Memoir – Bride of Satan

I woke up that morning with intentions of dropping a hit of ecstasy (X) and writing more in the novel I was crafting. But first, coffee.

I don’t know why I decided to wear what I wore. I think I was just being quirky. I put on a black faux leather fitted shirt and a huge black tutu. After donning blood red lipstick, I stood back and looked in the mirror. Something was missing. Suddenly, I knew what it was! A veil. Because that’s normal, right? Unfortunately, I was all out of black veils at the moment, so I did what any sane person does, I cut a chunk of netting off my tutu and secured the fabric under a silver headband.

Good enough.

This was pre-Starbuck, and Austin was ripe with local mom-and-pop hole-in-the-wall coffee shops. I went to one off 35th that I’d never been to before. Pulled out my journal and started to write:

“…today, I just sense that something is coming…something big. I don’t know what it is, but I sense a change is coming.”

After penning a few more journal-y thoughts, I got the inspiration to write what I felt like was a manifesto about change coming. When I reread it, I smiled, it was powerful and thought-provoking. Or at least that’s what my 19-year-old self thought. It was probably garbage, but I felt like a genius.

After finishing my latte, because it was the 90s and lattes were EVERYTHING THAT WAS COOL in coffee, I got back into my red Honda Civic and popped the pill. It would probably take about an hour to kick in. I had time to drive around.

Still ruminating on the high of writing the most profound manifesto before the turn of the century…you know, when the computer clocks would basically end the world at one minute past midnight December 31, 1999…I thought about the novel I was writing. Slightly apocalyptic. I’d spent my teen years, before THE INCIDENT, going to youth retreats where Dawson McAllister told us about how Jesus was going to coming and rapture all the Christians up to Heaven and pure chaos would take over the world. So, the book had hints of those thoughts. I also watched the 1970s movie called A Thief in the Night, which was epic, and appropriately scared the poop out of me and thus influenced the novel’s plot.

Good writers research was the thought that popped into my almost-tripping brain. I need to read that last Bible chapter called Revelation again.

Dangit. I left that sweet little pink Bible back in my hometown of Sealy, Texas. You know, the one that had bigger print and cartoon pictures of Samson and Delilah and other stories randomly between the onion-skinned pages. It was the Bible I got right after I was baptized at 9 years old that proved I was big enough to read the ancient words…but still needed some occasional dose of childhood sprinkled within to keep me interested.  It was the last bible I got before innocence was lost at the hands of a clergy member. I left it and my memories of church behind as soon as I could graduate and leave that podunk town.

Push it down, push it down, WAAAYYY down. That was and has been, me and my sisters mantra for all the pain. We sing-songed it in jest…but we were entirely serious.

I shook it off, kept driving.

I turned the corner and saw something that caught my eye. Luthern Redeemer Church. 

That’s it!!! A church HAS to give me a Bible…it’s like, their obligation…and it’s FREEEEEEE. Score!

I swing in the parking lot and park. This was 1999, so there were no smartphones to take a picture of I would have evidence of my appearance. But nonetheless, it was evident on the faces of the two tiny little old ladies scurrying about the church administration office, that my outfit…which I thought was an artist expression of my creativity…actually made me look like the Bride of Satan. All black. Veil. Blood red lips. 

I felt like they huddled together when they saw me.

I’m a nice person, not at all intimidating, but probably not so much that day…in a church. Surprised my entrance wasn’t met with witches cackling and crows cawing as I descended upon my unsuspecting victims. Poor women.

“I need a Bible,” I told them.

Maybe their expressions softened. Maybe.

They agreed to give me a Bible and went back TOGETHER to retrieve it. Probably for safety measures. I don’t blamed them looking back now. They probably thought I was there to cast a spell.

While they were gone, I looked around. Chapel doors behind me. I walked over and reached for the handles of the double doors. Locked. Hmmm…isn’t that like…sacrilege to lock the church? I heard once that some churches NEVER locked their downs as a symbol of Christ’s open invitation. Apparently, that wasn’t the case here, I thought.

