E

Jesus the Cat

From Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies:

I didn’t go to the flea market the week of my abortion. I stayed home, and smoked dope, and got drunk, and tried to write a little. On the seventh night, though, very drunk and just about to take a sleeping pill, I discovered that I was bleeding heavily. It did not stop over the next hour. I thought I should call a doctor, but I was so disgusted that I had gotten so drunk one week after an abortion that I just couldn’t wake someone up and ask for help. Several hours later, the blood stopped flowing, and I got in bed, shaky and sad. After awhile, as I lay there, I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner, and I just assumed it was my father, whose presence I had felt over the years when I was frightened and alone. The feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there – of course, there wasn’t. But after awhile, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus. I felt him as surely as I feel my dog lying nearby as I write this.

And I was appalled. I thought about my life and my brilliant hilarious progressive friends. I thought about what everyone would think of me if I became a Christian, and it seemed an utterly impossible thing that simply could not be allowed to happen. I turned to the wall and said out loud, “I would rather die.”

I felt him just sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn’t help because that’s not what I was seeing him with. Finally, I fell asleep and in the morning, he was gone.

The experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition, born of fear and self-loathing and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever. So I tried to keep one step ahead of it, slamming my house door whenever I entered or left.

And one week later, when I went back to church, I was so hungover that I couldn’t stand up for the songs, and this time I stayed for the sermon, which I thought was so ridiculous, like someone trying to convince me of the existence of extraterrestrials, but the last song was so deep and raw and pure that I could not escape. It was as if the people were singing in between the notes, weeping and joyful at the same time, and I felt like their voices or something was rocking me in its bosom, holding me like a scared kid, and I opened up to that feeling – and it washed over me.

I began to cry and left before the benediction, and I raced home and felt the little cat running along my heels, and I walked down the dock past dozens of potted flowers, under a sky as blue as one of God’s own dreams, and I opened the door to my house, and I stood there a minute, and then I hung my head and said, “F*ck it. I quit.” I took a long deep breath and said out loud, “All right. You can come in.” So this is my beautiful moment of conversion.  

—Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies.

Below: Dominica, Cambridge, Mass., currently residing at Yale Divinity School.