Monday, February 7, 2011
The Furnace and the Candle, Pt. 1
I was on the way to the Corbett Center corner shop to pick up my day's worth of sugary delights when I saw a crowd orbiting some manner of spectacle. I gave it only a passing glance as I stepped through the doors, but gave it a bit more attention when I exited them two minutes later.
Taffy in hand, I beheld a man in a snazzy black two-piece hoisting and swinging around a wooden staff capped with a crucifix, Christ included. As expected, he was bellowing all the various reasons why the collective alumni would be slated for eternal damnation. Four meters away near the grass lot was a young lady in conservative dress, tied up hair, sunglasses, and a sandwich board jumping to the left and stepping to the right as a man was taking pictures of her. He wasn't an amateur – he had a portable indirect light source and was utilizing proper framing techniques. The sandwich board had a top 20 list of collegiate sins, in no particular order, including but not limited to “drunkenness, music idolatry, sodomy.”
I only took in the spectacle of the open studio puritan-porno shoot, immediately imagining the hordes of little choir boys who would get hot and bothered at the sight of such a unique and specific fetish. I could only imagine what the sight of a formally dressed young woman toting around on her body a list of quite a few delectable transgressions could do to the minds and loins of the born again. I would have stayed and flipped it out myself to get a taste, but I had class to attend.
I returned two hours later to see that the spectacle was ongoing. The girl who was the subject of the penny-dreadful pin-up pictures was sitting in a chair under a tree. Passers by and passive gawkers had gave way to a tight ring around the man – fellow students standing shoulder to shoulder with the weathered preacher in the center. For every word he spoke, those around him spoke ten, and with such rapidity and deceptive evenness that it very well could have been their cumulative torrent of hot air that blasted his thick hair back. The only thing I heard from the circle was garbled noise. Sound and fury signifying the ideological war that we lived with every day, and the painfully flawed manner in which it was waged.
I then heard the missionary intermittently bellow over the din something about “godless lesbians.” I stood around and continued to watch until I heard “I am here to preach! Not to listen!” At that I decided to do the exact opposite, because that is what all the cool and hip kids do. I walked over to a group of young women sitting on the stone-work walled garden and decided to ask them what was going on. I assumed that they had been there longer than I had, thus they would have greater insight on the matter. I asked if they were the previously mentioned godless lesbians.
I was half surprised when they said yes, and had I a mind to be, half aroused. My own smut preferences aside, I learned from them that this particular preacher had been coming to campus and performing a one-man revival for the past six years. I commented on his dedication and inquired further, learning that he had always showed up during the first few weeks of the winter/spring semester. I then asked what particular sins he was showcasing in this endeavor, and a stocky woman with an unshaven lip responded. I already knew the great list of things that are fun but worthy of damnation, but I wanted to hear her interpretation.
I might have missed one or two, but in the tone of voice one uses when one had memorized tedium, she stated, “because I'm gay, because my parents are separated, because I'm a woman and I vote, and because I got a tongue piercing.” To emphasize the last one, she let her mouth hang open long enough for the little gremlin in my chest to cringe.
When I finished recoiling in abject horror, I shifted the conversation to the the aspiring Playboy: Quaker Edition bunny minding herself on the dead grass and leaves.
“She's his daughter. He paid her like ten bucks to do a skit, like she was some kind of immoral sorority girl or something.”
The whole conversation with the 'godless lesbians' was flavored with a diminishing sense of amusement on their part, tinged with simmering annoyance with an aftertaste of pity and contempt. It wasn't just them – everyone had that look, and all the words spoken in the periphery of the event had a similar acoustic odor.
“The gays are coming, too. They're going to have a gay pride parade tomorrow.”
“Yeah it's fun to fight against a common foe.”
“Last year he almost got beaten up by a guy in a Darth Vader costume.”
Stirring words from the passive aggressive.
“He promised to be here tomorrow.”
“Yeah, he usually gets escorted off campus.”
It appeared to be a time to smoke 'em if you got 'em, as everyone who smoked had a cigarette out. I heard the preacher mumbling about something concerning 'cigarettes' and 'women' and 'sin', and at that I saw that people were lighting each others choice of carcinogenic wraps. The lesbians had came out, and had there been any gays in the audience I assumed they made their presence known in whatever method they deigned. It was also par for the course that the atheists had proclaimed their unfaith, and even a Muslim man was trying to have discourse with the firebrand in black. They were all cackling hyenas around a single lion who couldn't decide whether to roar or sleep, and took turns with each option whenever he decided to.
Vulture I was, I went on to bother his cub.