I entered into a pact with God, a pow-wow of sorts, and promised to stop smoking. I asked the Heavenly Father to keep my lover alive, and in exchange for a miracle, I promised to never again smoke.
My lover Shawn’s sudden madness– a demon possession it seemed at the time– shook me up terribly. Physicians informed me that he was likely going to die–
“Liver failure is the cause. There seems to be an excessive amount of Tylenol in his bloodstream. Taking too much Tylenol is toxic, especially for one with a compromised liver. The cause of his dementia and the reason for all that screaming was due to liver failure. Have you contacted the next of kin?” The doctor asked. “In all likelihood he is not going to live very much longer.”
The physician departed Shawn’s bedside after making a notation upon a clipboard. I stood next to my vegetated lover with his friend, Dianashaw and cried.
“We should pray.”
“I guess you are right,” I said, closing my eyes, squeezing tears from my eyes as my lids rested shut.
Shawn’s trembling and tense body seemed to relax as Dianashaw’s prayer was whispered. I placed my hands on Shawn’s feet and softly massaged them as she prayed.
“Look at that! He just smiled. Don’t you see? He still hears us,” Dianashaw noted.
She was right. The terror that consumed Shawn’s soul which caused me to call 911, leading to his restraint in a stretcher, seemed to fade with every word spoken to God. I continued laying hands on him.
A stranger who Dianashaw and I assumed was visiting the emergency room patient laying next to Shawn suddenly spoke to us–
“He wants you to say the prayer,” the stranger, speaking in a West-Indian accent revealed, pointing at me.
“Who are you?” Dianashaw asked.
“I was sent here– or I was called here by him. I can hear this man. His soul is very powerful. He wants you, his friend– you are his friend, no? He wants you to say the prayer. You give the prayer,” the clairvoyant suggested.
An unmistakable smile spread across Shawn’s blood-stained lips. He seemed, although comatose, happy that the stranger had arrived at his bedside to channel.
“Dear Heavenly Father,” I prayed, “Please remove this pain from this man, the one I love, whom I may never marry, and place this burden in him upon me. Cast the demons out. Take the fear from him and put it in me so that he may have rest and joy again. I Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
Shawn’s body suddenly convulsed as I opened my eyes and released my grip from his feet. His face appeared calm and angelic. Somehow it seemed, my faith was curing him.
A bright flash appeared before my tear-ridden eyes. I saw Shawn standing within a golden light– at first I envisioned Shawn in the light, but then, I realized it was the face of Jesus that I saw. As reality and view of the emergency room returned to my eyes, my soul suddenly sank with despair. Like an electrocution zapping through my very soul, a terrible feeling of hopelessness consumed me. It was at this very moment that my own troubles began. If I had only understood the cost of what I was was asking the Lord, I never would have taken on his pain, through prayer. It was from this act of faith that my troubles began– psychosis– schizophrenia– madness.
I wanted to conduct more healing on him. If one prayer could make Shawn smile, then certainly, I believed, that if I entered into a convent with God, offering to give up smoking, that he would be healed, despite what the doctors had said.
I managed to stop smoking, cold-turkey, despite the worry I had for Shawn. The clairvoyant stranger who inspired my initial prayer followed me outside the emergency room and into the warm Spring air as I relieved my nerves with a cigarette.
“Why do you smoke?” She asked.
“I don’t know. It’s a horrible habit. I would give it up for him.”
“Then do that. When you wake-up at 3 a.m. tonight, I want you to fall to your knees in prayer, repent and say these words– ‘Get thee behind me Satan!’. It is then that you should enter your convent with God. Your friend is going to live,” the soothsayer promised.
I believed her, especially after I awoke at precisely 3 a.m. in a heated panic. I was craving a cigarette. I missed Shawn so much. I said my prayer, telling Satan to get behind me, and made the promise to the Heavenly Father to stop smoking.
I went back to the emergency room, arriving at Brooklyn Hospital precisely at 3:45 a.m, according to a clock in the waiting area. If only I could pray over him. Visiting hours were over in intensive care.
I asked to see a doctor. Something had been burning in me ever since I said my prayer and placed my hands on Shawn’s feet. I waited for more than an hour to see someone, but eventually the first hint of twilight kissed the dark night sky. Consumed by anxiety, I ran to a nearby deli to purchase a pack of Newports. I smoked one before getting back on the train.
As I waited for the G train at Fulton Street, I became dizzy and intensely sad. I rested in a squatted position against a metal beam on the platform and prayed–
“I can’t do this anymore. Take him, God.”
Just as a walked inside our apartment, the phone rang. It was the hospital calling. Shawn was dead.
I have smoked ever since and continue to pray, although I’m too frightened to give up the habits, in fear that my schizophrenia may pull me into darkness again. Perhaps if I stop smoking but continue to pray, Shawn will forgive me, but then again, perhaps my convent with God was with myself and Shawn has already forgiven me for setting my own soul on fire.