It sucks.
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Reading time: 4 minutes
Recommended for: Not Catholics
I am poking around the very fringes of the ruined city long past smoldering, far from you, when the first wave of nausea hits. I think to myself, “Oh, it’s just morning sickness,” almost automatically, before I have this terrible sudden realization that it is Actually Morning Sickness, like the mother-incumbent kind, and I plant my hands on my thighs like a runningback braced for impact and just sort of teeter there, rocking back and forth, but nothing comes. My insides swarm and then settle, as if after a tidal wave that forced the evacuation of a small coastal fishing village but, disappointingly, never made landfall.
The sun cracks over the rocky horizon. I have grown accustomed to my witchy existence out here since your departure and the literal crumbling of our home of years: My days are spent in quiet communion with the land, in study (Starhawk, spellbooks I dragged out in a busted shopping cart), finding harmonic patterns in light cast through the projections of spirey old buildings and the interplay of shadow and scraggly tree branch. I’m probably one grim hand puppet away from sermonizing to the birds. There’s a makeshift rubble cave that I snuggle into at night, not because I have to.
I stretch myself at its mouth, my stomach still unsteady, at once unsure of the habitat I’ve been building since you split, whether it is even the least bit sustainable. I feel both utterly powerless and as if an enormous responsibility—as big as the city to my left, as big as God—has been foisted upon me, like a cancer or a spiritual calling. It sucks.
It’s hard to say if the St. Francis of Giovanni Bellini’s painting is even a true hermit—the Tuscanish city in the backdrop is hardly more than a ten-minute stroll away, and the shepherd looks up from his sheep at the supposed miracle with the kind of nonchalance that says this kind of thing happens fairly often, more weird neighbor (read: casual witch) than devout ascetic. Like, maybe once a week the not-yet-saint slouched back to the city to have his garment carefully pressed, maybe he enjoyed the folksy grandeur of the Third Order, the reputation that preceded him.
As if in response to this blasphemous thought, my stomach seizes again and the wind kicks up viciously, throwing open one of the leather-bound volumes I have lying around me. The pages flip by and in the unearthly gust settle on a spread that is familiar to me, one of those universal symbols I’ve become very good at drawing.
I remember, some miles from here, you holding a similar shape in your hands and willing the room around us to melt away, blood coming from your palms.
More distantly, prior to that, in another room deeper inside, I recall the smell of something burning, a garbled incantation, the thrill of awakening, of bringing to life.
And then you have to assume that we fucked at some point.
I’m suddenly standing, the book at my feet, my arms spread to either side, palms out. A beautiful, terrible light bears down from above. The wind is furious, and a lone feathered tree bends towards me beneath a great and invisible weight, but my robes remain perfectly still. The nausea returns stronger than ever, yet I’m rooted in place, my body channeled through as if a rod, some conduit.
On an outcropping near me, I see a sandy-colored cat looking on in idle curiosity—like the donkey of Bellini’s original, which is traditionally symbolic of ignorance—and I think: Peter. I think: Meet me at the gates, show me where you’ve been hiding.
My palms begin to burn, and then bubble. The cat yawns or stretches its jaw. I match his expression.
The sensory memory of being inside a cheap Mexican restaurant vividly overtakes me. The walls were red and the air was dense with grease. You’d cleaned out a basket of tortilla chips and your hands were slick with it, your face was glowing. You pointed towards a floral skull painted onto our booth and said, “At our wedding we are going to have a skeletonman who sits and plays dirges on the organ,” and the commitment implied by this sentence almost carried a threat, and then you received a piping stone bowl with shrimp dangled around the perimeter like the fingers of a massive shattered hand, and I knew you intended something permanent.
I feel the stirrings of another inside of me. My body radiates at five points. The flailing tree whispers a name I don’t recognize, and the city rebuilds itself in the background in splendid array: a sacrament. My insides rise and fall.
At long last I buckle forward, I release my guts onto my feet and the sun-dappled earth, the land redolent of ash and meat. Peter turns away. He was named for the demon, not the saint.
I remove my shoes in the presence of the holy.

Simon Jacobs 
is the author of SATURN, a collection of David Bowie stories, out now from Spork Press.

He may be found at
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