This is the first story that came to mind when I discovered that the theme for July's Nablopomo was "Saved." It goes a little something like this...
The day I was baptized, I was drunk before my hair dried. "What's your name again?" the Baptist preacher asked me as he dunked my head underneath the chlorinated, indoor pool. Full immersion. People gathered around pool-side in their Sunday-best and were watching me like it was a documentary. They asked me if I wanted to say a few words beforehand. "Speech? I have to make a SPEECH?" I thought. The whole experience was so anti-climactic and nerve-wracking that when the resident heathens invited me to a party when I got back to my dorm room, I quickly accepted.
"Wear anything but white," the preacher had told me. "For obvious reasons." (I recoiled at these instructions, but respected the connotations. I wondered how many poor women had worn white before he had to start giving these unfortunate instructions.)
So I wore all black, just to be on the safe side.
And yet, the healing powers of whatever they gave me at the bar afterwards seemed far more healing than that man (of God) who didn't bother to remember my name.
"I just can't marry you unless you're SAVED," my newly baptized fiance had told me at the time. I knew I loved him, and if getting dunked in a community pool was going to cement the issue, then I was open to it. He had "gotten religion" seemingly overnight after I'd left Italy, and he needed me on board so that he could feel good about loving me again.
But in the end, he married someone else anyway. A blonde over my brunette, and eighteen over my twenty-two. Her Italy to my Iceland. She lived where he lived, and I lived above the Arctic Freaking Circle. His letters started by mentioning her as a "friend," then a tennis partner, then shortly after, a wife. I didn't know whether to dance or have a nervous breakdown.
God and I, we had our thing long before and after the fiance. When I was in high school back in Germany, I used to skip school and hang out in the cathedral all day with the pious German ladies and the Pope Clement II sarcophagus. And, for my part, I did see God in the Northern Lights that winter, in the puffins nesting in lava rock cliff sides, in the black sand on the Arctic seashore.
I saw the fiance only in his apocryphal letters with his careful penmanship. Brown envelopes with practiced calligraphy. I hiked through snowstorms toward a military mailroom just for him to let me down easy.
I burned all of his letters, eventually, in the barbecue grill outside of my barracks. Then I threw some steaks on the fire, and tried to forget. Maybe I had gotten "saved" that day after all.