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  • Toxic Prayers
  • Christine Jean Chambers (bio)

In the darkness we hear the sound of a heartbeat. Two women and one man sit in three chairs in complete darkness (Belinda I, Belinda II, and Belinda III). When the lights go up they are thumping on their chests in unison, mocking a heartbeat. (The gesture is simplistic.) They scream. Lights go dark. When the lights come back up Belinda III (who is a man) begins to recite The Lord's Prayer. They all join in reciting it in a round. When they fuck up, they hit themselves and start again. This is an obsessive act. It becomes louder then crescendos. Belinda II walks to center stage and speaks.


When I was seven . . . [correcting herself] or eight. I was home alone a lot. It was the most painful at night. I'd sit up in my bed, leave my room, and the silence of everyone else sleeping pinned my eyes open. I wouldn't go back to sleep, mostly, because going to bed was such a production.

I'd stand up to leave my living room.

And a wave of panic would hit me.

I would walk into my kitchen and it would begin . . .

I would have to open and close the cupboards.

I would have to make sure they were open just the right amount or closed just the right amount.

Things had to be placed a certain way. Because

If they were not my heart would start ripping through my chest.

I wasn't ever sure if I would make it until morning.

Maybe I was six.

[Belinda II stands up and crosses paths with Belinda I as she goes to sit down.]


It wasn't just me though.

I'd see the death of my entire family. [End Page 1020]

Everyone screaming. Cursing me.

So the cupboards had to be in the perfect position

Or they—


Would all die.

[Belinda II and Belinda III now repeat the Lord's Prayer together in a round obsessively. Belinda I moves forward and begins to speak.]


It stopped for a while.

[All sit up at attention.]


It always stops for a while.

[Belinda I, Belinda II, and Belinda III all start to recite personal prayers obsessively, stopping and starting again when there is imperfection.]


I used to pretend I was sick all the time, as I got older.


I think that is what caused all of this to happen. What jinxed me so to speak. A

Hypochondriac who finally got all the diseases she wished for.

When I was twelve I was diagnosed with Rheumatism.

I had to stop dancing.

I couldn't tie my shoes.

I learned to hold my hands in such a way so no one would notice.

In high school people started to notice,

I would wave to them . . . forgetting. [End Page 1021]

So they would all mimic my crippled wave back to me.

[She imitates the wave.]



I couldn't tie my shoes.

I couldn't hold things.


When I was eighteen I got sick.

I started losing weight. I threw up every day.

They tested my blood. They tested my body. They tested my blood. Over and over again, and found nothing.

I threw up. I threw up. I threw up.

That is when I started praying again.

I don't know too many prayers.

Now I lay me down to sleep is what my mother and I used to recite.

When I was little I wouldn't go to Sunday school. I didn't fit in. I would go up into the church with all of the other adults, and sit in the pews. I had eczema then. I would scratch at the scabs through my tights until the blood coagulated and dried up. Until my skin was bonded, stuck to my tights. And then I would rip them apart. It hurt. I did it over and over again. Kicked at the pews to make them bleed harder. The bottom of my white tights would be swimming in blood.

By then all of...


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pp. 1020-1030
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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