Peeing in the rain

By the time we left the sanctuary it was pouring rain. We ducked and ran up along the path that led past El Abiodh, which was both the infirmary and the entrance to the guest house where my aunt was eligible to stay. We opened the door and shook off the rain. A young permanent was at the entrance. “May we use the bathroom please? We’ve been assigned to a room way on the other side, and there is no bathroom anywhere near us.” She smiled and said, “Of course.” By the time we got out, there was no one in sight. I found myself shifting into survival mode— what would we need to brush our teeth, or to pee again later?— and grabbed two cups and a small pitcher of water from the kitchen.

The room was warm and dry and we were grateful for that. My aunt fell asleep instantly. I did not. The rain came down so hard I began to envision the mud outside collapsing in on us here in the forgotten room. Suddenly the Agnus Dei began to resound in my brain like a torment. “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.” It was strange because there was no Agnus Dei sung in the services, nor was it a part of the contemporary service I attended back home. I’m not even sure how I was so certain it was called the Agnus Dei. “Lamb of God…” I had to pee. Again. Slipping out of my sleeping bag, I squatted down on the floor with the cup, tried not to wake my aunt, tried to imagine meeting this need with a roomful of strangers. Felt the shame of bodily needs “….have mercy on us.” How spoiled we are with our indoor plumbing and our creature comforts of every kind. I began to imagine all the people, the women, who squat like this in mud and cold, in mud and heat, swatting flies with a baby on one breast and children all around, clamoring for more of something, each with their needs, their bodily needs, one spilling into the next til illness comes. “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world…” I was beginning to think I would not find peace here at all. And then I saw it, that orange glowing altar, and the Agnus Dei now refraining like a choir of angels and the certain knowledge that the only way to keep seeing that altar was to serve the poor. Was this how a person began down the path that would lead to a life like Mother Teresa’s I wondered as I wrestled and flopped, “…have mercy on us.”…until finally the light broke through the sliver of window and I heard my aunt’s voice.

“Good morning!” she chirped like a character in a Disney movie. “How did you sleep?”

“I didn’t,” I groaned and reached for my journal.

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