A Lifetime Learned in One Night


by Jessica Frelow


 

My mother was the church’s mascot for timid hypocrisy, masquerading in printed floral sheaths. She joined other moms to spread unwarranted amounts of shame. Behind the veil of entrusted disgust, the holier held secrets. In the name of late-night calls and crumpled receipts for Howard Johnson’s. Life grew beyond tired households, filled to the brim with checkered plates of meatloaf and empty questions that hung over blaring televisions.

Freedom sounded like a magical ideology that only engulfed the bold. Lurking around those who charged at the sight of mischievous aid. I loved it. I envied them, wanted to be like them, but the glow of small-town ridicule seemed impossible to shake. Moves among the sloppy were outed in revered chains of gossip. Side eyes led to whispers and convenient lessons bolded in ancient scripture.

The scale of excitement had levers waiting to be pulled, by budding women like me. I saw the lives they lead—meticulous and perfect—but the thick of it was matted and juicy. The adventure they craved was a secret of harbored desire, trapped in feelings that slid goosebumps down the nape of your neck. It was realized torture. I couldn’t be doomed to fake it, so I tricked them to trust me enough to send me into the wild. I deserved a chance to be initiated.

My first week on campus, I saw him there. Black coils framed the sides of his ears and bounced jovially to the sound of wild sophistication. I attached to his prospects and the beautiful tones of limitless interactions. Something grew inside me, excited me—the adventure fired across my frontal lobe. I let him take me to the places I was afraid to go. When he left my room, I too had finally adorned the benefits of earned euphoria.

Thrilled spirits died behind the presence of my closed door. A heaviness suffocated the pheromones out of the air around me. I knew the shoved hands over the cusps of words, the depth of the stares. Giggles of retribution taunted the horror in my brows. The ends of fingertips condemned the plight of my needs. I cowered on the other side of judgment.

The consequence of being true to yourself is a greater burden. The lesson in scripture creates a hole to hide in, a small haven to respite the sins of self in exchange for those of others. I finally learned what my mother had already known, the comfort is greater inside the protection of a Hail Mary.

 


 

Jessica Frelow is an emerging writer. Her work has appeared in Versification, JHHF Review and The New York Times Metropolitan Diary. Find her on twitter @thefrelow.