“We Need to Talk,” I Said

“We Need to Talk,” I Said March 23, 2022


It’s been hard to sleep the past few nights, and then the nightmares started.

I kept waking up with a start, but every time I fell back asleep I would find myself in another active shooter situation, trying and failing to protect another pack of children. In one dream I was hiding in the house of somebody I didn’t know, trying to protect their sleeping daughters from a burglar who’d broken in with a gun. In another, Rosie, Michael and I were running up the fire escape on the side of a comically tall cathedral, trying to hide from a gunman in the belfry as I had dizzy spells from the height.  In the final dream I myself was a child, at that Catholic school I left in 1996. There was an adult male terrorist sitting on a stool in the classroom doorway, cradling a great big gun, and the bully who used to torment me in the fifth grade was cajoling and flattering the terrorist, trying to convince him to shoot me first and let the other children go.

Every time I woke up I’d turn to my icons and want to say something, but I was afraid to talk to Jesus. I’m still worried that he is angry. I’m still overwhelmed with that niggling feeling I’ve had for a year now– that He just doesn’t like me and I’m going to hell.

When I woke up for the last time, my harassing, stalking neighbor was pacing back and forth between the houses, in the rain, cursing at and about me in her usual rapid fire monologue.  She is offended because I weeded the garden and planted peas yesterday, and she didn’t get the chance to run outside and scare me out of it. When she was healthier, she would wait by the door to burst out and startle me whenever I’d go out to do some gardening. She is obsessed with the idea that freshly picked garden vegetables are somehow toxic and that I’ll give my daughter food poisoning if I let her eat sugar snap peas; that’s why she rampaged on my property and destroyed the garden a few years ago. She also likes to tell people that Michael is a pimp who traffics Rose and me.  She had some bizarre stories to tell the judge at the hearing where she tried to get a restraining order against us.

I wanted to start the day with a prayer, but I didn’t know who to direct my prayer to. I ventured to say a few words to Archangel Michael, because they’ve always been my favorite intercessor. But even then I was cautious and didn’t speak much.

I came downstairs in despair and fixed a strong cup of coffee. I googled the name of my former confessor, as I’ve done every morning for over a week now, to see if there was any new news, but it’s been the same since Friday.

David Morrier is in jail, where he should have gone all along. It was a matter of public record that he was living under house arrest here in town, where he’d been ordered to stay until the State of Pennsylvania allowed him to move there. I recognized the address on the sex offender registry as the house of a family that Morrier once referred me to, for a form of Charismatic prayer healing called “theophostics.” But then last Friday it became a matter of public record that he could no longer stay with that family just a week later. There was nowhere else to go, so he was ordered to report to jail. But I don’t know how long he will stay there.

I haven’t ripped the photos of him out of my wedding album yet. I can’t really stand to think about what he did to that poor, courageous woman who took him down by telling the truth– and yet I can’t think of anything else. I keep pondering the probability that there could be other victims– maybe dozens of other victims. He peddled that “deliverance prayer” to so many women. I was there in the midst of all that abuse and didn’t know.

I suppose that’s what’s causing the dreams.

I was still trying to coax myself to eat breakfast at one in the afternoon. That was when the utility truck pulled up out front, and the man in the bright yellow shirt knocked at the door.

We have been very good at juggling shutoff notices and keeping ourselves afloat. We have to be. That’s how we’ve stayed alive for years, paying the past due just in time. My idea of a luxury would be paying it all to zero before a late fee, but instead we juggle.  I was shocked because this utility company didn’t send a shutoff notice at all, or at least we never received one. The gentleman was very kind and let us run and pay the bill online, so it’s settled.

My heart hasn’t stopped racing since.

For the third time in several hours, I wanted to pray, but I couldn’t.

I was informed lately that a personal relationship with Jesus would heal my terror and anxiety and make being a Catholic seem comfortable. This advice-giver doesn’t seem to understand that I had a personal relationship with Jesus– still have, as far as I know, unless He’s blocked my calls. That’s just the trouble. If I had never heard of Jesus, I wouldn’t have come to Steubenville and none of this would’ve happened.

I wonder what that version of Mary Pezzulo would have been.

I wonder if she’d still have had to drop out of the fifth grade due to terrible OCD. I wonder if her poly-cystic ovary syndrome would have been diagnosed any sooner. If her family would have despised her quite so much. If she’d have stayed in Columbus or still somehow ended up stranded in Northern Appalachia, dreaming of getting away. If she’d have heard the stories about this corrupt and terrible place and been as sickened as this Mary is.

Maybe she would be someone pleasant to write about, instead of an embarrassing ball of boring neuroses trying to pray.

Rose asked if she could go to a park–not the local one, which took the swing set down in the winter and hasn’t put in new swings yet, but a more fun park in the next town over. I was glad to get out of the house, so we left.

It was just three o’clock as we were sneaking out to where the car is hidden so the neighbor won’t vandalize it. Softly, in the distance, I heard the church downtown striking three, and then it started playing  hymns slightly out of tune. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so!

As I got behind the wheel, I addressed Him for the first time in days. “We need to talk,” I said.

And I began to pray.



Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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