Half-Hour Scenes & Stories
Every week, the service is the same. One hymn progresses to another and the congregation sways, caught up in the predictable tradition of it. The priest speaks; fingers cross the face, the chest, in practiced motions learned from birth. They all stand still, listening. Meanwhile, a solitary figure moves along the outside aisles, the light from the stained glass windows illuminating a face that is kind, but preoccupied. Sometimes she is bored, sometimes tired, but always she is mentally somewhere else. The pews house the people and she tip-toes along their edges, running idle fingers along the wall.
Her fingers do not make the sign that binds everyone together and marks them as the Church. Instead, she clutches the hand of a toddler who cannot sit still through the long liturgical hours. This child does make the signs, and blows frequent kisses to the faces on the wall. But he has been taught these things from birth. At forty days, the water slid over him and he was made one of them. She is desperate to help him fit into a world whose edges she still only skirts.
Her husband knows the tension, recognizes it in the purse of her lips as she tries to remember the words she is supposed to recite, before the people form their line as the priest offers the body, and the blood. The people are pious. They lean forward, yearning toward the cup that promises miracles. She leans back against the wall and reaches for her child’s hand, only to remember that he has taken his place with his father in their line, too.
Receive, the choir prays.
She continues reaching into empty space.