Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

Author:Jia Tolentino
Language: eng
Format: epub, azw3
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Published: 2019-08-05T16:00:00+00:00

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The last time I participated in anything on my old church campus was high school graduation. I was wearing a white flowered sundress under a royal-blue robe, and I was onstage at the Worship Center, looking up at the bright lights, toward the empty balconies, giving the salutatorian’s speech. I had turned in a different speech for approval than what I delivered. I barely remember what I ended up saying—I know I made at least one joke about the Repentagon. My classmates whooped, but, as I crossed the stage to accept my diploma, an administrator hissed his disapproval. The distance between the place that formed me and the form I had taken was out in the open, and widening. The next Christmas, when I came home from college, my church held a holiday service at the Toyota Center, the huge downtown arena where the Houston Rockets play. I spent much of the afternoon getting stoned with a friend, and, in the middle of the spectacle, I started to lose it. The country star Clay Walker was singing, his face looming huge on the jumbotron. I left my parents, edging my way out of the stadium seating. Outside, on the perimeter of our church service, vendors were selling popcorn and brisket sandwiches and thirty-two-ounce Cokes. I went to the bathroom, overwhelmed, and cried.

I wonder if I would have stayed religious if I had grown up in a place other than Houston and a time other than now. I wonder how different I would be if I had cleaved to this feeling of devoted self-destruction—or even of solitude and striving, or writing, in the manner of Carson’s three women—and only been able to find it through God. I can’t tell whether my inclination toward ecstasy is a sign that I still believe, after all of this, or if it was only because of that ecstatic tendency that I ever believed at all.

I wonder, sometimes, if I have continued to do drugs because they make me feel the way I did when I was little, an uncomplicated creation, vulnerable to guilt and benevolence. The first time I did mushrooms, I felt perfect and convicted and rescued, like someone had just told me I was going to heaven. I walked down a beach and everything coalesced with the cheesy, psychotic logic of “Footprints in the Sand.” The first time I did acid, I saw God again immediately—the trees and clouds around me blazing with presence, like Moses’s burning bush. Completely out of my mind, I wrote on a napkin, “I can process nothing right now that does not terminate in God’s presence—this revelation I seem ready to have forever in degraded forms.”

Recently, I found myself doing this again—this time in the desert, that perennial seat of madness and punishment and epiphany, in a house at the top of a hill in a canyon where the sun and wind were incandescent, white-hot, merciless, streaking and scintillating across the bright blue sky.


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