
There’s a word for this. I’ve heard stories before, of dancing plagues—of Roman holy rollers who rocked for days, who started one day and did not stop, fanatical thousands who danced till they dropped. Historians called them manic. Crazy zealots in a panic. But “crazy” connotes destruction. We prefer possessed. Possession turns wallflowers into wildflowers, takes the novice and makes them apt, frees the talents that once felt trapped. With your spirit inside me, I moan like the saints. I move like the shakers. I meet divine madness. I dance and I dance, faster, harder, and I do not stop until, for one rapturous moment, I am speaking in tongues, swept up in surrender, believing in forces to which I am blind. Afterwards, I feel as those zealots must have felt, the second their bodies hit the ground. Sore. Speechless. Sleepy …
Sleepy enough to forget I’m alone, while you hold vigil in your little home, somewhere out there, in a bed of your own—with a dance partner who isn’t me. Holding another pair of praying hands. Hands that held yours as you took vows. Hands that have waved politely to me at church picnics. Hands ringed with your family’s precious stones, with your sterling lifetime devotion. As my consciousness fades, like the night into day, I must lie to myself the way mourners do and pretend my god is “everywhere.” In the slickness on my skin. The hammering of my heart. The aura of my afterglow. And the last thought I have before sleep finally takes me is, I hope she worships you the way I do.
by Savannah Cooper
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