Tina V. Cabrera

    Mother was taken away, not because she channeled Lot's wife through the saltshaker, but because she poured salt into her open wounds.

    The pepper was Lot, the countertop Gomorrah. "It's fitting that Lot wear black," mother said, "for black is the color of mourning." The salt, Lot's wife, was spilled all over the white, sprinkled-with-green, kitchen countertop. "The green dots," she reasoned, "are the grains of sand still visible after God, the stainless steel knife, turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt."

    I was eight years old. Mother had been reading Bible stories to me at bedtime from the time I was five. By this time, Father had been gone for several months. We were well beyond Genesis and into the second book of Chronicles. I wondered about Lot's daughters. How would we portray the part (after their mother's transformation into a heap of sodium) where they kept feeding their father wine and each in turn entered the cave and lay down with him? I didn't know Bible people were allowed to drink wine. And weren't Lot's daughters too big to sleep with their daddy in the same bed?

    Mother's cheeks turned pink and then she said:
    "Let's not get distracted from what we're doing here. We are putting ourselves in her shoes. We are re-living the looking back of Lot's wife."
    And God made it rain sulfur from the heavens upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah, for the weight of their sins was very heavy. Men lay with men, following the lusts of their hearts. He overthrew these cities, even the entire District and all the inhabitants of the cities and the plants of the ground. And his wife began to look around from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

    Only now do I realize that Mother tried to shelter me from Old Testament horrors. She sought to kill my incest curiosity and peak my interest in Lot's wife. Lot's wife was not a horror. The horror was her turning into salt. Mother said the only reason she hadn't turned into salt when father left was because she refused to look back. She forced herself to look forward to all of the possibilities. This did not last long. I watched her turn the other direction. She would sit in the living room, watching TV or reading a book, all the while looking back at the front door. Staring back at the door failed to make it open. This was Mother. At what I wondered, did Lot's wife look back?

    The play was Mother's idea. We had both grown tired of simply reading the Bible narrative and agreed we needed to see this extraordinary scene in action. After the stainless steel knife knocked over the saltshaker, spilling heaps of salt all over the countertop, Mother licked salt from it several times before she rubbed the saltshaker like a Genie bottle. I expected to see some kind of ghostly, shadowy figure rise from the shaker. Instead, Mother closed her eyes and chanted:

Yes, I am Lot's wife. I am Lot's wife. But I don't have a name. No matter. I am merely an instrument of God, to be upheld as an example for all. He tells me to keep my eyes on the prize ahead of me beyond the valley, upon the unseen, which frightens me. Not back at the world behind me, lusting after the momentary attachments of this world. Don't look back at mere grains of sand in the wind.

    When Mother finally opened her eyes, they were full of longing. She glanced over her shoulder one more time. That's when God punished her. The stainless steel knife began making cuts into her wrist. I watched with awe as she scooped salt into the wounds. When she stopped, her eyes froze like the cold, still swirls of beautiful marbles.

    For a long time after, I tried to put all of this behind me. I refused to look back. I practiced strict discipline upon my memories. When one would creep up, I'd shove it back down. I tried envisioning a whole new future for myself, but with no memories it was like trying to build a tree house without a tree.

    And so it wasn't long before I returned to these memories of Mother and of God (or they returned to me). The more I remembered God's cruelty, the more I wanted to defy him, even if it meant possibly incurring his wrath upon me.

    I made it a practice to look back. In defiance of my own safety, I would look back in the middle of the crosswalk. In my backward gaze, I'd see mostly forward-looking faces, oblivious to what lingered behind them: A hand of a boy clasped tight by a mother. A cheek of a mother kissed by a father. A man with his arms wrapped around another man. More than grains of sand, God. More than grains of sand. I'd catch someone else turning back like me and wonder - do you see what I see? A little girl stumble and scrape her knee. An old man take a misstep off the curb, helped right back on again. More than just pedestrians.

    But looking back in the crosswalk was not enough. Day in, day out I managed to cross safely. God's wrath had not come upon me. And so I took up jogging backwards around the lake on Sundays. I jogged backwards and at the same time turned my head back to stare at all the pretty boys and all the pretty girls as they passed me. Sometimes, I would stop in my backward tracks and strike up a conversation with someone moving in the opposite direction. Not surprisingly, I was asked more than once why I jogged backwards. My response? Why do you jog forward?

    I did everything I could think of backwards: I read the Bible completely from back to front and yet it all sounded the same to me. I turned back the hands of the grandfather clock every night in hopes of defying the hand of God, but every other clock remained on schedule the following morning - mocking me. I wore skirts, pants and hats - all of them - backwards, all with no backlash. God didn't give a damn, nobody complained, and so living backwards became automatic and routine, even leaving behind every boy and girl I'd meet.

    One day, I looked at my face in the mirror but it refused to look back at me. In its place gaped a hollow hole - a deep dark abyss, infinity of nothingness. After who knows how long of staring into that lifeless pit, something began to rise from out of it, mired in the heavy weight of yesterday. So heavy that it took everything to tear my eyes away. I took that mirror down, threw it away and haven't replaced it since.

    All that's left of Lot's Wife is a mound of salt somewhere near the Dead Sea. All that's left of Mother are my memories. And here I am, still walking and jogging and doing my thing. Nothing really turns my head, unless it's something out of the ordinary - or extraordinary.

The End