The women returned with the Bible in hand. 

I thanked them and then asked if I could go into the chapel. They looked at me suspiciously and then at each other.

“Why?” one of them asked.

I hadn’t thought about WHY I wanted to go in, only THAT I wanted to go in. But suddenly, in that moment, this guttural feeling took me over and I nearly growled out my answer, “I NEED TO PRAY!”

I had no idea where that thought or this feeling came from. It just rose up from within. Maybe when I was pushing down thoughts from earlier, something slipped out…something from those baptismal waters that I’d pushed down a long time ago. It was animalistic almost. I was feverish to get into the chapel and pray.

Maybe I could blame the drugs…but the drugs had not kicked in. In fact, the entire day, the drugs never kicked in. I always wondered if it was just a bunk hit of X or God held absorption off. I guess I’ll never know this side of heaven. In 1999, Ecstasy wasn’t the easiest drug to get in Austin for some reason (or maybe it was just for me), so I’m sure there were counterfeits floating around. Heroin and cocaine…those were my usual drugs of choice and far easier to lay hands on. And of course, pot…I mean, c’mon…I live in Austin, home of Willie Nelson. That was a non-negotiable.

The ladies scuttled to get their keys. I’m sure they were on a medieval loop of skeleton keys, but that’s kinda how I remember it. The chapel doors swung open and as I walked forward, suddenly the background faded into the distance. All I could see was this beautiful wooden crucifix. With every step, I could see Jesus. 

You know that song Amazing Grace? Most people only know the first verse. But there are actually four verses.

The second one embodied how my interaction with that moment in the chapel went.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believe!

As I walked, I knew I was a sinner. After THE INCIDENT, I was crushed. Turned to bulimia to cope, then to cigarettes, sex, drugs and basically anything that promised fun and potential of being loved and accepted. Obviously, none of it worked.

Why had I left? Why hadn’t I clung to my faith after what happened? I’m not mad at my pre-teen self. I didn’t have anyone to guide me. My parents didn’t know how to handle it and they did so the best they could, which was bad and good all at the same time. As my self-esteem disintegrated during that time, so did my parents marriage. I always kinda blamed myself for it, too. What if that hadn’t happened? Would their marriage had survived if I wasn’t a rogue teen looking to do everything to defy them and make their lives harder?

So much guilt and shame that led to so many more poor decisions. I know Christians call them sin. And that’s fine. Sin. It is what it is. Missing the mark. But I call them coping mechanisms. Unhelpful strategies we use to heal broken parts of our hearts and minds. 

Next step, I looked at the hanging body of Jesus. Taking on my sin, leaving me free and sinless. He was beautiful. He knew I was a sinner, yet he didn’t look at that, all he wanted to do was replace all those coping strategies with the one thing that actually worked…HIM. I didn’t have to be scared. In fact, dressed like the Bride of Satan in a empty chapel, I felt completely at peace in the presence of the absolute acceptance. 

I walked to the front rows and sat down. And just started talking to the crucifix. But not really the wooden thing before me, but what it represented. The Creator of the Universe who died so I could be reconciled with Him because he didn’t want me to suffer anymore.

I don’t exactly know how long I stayed in the chapel. I cried. I prayed. I was silent. And eventually, I left. 

I drove home with my new Bible stamped with the churches name and an engraved Christian swirling cross on the green leather-like cover. I sat down on the vintage couch in the back room and opened it to the book of Revelation.

As I read, I knew the “something BIG that was coming” had just come…and it WAS NOT at all what I expected it to look like. The words spoke of death and resurrection. Looking back,  I couldn’t have ever planned my outfit better if I had even known or tried. The black Bride of Satan outfit was a memorial outfit for the death of the old me.

Nothing could have prepared me for what was going to happen next. Everything was fixing to change.