Sunday. — I’m on my knees in a church pew, and — I’m waiting.
Sometimes church seems like the only appropriate place to go when my head feels like the inside of pinball machine. Voices are echoing and the organ is humming. And I’m not sure that anyone’s really listening, but, truth be told — I may not really be praying.
At St. Patrick’s, in Bay Ridge, the crucifix is painted on the wall. It’s a weird sorta mosaic. In most churches, it’s a statue or pillar — something three dimensional — just so you know that Christ is hanging right there in front of you. He’s solid. His limbs are smooth and round and the nails in his hands and feet are these tiny raised bumps that you can reach out and touch if you’re so inclined. But, not here. Not in this church.
I think about that — the dimensions of Christ — while I try to pray. I attempt to slow the thoughts that race around my brain. Today, there’s a lot going on. There are too many prayers. I can’t pick out just one. There isn’t enough time. I try to pray for everyone else and find some way to ignore all my crap. I mean, that’s what I should be doing. But then, where will I put it all? — All this stuff I brought here to iron out?
After the priest reads the gospel, our hearts spill all of their contents onto the floor like giant bags of marbles. Rolling wildly under the pews and across the aisle. No one else hears or sees them. — Well, maybe, mosaic Jesus does — but, if he does, he doesn’t move or change his expression. He’s still just casting his eyes down at Mary with that sad-face that all church Jesus’ have — I mean — he’s dying. And us, we’ve only lost our marbles.
At the end of the homily, my friend, who joined me for mass, grabs my knee. It was like everything that the priest said was tailored to us. With a sideways look, we silently acknowledge this. The strange thing is, we’d only walked down to St. Pat’s because Our Lady of Angels, twenty blocks away, had the wrong fucking mass times posted on the their website. So, when my buddy and I arrived at 11:30AM — missals blazing like spiritual gangsters — the priest was already sending parishioners off, in peace, to love and serve the Lord.
So, here we are, at St. Pat’s 12:30PM mass. Praying and not praying. Spilling our marbles. Waiting for JC to give us a sign that something good is headed our way. But, neither of us gets one. — JC is still motionless up there on the wall.
The mass ends, and after the priest and his posse file out, we follow suit. We leave our marbles scattered across the church floor. Because — it’s better that way. We know they’ll get sorted out here, even without us.
We walk down Third Avenue, where there’s a street fair in progress. There are bagpipers playing and little kids with painted faces and it smells like funnel cake and Italian sausages and my buddy keeps stopping in the middle of the street to adjust his shoe.
For some reason, around Eighty-Third Street, he and I both start to laugh. I’m not sure what came over us. I’m not sure what happened in that church. What we took. What we left behind. But, I will say this — even though I couldn’t say a prayer to save my life — I’m almost certain that one was answered.
Artwork Photo Credit: Jesus Christ, Painting in a Catholic Church in Maseok; http://d-roamingcat.blogspot.com/2013_02_01_archive.html?m=1