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December 24, 2022


Rose Jean Bostwick

Mom once confided in me that she had her dirtiest thoughts in church. To honor her memory, I think terrible thoughts as Paul and I walk in ten minutes late to Midnight Mass. Shuffling between pews of disapproving old people, I think, in the way that every youngest generation is the most spoiled, every eldest generation is the most religious, and I think this must be because they’re closest to death. As I slide into the pew and try to tuck my fur coat under my body, I think about how Paul can see my stomach doubled over from this angle, which makes me think about how much weight I’ve gained since our engagement, so much I might need to get my wedding dress refitted. Then he squeezes my hand and I think, it’s okay, because most of the weight went to my ass, which Paul loves. I wonder if any of those old men stared at my ass on our way in, as their dry-skinned, tight-lipped wives seethed. All rise. The congregation stands together and I anticipate Paul’s awful singing voice, then we mutter along to Holy Holy Holy and I think about how I’m sometimes repulsed by the feeling of his three-day stubble against my face. While the children pour in from the wings for the nativity pageant, I think about how, even though I’ve told Paul I’m not sure yet, I already know I never want children. As the eight-year-old Virgin Mary cradles her plastic babydoll Jesus, furnished with the ability to piss Himself, I wonder if Paul will give me an ultimatum. The youngest children sparkle as stars, while their older brothers play surly wise men, shepherds, and sheep, and their sisters, tiny Virgins, squirm under the guiding hands of their mothers, who once forced them through narrow birth canals, screaming, tearing in half. I could soon be one of these mothers, stitched back together tight, if I’m not firm. When the priest says Peace be with you, I reply, And also with you. Sensing an imposter, the devout jerk their heads in my direction. They can tell I’m faking. I should have said, And with your spirit. I should go through with the wedding, at least, so as to not be excluded from His divine plan. As the offertory hymns swell, I pass the velvet-lined collection box to Paul, who had enough foresight to bring cash, and I think, His alms can count for both of us. I consider, briefly, throwing in my ring. For God, or for the institution, or maybe for Mom. This was all for her, anyway. Bless her soul. I wonder if her thoughts were as dirty as mine.