TITLE: Psychic Distance
By RENEE GREENE
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Seemed like there was a church on every corner in Georgia. The whole state was numbered amongst the ones included in the Bible Beltline. Where the woman who was coming around the corner came from, there was a great distance of driving to even see a church, let alone maintain a membership in one. In the Bronx, her hometown, there wasn’t a thumper or a holy roller for miles around. Since she’d moved to the south, she couldn’t seem to walk down Broad Street to get to work without someone preaching, shouting, in the streets; without a missionary and a collection bucket standing near the bus causeway, or without a Jehovah’s Witness, Watchtower tract in hand, thrusting one at her for the price of a small donation to help cover the cost of something in which she didn’t believe.
Even at work, someone was constantly badgering her about where she went to church or trying to convince her that they knew the “only” way to God and that she should attend their church if she wanted to know, too. One even went so far as to ask her why she wasn’t married since she had two small children at home.
And speaking of home, there was no sacred sanctuary for her personal space from these religious enthusiasts of all kinds. Many was a day she had to close the door in a Witnesses’ face, and when they stopped coming, the Mormons took up where they left off. Once, she bought a five dollar Bible from one of them and the spine glue was so cheap that the flimsy tearsheet pages fell out onto the floor when she thought she might open it and see if an old Psalm she remembered from childhood was still there. She knew a strongly worded letter to the LDS headquarters in Salt Lake City wouldn’t get her five bucks back, but she threw the sheets in the trash, vowing that if she never saw them again, it would be too soon; but she wouldn’t hesitate to demand a refund if she did.
Gloria hated the Bible Belt. Church on every corner, Bible thumpers galore … where she came from in the Bronx, it meant a trek to the other side of New York state to even see a church, let alone attend one. No Holy Rollers, no Jehovah’s Witnesses all over town shoving tracts into her hand when all she wanted to do was get a token so she could get on the train and get to work on time.
Even when she got to work, it was all she could do to avoid Evelyn the Evangelist. Gloria swore that girl wore her beliefs on her blouse sleeves. Cross earrings, cross pendants, cross bracelets, cross stick pins, signs all over her desk with some Bible verse; even her screensaver would change from “Jesus saves!” one week to “The Lord is One Lord” the next. Gloria didn’t mean to commit a sacrilege of any sort, but the last time she checked, Jesus wasn’t hanging on a cross. It was her understanding that He had moved on from there and was currently a very busy man.
She’d spent many a day at home slamming the door in the faces of JW’s and when they finally ceased and desisted, there came the Mormons to take their places. She had once been gracious enough to purchase a five dollar Bible from one of them just to get them off her doorstep. Less than a week later, the flimsy thing—a fundraising device--fell apart. Cheap glue on the spine and wafer thin pages. She chalked it up to experience of the old school kind, “You get what you pay for.”
Georgia humidity. Whew. The kind that makes clothes stick to skin and skin stick to tissues and organs. “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” I never knew where that came from, because to me, dry heat was just as bad. It was a day that I didn’t feel like being bothered with anyone or anything and I was open to lashing out at things that bugged me because I couldn’t fight the heat.
Usually, I would cross the street to avoid the street evangelists in front of the Five Points Marta Station, but today was a day this chicken wasn’t crossing the road in all that earthly hellfire. There was more shade on the sheltered side, and occasionally a bus with nice cold air inside would breeze by and open its doors long enough for me to experience some cool while I waited for my own bus to show up. It was then, before I could say “ah” from the approaching bus, that the Witness I had been watching, hoping she’d see the scowl on my face and just keep moving along, shoved a tract under my nose. “Watchtower, lady?”
I wanted to swear she had gotten between me and that breeze on purpose. I was convinced the devil made her do it just to irritate me; but I’d seen her walking down the street blocking everybody’s sunshine and shade for at least the past 15 minutes. Her timing was impeccable. “No,” I waved her off, miffed that she had stolen my most recent breeze offering. I wanted to deck her for that, but I feared for my soul; she moved on just in time for me to catch the warmer fumes from the bus’ hiney… fumes that didn’t contribute a thing to making my two-and-one-half hour commute home any better.
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