‘Just Say No’ Never Took Hold

I am a Jehova’s Witness. Well, I’m not yet, but I may be soon so I’m trying on the proverbial dress to see if it fits. I don’t actually want to be a Witness, but I can’t seem to convey this to them and so it really may come to pass that I become one. I’m not the sort of person who would seek to become a member of Jehova’s Witnesses, or any religious sect for that matter, but I am absolutely the sort of person who would realize while folding clothes on a Tuesday that I had inadvertently done so. That is, after all, how I became a vegetarian, and a subscriber to too many magazines, and heavily in debt to American Express, and – hell – even how I became a mother. These things have a way of sneaking up on me.

It began with a woman named Annie. She rapped my front door on a day that was blisteringly cold. I knew who she was and what she represented as soon as I spied her slight frame through the glass panes of my door. Even the UPS man, tasked with delivering a valuable package that requires a signature doesn’t pause at the stoop if the temperature has dipped below freezing. She stood there, bent with chill and tears springing at the creases of her eyes to lubricate them against the whip of the wind, and asked me if I ever wondered about the role of Jesus in these uncertain times. The neurons in my brain skipped about, desperately summoning the motor ability to utter a parting phrase and close the door. The cranial pathways of most people allow for this sort of complex coordination, but mine are so littered with outdated laws of etiquette and corroded by bad television that I can’t manifest the desired response.

And so I said, “Sure, I wonder about it.”

With that simple concession, Annie beamed with optimism, much the way I do when someone asks if I’ve lost weight when in fact I’ve eaten nothing but polysaturated fat for a week. I permitted Annie to read a passage from her book of psalms as the kids ran recklessly behind me, periodically peeping through my legs to see if the figure at our door had transmuted into a character from a Disney film since the last time they had checked. I couldn’t bring myself to shoo her away because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings as mine would be had I mustered the mettle to talk to a stranger about my passion only to be dismissed because they were too busy watching a Today Show segment about Renal Biopsy despite having perfectly healthy kidneys.

At one point in her reading she paused to collect herself because the cold had made her voice tremble. I wanted to invite Annie in since that’s the least you can do for someone who’s willing to throw the dice on you being a part of their selective ascension to the heavens, but I knew that would be the first sentence to the story of how my family came to star in a live Nativity scene in our front yard. I would never have considered allowing a male into my home since I’ve watched enough talk shows to know that always ends with a knife in your back or – worse – the purchase of an appliance. I decided to let Annie remain on the porch, drawing solace from the fact that I wouldn’t have to offer a hot beverage I’m not entirely sure how to prepare or that she may not even be allowed to drink, religiously speaking. I get nervous around highly conservative types, unsure of the credos and restrictions and forced to compensate with strange behaviors that seem pious, like bowing slightly and removing my shoes.

So she pointed to passages and met my eyes through the screen with hopeful nods until she concluded with a smile, grateful to have been heard above the din of my home. She mentioned that she would return, and when she does, I’ll have to concede my disinclination to join her flock. I’m not sure how to say it because pointed assertions are not my strong suit. My communication will reduce to a court jester-like performance, juggling spoons as I try to make her understand how much I love my birthday and how I’d really like a blood transfusion should I ever medically require one. I’m sure I’ll divulge how my only brush with organized religion let me down because the man who took my childhood confessions is now defrocked and has a mug shot. If I look into her disappointed eyes, I’ll have to assure her their chapter would only suffer having someone like me charged with door-to-door duties, Girl Scout Troop #1179 willing to confirm as much.

Or I’ll probably just tell her that I’ve overheard my neighbor fretting over her path to salvation. And that she makes a really good casserole.