Thursday, October 20, 2011
Devils & Dust
When I was growing up, when the sun shone and the sky rained simultaneously, people said the devil was beating his wife. This happened often enough: In the South, in the summer, a mid-day downpour is usual fare. As a kid, I could imagine the devil clear as day, punching on his betrothed.
When I tell people these kinds of stories here, they mostly see them as amusing or funny. They’re the kind of wild tales that make me a hit at parties. But they didn’t feel that way to me then. I spent whole nights calculating the timing of the Rapture. I spent days petrified that a demon would posses me. When I was 9 or so, the pastor cast out a demon one Sunday evening. We were on the third row, and something hissed into the preacher’s microphone.
“And don’t forget,” the pastor said afterward. “A demon needs a home.”
In leaving this woman — she had the totally cinematic name of Trauna — the demon would have to go into another body. A demon likes a dirty house, the preacher said, so if you aren’t good or clean, you are a candidate.
I covered my ears. My mother put one hand over my hands, another on my brother. I didn’t feel good or clean. I was mean to my brother, lazy with chores. So at night I lay in bed, repeatedly asking forgiveness. I did this without stopping, as if in the seconds between repentances, I might accidentally sin.
I could imagine demons and devils clearly, physically. They populated every Carmen music video the youth group idolized. And though those manifestations seem hokey, ultra ‘90s now, I still think of the devil every time the sun shines and the sky rains at the same time.
But this morning, when I looked through my car window back at my apartment, I couldn't quite imagine what the devil or his wife looked like. Instead, I saw this picture.
'Fear's a powerful thing.
It can turn your heart black, you can trust.
It'll take your God-filled soul
and fill it with devils and dust.'
- bruce springsteen