In the winter of 1987, I decided to travel cross-country with a college friend. She was one of several exchange students from Scotland, and as part of the program, they were given a van for transport. For whatever reason, we lucked into having the van ourselves. Denise and I weren't close friends; we just hung out with the same people, so I don't know why she asked me or why I decided to go. Perhaps I just didn't want to be home for the holidays. It was dull and my parents found and I felt squelched and defensive. Maybe it seemed like an adventure.
The trip began auspiciously with me throwing up. I had gone out with a high school friend the night before and drunk too much of something very strong. Usually I avoided hangovers by drinking a lot of water before passing out and not eating the next day. But that morning, since I was going on a journey and didn't want to get a cold, I took my vitamin C. Never take vitamin C after drinking. Happily, throwing up seemed to make the world right again and I set forth light of heart and stomach.
This was a winter of storms and blizzards. We cautiously approached
As we drove into
At some point we got ourselves up to
I walked into a dark room, with a small structure in the center, warmly lit from within. A video of snow covered mountains was projected on one wall of the outer room, the film jerky as if the cameraman had been running. There was a roaring sound like wind. As you moved closer to the structure, which represented the cell where the mystic had been imprisoned, you could hear a voice reciting poetry in Spanish. Inside the cell there was a desk with a pitcher and a video monitor showing the same mountains, only quiet and serene. The catalog explained who St. John of the Cross was and printed some of his poetry. Wow, I had never read anything like this. I had never heard anyone speak of God like this--it was erotic, sensual, surrendered, a love song. What, I wondered, would it be like to experience God that way?
I don't remember anything of the trip after that: what happened to Yonkers girl, how we got out of Manhattan, the trip back to Atlanta, if we ever met up with the other exchange students. The narrative unravels here.
When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.
I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.