by Annabelle Smith
after Lindsay Bernal
The baptismal is dim and dry when I strip behind the sanctuary. I find a quiet Eden in the honeyed dark, guarded by wilting altar flowers and COVID communion packets, wafer sealed beneath a wisp of plastic. Six springs ago, I was baptized six steps to my left. Then, a robe hid my body, clung to peach fuzz and baby fat as I drowned my sins beneath God and chlorine. Now, I slip out of my jeans and think about climbing into the empty tub, about tricking myself into a second forgiveness. In Sunday School, I was taught to begin every prayer with gratitude. But I am not grateful for these ragged cuticles, shorn lips stained scarlet, unspooled doubts pooled in the base of my skull. I have never taken the body and the blood together, but today, dressed only in my mortality, I want to pull apart a parcel of the eucharist and invite the holy into my stomach all at once. But I don’t. Because all at once feels more reckless than six years ago: plunging beneath the waters, ripples slipping over my crown, begging God to love the girl holding holding her breath beneath the makeshift Jordan. I tell myself thank you in the shadow of stained glass, skin ripened by crimson crucifixion. This time, I believe my words. I have undressed myself like peeling an orange: desperate, hungry, pulpy carnage sticky beneath my fingernails. I exhale the fear stagnant in my chest— and for an instant, divinity kisses my skin.
Annabelle Smith is a creative writing student based in Maryland. Raised in the church, she finds connection to God in the written word. More of her work can be read in Every Day Fiction and in upcoming publications by TRNSFR and Amethyst Review.