God is a jet plane
by Alanna Sabine Wilson Patrick
May 22nd, 2023
Illustration by Joseph P. Sgambati
My mother tells me that I saw the last flight of the Concorde from her shoulders. It was 2003, we watched the jet disappear at twice the speed of sound. My sister screamed out of the skylight of our Honda CRV, the same one that broke down in the school car park on my 13th birthday. In photographs, we watched the concorde fly for the last time.
The bigger kids used to suck holy water off their fingers. They’d dip them into the chalice affixed to the pillar with the silver placard over it that read ‘holy water, blessed by Christ’; they’d stick their fingers into the greyish water, because that was their ticket to eternal paradise. And this was the only part of church that went unrehearsed. We were taught to worship and read the same way, the words don’t matter as long as you can say them. As long as you can sing a hymn loud enough for him to hear. Two weeks before Ash Wednesday they’d start to habitually cancel morning classes. Instead, we’d file into the auditorium; assembly became an offering for God. God who was always watching. We practiced the tragic hymns from our tattered blue books. Forty Days and Forty nights, over and over, upbeat because religion is fun. Practiced walking in a straight line out the back gate and over the bridge, practice make believe, believe. That we are not walking on concrete over a sewage gutter, that we are going to go celebrate the sacrifices of God and his scapegoat son. A creature, ironically, with horns and square pupils.
When I was 6 or 7 we went on a class field trip to The Concorde Experience. It was a museum housed in a big shipping container that closed down a few years later. There was a pilot simulator in the corner; the boys would crash jet after jet just to see them burn on the tarmac. Our teachers held our hands as we felt our way through the cramped first class cabin of a jet that would never fly again. We folded ourselves into the seats, lifted coughs out of the crevices. There were models of food that they would’ve served on the original flights to Paris and London, bread and wine made of dust and water.
It was at secondary school that I discovered Forty Days and Forty nights was not as upbeat as my primary school had sung it. I took this to mean that at some point religion becomes a funeral march with the tempo of self-flagellation. Gone were the days of sight reading, now we meant it. One day as I stood with my eyes open during the Lord’s prayer, the religious education teacher asked me if I believed in God. I said, “No Reverend, I don’t believe that God is there or that God is watching or that God can hear my voice.” And he said, “ in the book of Matthew, it is shown that even the Devil has learned the Bible.”
John 13: 34 NKJV “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
Instead, I find him when I am very cold and in his arms. God is that of wood and stone and is distant like a star.
In the year 2000, a concorde jet flying out of France crashed and nobody survived. They paid 113 families over 113 million dollars in compensation, as though money,thoughts and prayers will bring back the dead. Grinding up bodies in a crucible, setting it on the fire and hoping to breathe him in again.
I try to distill my perfect God. When religion was fun. From evaporating memories; of laughing in the choir when I was young, in the weight of His name. But I never knew him. I don’t know that I will find my god in the pages of my old religious education notebook and wistfully recalling the words of hymns I thought I’d forgotten at Christmas. Instead, I find him when I am very cold and in his arms. God that is of wood and stone and is distant like a star. God that does not have a face or a name, as I am to myself.
There is a plan to relaunch Concorde in April of 2022, 19 years after its final flight my mother says she can still hear the sonic boom. Long forgotten and yet still ringing in my ears.
I am gorging myself on ash in the pursuit of a God who speaks to me in broken english and curled tongue. Tongues to clean the wound and make me new. As though I didn’t pour candle wax into my ears as a child. For a God who looks like me, and I do not mean the dreadlocked Jesus depicted on the walls of a church constructed within my lifetime that looks like a two bedroom bungalow; because someone once said that God is everywhere. And I, in his arms.
Alanna Sabine Wilson-Patrick, originally from Barbados, is a student of Creative Writing and Literature at Cardiff University. You can find her work in Mixed Magazine and Mulberry Literary.