The Heaven We’ve Been Slouching Toward Is Not the Heaven

By: Haley Renee Born

I feel that if I move from this spot I will die. But I take a step forward and don’t.

Forgive me father for I have sinned.

Silent night, moonlight slants through stained glass windows. Here in this cathedral something is rotting. Behind my back I press my right thumb into my left wrist, feeling the veins there. Dark things with sloping shoulders sift through pews like silt in water, the stream of them murmuring.

Voices too faded to hear but speaking in unison gives them strength. I won’t cover my ears, won’t give them the satisfaction. Another few steps into the sun-bleached, moon-beamed church. I am surrounded.

God loves all his children.

I know where I have to go and it isn’t the altar, I won’t kneel here or I might never get up.

They look at me with eyes too many and try to sell me things. Tell me who to be or how to marry, they’re just looking out for me. Will I put my soul in their saving hands? Maybe just my retirement fund. Where are their hands?

 I pick up my pace, covering my face from prying; inside the confessional I feel absurdly. Like I am almost safe.

“I think God is a scratched record,” I say, not willing to wait for an invitation. “I’ve never seen a scratched record, let alone heard one playing.” But now that I mention it music seems to slide from behind the dividing screen, a distant hymn.

“It’s just a metaphor now, no real purpose other than to conjure the image of sound repeating itself. Is a metaphor still a metaphor if the comparison is between something and a symbol for the same thing?”

I don’t think so. I don’t know. Scratching my forearm absently, listening for the sounds of feet approaching, I wait. Do I even want a response from that massive presence? I can feel it like a hundred insect legs under my skin, that’s where the problem is. Inside, in the dark of our organs functioning. Our subconscious.


“We’ve said god so many times since that first time, I wonder what it meant then.” Picturing the potential of that moment — the simplicity — it used to unwind me, but I’ve over used it. “Heaven isn’t a place. It’s a promise so vague that anyone can use it to get what they want, but scratched records exist outside of a convenient metaphorical purpose.”

I’ve said too much and it will never be enough. Because I’m speaking into the ear of the great and terrible believer. I think that maybe I no longer have hands. I think that however many eyes I had I now have more. I am among my peers in a place possessed; I can only walk here because I have been baptized in the same poison that makes this place bearable.

I stand up, shoulders slouching, and leave the confessional. The church is full of people chatting; I check the time. Decide I don’t like the late-night service. Accidentally making eye contact with someone from work, I should know her name but don’t, I nod and smile and move purposefully toward the open doors. Hope I look stable, unremarkable, keeping my arms pressed to my sides in case there are unsavory stains. I let my feet trace a path on the street like touching familiar scars. I walk home feeling guilty, always feeling guilty.