Creative Nonfiction: Wrest Your Head

By Kendra Marie Pintor

You’re not sure how the bags under your eyes got there; with time, or all the rubbing. Fingers smudging the sleep, staining your skin, a permanent side effect of exhaustion. This human shit just never stops, your soul says, though not in so many words. The soul doesn’t speak so much as it feels. Brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, shaving your legs, arguing with your husband, sitting in traffic, paying your bills, making the bed every morning, grocery shopping, cooking, sweeping, scrubbing, breathing, inhale, exhale, every damn day, for an indefinite amount of time until who knows. In the Division of Perceptual Studies, Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine, scientists are trying to uncover why some children recall past lives. “What we’re trying to ascertain is how it might be possible for consciousness to continue to live on beyond the physical body,” says Jim B. Tucker, M.D., Director of DOPS, Bonner-Lowry Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences. And you laugh, because he’s talking about proving the impossible, the very same story your Catholic upbringing has been telling you to take on faith ever since the water poured over your infant head; that the physical body is only a vessel, and you are trapped inside, and death will release you back to the place from whence you came, so long as you haven’t changed too much since your arrival on earth, so long as earth hasn’t changed your soul so much that it has become unrecognizable. You look at yourself in the mirror, at the dark circles under your eyes, and you wonder if they’ve imprinted on your soul, like when ink bleeds through to the sheet of paper beneath the one you’re writing on. Like, when they say, the body is a temple, but also, the body keeps the score. Knowledge was the first sin, and in 2022 Pope Francis said, “People who have pets instead of children are being selfish, exhibiting a denial of fatherhood or motherhood that diminishes us, and takes away our humanity,” and yet he has chosen celibacy. And yet, you cannot unlearn the things you know—that your parents never should have gotten married, that premarital sex isn’t evil, it’s just inconvenient to the religious and capitalist systems, that a happy accident can include infidelity if it frees you from abuse, that you aren’t an evangelist, or being called to sainthood, and you’re not wicked, though you aren’t always good. Part of you wonders why He would put that tree in the center of the garden in the first place; if giving them a choice was kind or cruel. And if a serpent can get into paradise, why not you, too? If death is the release of the soul, then why do we fight against it? Why do we war with the inevitable? Your head wrests against the pillow, staring up at the ceiling of your bedroom that looks more like a yawning expanse. This human shit will stop, one day, and you can’t tell if this soothes or spurs the fear.

Kendra Marie Pintor (she/her) is an emerging author from Southern California with stories appearing in Fast Flesh Literary Journal, FOLIO Literary Journal, LEVITATE Magazine, Hearth and Coffin Literary Journal, The Hog Literary Magazine, CRAFT Literary, and others. Her story "THE SLUAGH" is featured in the Best Small Fictions 2023 anthology and is a Best American Science Fiction/Fantasy 2023 nominee. Kendra studied creative writing at the University of La Verne and is a graduate of the 2022 UMass Amherst Juniper Summer Writing Institute. Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, Kendra’s writing style favors eerie, atmospheric language that seeks to combine the mundane with the magical until both worlds are irrevocably intertwined.