I have been baptized more than once.
The first time happened before I could even remember. My mother said that I shrieked
like someone had set me on fire.
I’ve seen the pictures. I looked hella uncomfortable.
Dressed in white, screaming as a Catholic priest held me over a white marble pillared basin.
Water frozen in time between my brow and the air.
I can’t remember it but looking at that picture always made my nostrils fill with the heavy fragrance of frankincense.
The second time I was baptized I was 20 years old.
This time it was consensual.
This time I remember it.
Being dressed in all white, with my arms folded across my chest. Tilted back
enough to see the reflection of myself and the pastor in the great mirror that hung over the
pool. The choir was singing “Come to the River to Pray”. I was nervous but not because of
what was happening. I was nervous because the pastor was mic’d and I was sure he was
going to fuck around and electrocute us both.
This was for show anyway.
This was a lie.
It was a last ditch effort to get my family to love me, accept me, see me as a viable human
being and not some weird inscrutable thing. I thought if I “got saved” it would fill in all that
space I felt between us.
I closed my eyes, worried about this man holding the weight of me as he tipped me back
and submerged me under the holy waters. I know that logically it was only seconds, but
time froze again. I felt the water turn warm, I felt as if I could breathe, something else
wrapped around me, found its way inside my head and whispered in a voice that was my
own but more
Seek Me in Your own way
When that pastor pulled me from the waters he looked shook. He wrapped his arms around
me in a fierce embrace and said, “Child, I felt the Holy Spirit move through you. You are
going to do great things.”
I thanked him and went to the back to dry off and change my clothing. I could hear him
preaching about how some people in the church were no good, how they had to change
their ways and do better, do more.
“We all have our path to walk”, he said as I opened the door and slipped out the back never
to return again.
The final time I was baptized I baptized myself.
I was in the home of my spiritual mother
Neither asleep nor awake
Deep in journey within myself
She guided to the red river,
had me stand upon its shores before I waded into to warm waters
I really could feel it
I was up to my thighs in it
It pooled around my sex, poured into both blood and bone
I let my fingers dip and drag along the surface, my arms became heavy while drinking it in
The heat began to spread,
a languorous thing that took its time creeping up my flesh, up my torso, over my shoulders,
into mouth, down my throat and curving the pathways of my heart to sink deep into my
belly before allowing myself to fall back into its embrace
When I came back and my teacher asked me how it was I struggled finding the right
words. There was this feeling of onus. It came without question or reservation. Like every
single cell was mine. I neither had to prove this or fight for this. It just was. It was a new
feeling but it was also like a memory. Something that had been hidden from me deep
As I stumbled my way through this explanation she simply nodded and when I was done
she said, “So you felt entitlement to your own self.”
There was a moment of silence as that word etched it’s way back into my being and then I
began screaming. I screamed in both grief and rage. It wasn’t just my voice but the voice
of my ancestors who have never felt or had to deny this basic sense of being within
themselves in order to survive.
I screamed for every father that had to teach their child to step off of sidewalks
I screamed for every mother that disciplined their child out of fear for their lives
I screamed for every one of them that had to bow their head, make due with crumbs, lived
in fear that their life would be stolen because someone had a bad day or a bigoted belief
I screamed for me.
For staying to long in fucked up relationships, for accepting the worst
of things, for not fighting enough or having to fight to hard. The screaming turned to hot
and angry tears that wouldn’t stop.
I curled up like a baby on her couch, shaking and cold and sweating. Wet with the
realization and revelation that I had just been baptized in my own entitlement.
Even now, years later I stay surprised by how foreign entitlement to my own body and it’s
blood stories feels within my own flesh and spirit. I consciously send it back through my
ancestral lines whenever it comes up. The response is almost always the same. Flashes of
anger and grief so deep that it burns and freezes.
It’s as if I was on the underside of a frozen lake.
Devoid of both breath and warmth until I suddenly break through and begin breathing
My whole body hurts.
My whole body resists because this kind of entitlement is not safe according to the
intergenerational trauma that has been burned into my bones.
Each time I break through the ice
It gets easier