Catholic Clouds

I don’t know if it was the first time I prayed, or the earliest memory I have of praying. I was seven, maybe eight. I was sitting on the pew with my mother beside me, she had a small bible in her hands and seemed to be reading what the man with the funny clothes up front was reading. Now I like to think she was reading something else, a passage that she liked better. I forget what the padre was reciting. But like all religious church stuff, it would end with “Amen.” The place smelled of cleaning products and a hint of that holy incense stuff. I looked up, the guy on the cross looked sad and lonely, you’d think he’d be in pain. The roof was high with wooden beams, afternoon light came in through the opened door and stained glass windows that portrayed the green cloaked virgin and the plain-faced apostles. It wasn’t a Sunday, it couldn’t have been a Sunday, there weren’t enough people in there for a Sunday, or maybe people took a week-long break from sinning. And my mind began to wander once my eyes were tired of wandering about the room.

 

“Amen.”

 

Then my mom closed her little bible and told me to kneel down and pray. She knelt down and brought her palms together and closed her eyes. I followed suit but didn’t really know how to pray. My mom had told me that we prayed to god for good stuff, but I didn’t know if I was supposed to talk directly to god or if it was informal or not. After thinking it over I decided to talk directly to him, yeah, it’s a guy, and I decided to make it formal. The problem then was that I didn’t know what god looked like, I wasn’t aware of the old guy with the white beard yet. I couldn’t imagine anything, so I imagined the sky with clouds and I prayed to that. He lived in the sky, I figured that praying to the sky would be like praying to him, or at the very least praying in his direction.

 

It was a dark starry sky with a full moon, the sort you find out in the desert with no city light around. Though the sky was bright, the surroundings were close to pitch black and there was this type of silence that seemed crystallized and fixed in the air. Clouds were scattered across the sky, and as they moved across the sky, some of them formed into the word GOD and stood there, right below the full moon so that there was enough light in the sky that I could make out the word.

 

That’s what I decided to pray to. Now I had to figure out what to pray for. I wasn’t aware of world conflict so I didn’t pray for world peace or any other humanitarian cause. I didn’t pray for toys or anything like that because I knew well enough that Santa Claus was for that. I prayed for my whole family’s happiness because my dad was often mad and that made everybody else mad for some reason or another. I prayed to be able to go to college because my mom really wanted me to go. Then I thought about the guy up on the cross and prayed for him not to be sad anymore and off the cross so that he could stand up and be on one of those stained glass windows with the other guys, then he wouldn’t be lonely either. The clouds began to move again and the word faded, it got a little darker and a little less quiet, so I opened my eyes.

 

I looked over at my mom, she was still praying, I sat back on the pew and waited. Once she was done we got up and walked out. We went to the McDonalds across the street; we would move to a different part of LA in a year or two and the church there would also have a McDonalds across the street. I thought each church came with a McDonalds for a while. Aside from the night sky image I had made in my head, I didn’t like praying, it was dull and confusing and the room seemed too big for the occasion. I tried imagining the same night sky when I got home, but couldn’t for whatever reason. I figured there was something about the church that allowed me to bring that setting to mind, that the big guy up stairs was in church and he helped me spell out GOD in that mind-sky, and that much made it seem worth it to go back.

 

The next day I went to the hardware store with my dad, he was looking for some tool for work. We walked through each isle and didn’t have any luck, we walked out and got in the car. I looked up out the window and noticed a plane, I thought it was burning since it was leaving smoke behind. I pointed it out to my dad and he gave it a glance at the next red light. He told me the plane was just writing in the sky and I couldn’t believe it. I’d never seen anything like that up until then,  the plane was leaving clouds in its wake and doing what I had done the day before in my head, except it wrote DAISY instead of GOD. We got back home and it got dark, I went out to the backyard and I could still vaguely make out what the plane had written. It made me a little sad, I didn’t know what to make of it, I thought only god could write in the sky.

 

That night, right before I went to sleep, I gave the sky-writing another shot. The darkness came in, the refined silence came in, a million stars came in, a bright crescent moon came in. And then it finally happened, GOD was written in the sky, right below the moon so I could make it out, but it was written by a plane.

 

Amen.

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