I do not wish to bore you with too much minutia from my childhood, but, suffice it to say, my childhood and early teenage years were wonderful. Despite being a latch key kid, having no father figure in my life, and being poor, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a small community that still believed in the old "it takes a village" approach to raising its children.

  So when my older half brother took me to the weed house with him, even the drug dealer would insure that all business and subsequent usage took place outside of my presence. From my teachers who did their best to supplement my public school education, to the school crossing guard who made sure that I went straight home after school, to the owner of the neighborhood store from whom I regularly stole but who seemed to never care, to the cashier in the school cafeteria who regular subsidized my lunch monies, to the mean old lady who lived alone at the top of the hill but who was always around if I needed help -- everyone knew me, and not just knew me, but understood that I was somehow "special", and did everything in their limited power to protect, no, that is not the right word, "add" to me, whatever their contribution might be. Indeed, unlike many children today, I never felt inadequate or flawed. And believe me, I had ample reason to be so. I was a little "husky" and had a big "moon pie" head to match; nevertheless, I still had plenty of little "girlfriends" who all thought that my little afro and broad nose were cute. I got beat up all the time, and upon occasion, I even handed out a beating or two.

  In short, I grew up in love. Indeed, I never knew that I had "missed" anything in life until I transferred to the rich white school on the other side of town, but we will talk about that later. However, for now, I merely say all of that to couch a conversation about the first time that I met "Him". And how my understanding of the omniverse grew from that initial encounter.

  Like most black people at the time, my mother was a Baptist, and so, I was a Baptist. "Jesus went under the water with John the Baptist, not sprinkled," was my mother's primary argument as to why all other Christian denominations, and other religions for that matter, were wrong. And as a good young Baptist, I was obligated to attend Sunday school and church every Sunday, even though my mother could not, because she had to work. Thus, every Sunday morning, ma would fix my church clothes and leave them on the dresser, along with $1.50 - $0.50 to eat breakfast at church and $1 to put in the offering tray. Of course, Jesus didn't always get his cut of the $1 - sometimes, the clerk at the 7-11 next door to the church borrowed a little of the money, in exchange for a bag of potato chips, or maybe some gum -- but for the most part Jesus didnt seem to miss it, or at least he never said anything.

  Neverthless, the routine was simple. At about 830 AM on Sunday, the church bus would come to my house, the driver would blow the horn, and I would run out, inevitably disshelved, and get on the bus with the other church members who were either too poor or old to afford their own means of transportation to church. And my lamentations aside, I genuinely enjoyed going to church, as it exposed me to a whole new world of other people. Deacons, pastor's wives, ushers, sunday school teachers, important black people in the community, and so on and so forth.

  Like all the other children at church who were too old for the nursery, I sat in the back pew of the sanctuary, under the watchful eye of Ms. Boggs, the head usher. Ms. Boggs was a stereotypical older black woman who did not take shit from bad arse kids. And all us kids lived in mortal fear of a mere mean look from her, for mean looks often turned into smacks on the bottom or pinches on the arm, which hurt like hell, white usher glove notwhithstanding. But one day, when Ms. Boggs and my playmates were not looking, I met "Him" at church.

  In all candor, I cannot tell you who "He" is, in fact, I still am not sure, but "He" has always been in my life, at least as far as I can tell. But I first met "Him" in the pews of that little church. Our church pastor introduced me to "Him". The reverend was a man who had been a bad man before he became a good one, and so he preached from a special place inside of him - a place of loss and pain, but also of understanding. And every so often, the pastor would be so moved by his sermon, that the congregation would, for like of a better word, "respond". And together, the pastor and the congregation would relish in the simple realization that there was a God, despite the troubles of being black in the deep South. And every so often, that ephiphany would trigger something I called the "cold wind that burns." Hope. Hope given physical form. If you havent experienced it, then you cannot understand it.

  Some people will recognize the phenomenon that I speak of as the "Holy Spirit", moving among the congregation, making old women "shout" and the hardest man cry. Normally, I would notice the "cold wind that burns" as it happened, but I rarely gave it much more than a passing acknowledgement before I returned to doing whatever it was I was doing to pass the time in the sermon. Indeed, the other children in the back row of the sanctuary, did not seem to notice "it" at all. Thus, I had even less incentive to pay "it" any mind. Nonetheless, on this particular day, I recall playing with some GI Joe figures that I had snuck into church, when the reverend entered the recruitment phase of the service and began to sing an old negro spiritual that I was rather found of. Again, as was my custom, I only deviated from my play time just long enough to passingly note "hey, I like that song" before returning to the game at hand. But this time was different. As I turned back to my toys and other children, I distinctly heard a voice, and it was more than the deep chill and shiver that always passed over me whenever the "cold wind that burns" ran through a room. No, this was very different. The shiver wouldn't stop. Then my conciousness sorta "fell back" into me, and I had that strange sensation of "watching" myself act.

  I never understood exactly what the voice said, but I just felt something grab my hand, and I knew that it was time. So, without hesitation or forethought, I got up and walked down the aisle to join the church. I professed my "faith" to the world that day, and at the tender age of 12, I was baptized. Now, you may ask why I would listen to a random voice in my head, but as I said before, at a very young age, I learned to listen to the voices in my head. In fact, I eventually learned to seek "His" guidance. Moreover, the "faith" I learned in that place was powerful. And for a long time, that trusting faith was the basis of my most powerful attack on the dreamscape. Funny thing, faith. It's power is as limitless as that of hope and love, but it fails at the oddest of times.

  I would like to think that "He" is somehow the Creator, or even an agent thereof, and that the Creator came to my little church in rural Georgia to meet me, but I am too wise now to cling to that fantasy. And while that was the first time that I foolishly allowed "Him" to meddle in my life, it would not be the last.

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