MRPJ #13/Body/Belief: “Three Stories” by Ralph Lemon

FALL/WINTER 1996-1997


The Great Harlot Who Sits On Many Waters

This happened when I was very small. I was riding in a car with just my mother. I was curled close enough to her to touch the steering wheel. we were on our way to a house to study the bible story of Job. God, whose name is Jehovah, and he was visiting the family who owed the house. This was a special occasion because Jehovah was going to explain why he thought this was an important story. It was nighttime and all I cared to see out the car windows were wet flashes of light. Probably it was raining. In the car we waiting at a street light, and as the light turned to green, and as we started around the corner, another car hit us from behind. My body jerked far away from my mother, hitting hard against the inside of the passenger’s door. Then there was silence. I do not remember wondering if my mother was OK. She was still, but not dead, or even hurt. The man who hit us then talked to my mother. There was not much damage done to the car. As we drove away my mother did not explain the accident to me. She knew that I was happy sitting close to her again. We arrived at the house an Jehovah was waiting. As we walked into the house he seemed very pleased to see my mother. he knew about the accident but would not look me in the eye. Later h had told my mother that he had caused the minor accident. He was not ready for our visit and wanted us to b late and cannot lie. I thought that Jehovah was large, very large and brown. We were all in a room where my mother listened to him for a very long time. My body stopped hearing and seeing and patiently clung to this woman who loved this giant.

Singing Praises To His Name

When I was 16, tow boys, who were younger than me and whom i had never seen before approached me at Mc Crae Park and asked me if I wanted to join a rock band. I would be the lead singer probably because I was black and black people had fun voices. They were white. At the moment there was no band, they were recruiting, but they had picked a name, “White Elephant”. In my mind I told them I could not. My parents were Jehovah’s Witness and I was under a very strict code of music. When we were at the Kingdon Hall, which is like a church, we were allowed to sing from small pamphlets to piano music. I later heard from the composer Rhys Chatham, who also was a Jehovah’s Witness, that much of the piano music played at the Kingdom Hall was borrowed from Brahms. I cannot remember what happened next but I did not tell the boys no. The thought of being in a real band was exciting. My only other experiences were lipsynching the Beatles with three other friends when I was in sixth grade, and a attempt at starting my own band whose mimed song was Money by Bradford and Gordy. Both of these transgressions were done behind the sanctity of the Kingdom’s Hall chorale. I knew rock well. I also knew how to hide. One year, for about six months, at 8:00 every night, i would find a corner and snuggle with a radio to Dylan’s Just Like A Women, while my parents watched television in another room. I doubt if the two boys ever formed the band. I don’t remember ever hearing of any public band called “White Elephant”. Perhaps they moved to another city and started it there. I got better at pretending that I knew all the Kingdom songs by heart.

While There Is Yet Time

In 1975, the year of Armageddon, I took my first dance class. This was also the year that I got a friend pregnant and worked on not being a father. Up until that point my body was not much more than an emotion to put clothes on. My other conscious physical experience were the two years that I spent on my high school wresting team. I was in the 95 pound division. Sometimes I won. My father would not come to any of my matches because sports were not part of Jehovah’s plan. During the spring and summer before my senior year I gained 45 pounds. I ate second helpings at every dinner and then would go to my brothers basement bedroom and lift weights. I was not interested in wrestling in my senior year. I left my mother and my family and the Kingdom Hall for good when I was 18. In the book of Revelation it says that in one day earth’s plagues will come, death and mourning and famine, and that heaven will rain down fire upon the earth completely destroying it. Those whose hearts are not dedicated to the true religion will perish. Those who are innocent of heart will inherit paradise and live for life everlasting. I have never felt innocent. From 18 to 1975 while in suspense of this inescapable destruction, I had one or two nervous breakdowns, but did not know that at the time. I was also bulimic, but did not know that at the time either. I was simply trying out vegetarianism. After six months of taking herbal laxatives, I began eating a little chicken and a little fish. Nancy Hauser, a dancer with Hanya Holm’s first company and a discipline of Mary Wigman, told me I had talent and that if I worked hard within two years I could become a touring modern dancer. This is what I did. I loved how this physical motion felt, especially the parts that did not make sense. Most of the time my body was in a lot of pain. I think it was because I needed more time that two years to do the things that my body was doing. But I accepted the pain. After 1975 thee was no Armageddon, and my parents said they were wrong to put such a specific date of Jehovah’s judgment day. Now they say “soon” and “it is now near”. My last nightmare was a year and a half ago, and yet, most mornings I wake up afraid. I am not angry at my father or his father, Jehovah. From the very beginning of my dancing I have always experienced a remarkable arrangement, where the wolf and the lamb feed on each other as one, my undefiled inheritance.

My mother saw me dance for the first time in October 1995.

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Research

MRPJ Project, Ralph Lemon

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