This One Time, 21

This one time I was standing in one of the rooms upstairs in the church adjacent to the baptistry where new Christians change into baptismal robes and dry off afterward. I’m not really sure what I was doing there. I walk around when I need to think, but I can’t really walk around outside like I used to — at least not for thinking-time — because some of the people in the neighborhood are a chatty bunch and want to come up to me and talk or invite me into their houses. I still do that, but it’s not exactly “me” time.

Ten years ago I’d do it in shorts or sweats while out running, and if someone wanted to talk they had to try to keep up. My knees aren’t up to running or jogging anymore and while I can do a lot of thinking on the elliptical the deacons got me, that’s at the parsonage. So sometimes while I’m chewing something over, I find myself just about anywhere in the building — sitting on a pew, in one of the classrooms, staring into the fridge in the kitchen, leaning on a music stand in the choir’s practice room.

I love music, but sometimes when I’m in the practice room I can only imagine some of the horrible noises that have happened in there in the name of perfecting praise. There’s a kind of acoustic coating on the walls in there. Not a serious soundproofing, but textured nonetheless like a kind of sponge. Sometimes I feel like the screeches and wrong notes get stuck in the walls, in the texturing, and I wonder if someone fell up against a wall in there it would let out some of the trapped discord.

I joked about it to the Music Minister and he said maybe someday we should suit up in robes and burn incense in there and plug our ears and beat all the wrong notes out of the walls with sticks so the choirs can start fresh. The thought of that terrified me, but I didn’t let it show on my face. I’m one of those people who can’t stand balloons or fingernails on a blackboard. I work hard not to wince where people can see me when I’m up in the pulpit and someone misses a note in the choir behind me. It’s a silly thing, but I think Charles saw me go a little pale.

So I was walking around, unable to concentrate on what I was trying to put together for an upcoming sermon. Walking just jostles out some of the thoughts clogging my head when I can’t concentrate. It’s kind of like burping a baby. It needs to eat, but it keeps spitting up and its hungry and uncomfortable, so you put it over your shoulder and you bounce it for a bit and the bubble that’s clogging things comes up with a loud burp and then you can get back to the business at hand.

So I was up in one of the changing rooms and looking down the steps into the narrow baptistry, and then up into the stained glass over it, then out over where the choir sits that Charles sometimes refers to as the “corral” or however it is he says it in his head to keep it confused with “chorale”, and over what I could see of the sanctuary from here … and then the whole place changed.

For many people a church is a very special, very holy building. For some it’s just a building, or maybe a place full of atmosphere and showmanship and whatever tools of the conman’s trade are necessary to try to trick people into being better than they are. I spend so much time here. Like saying a word over and over and over again, sometimes it just completely detaches from any meaning whatsoever and it’s just walls I have to walk around and steps going up and steps going down and a box with a hundred doors in it, all strung together in long twisting hallways that make no sense whatsoever.

For this moment, however, it was glass. Transparent. I thought there was a brilliant sun shining through, but up in the sky the sun was a glass marble, too, dead glass, with the light of everything else shining through it. I was a speck of sand in a fragile ghost house of spun glass, itself the size of a tiny speck on a larger glass marble, but even the air was still and frozen like slow-flowing glass, and the space around the air up into interstellar space. Then the prismatic sheen that was everything connected in my head with the image of that spongy stuff on the walls in the practice room, but as glass, as a physical liquid flowing transparency, its purpose was to trap and hold the light and the darkness, to slow it down and bend it around so we could look at it. And so it could look at us.

And maybe later there would be sticks to shatter it all and let all of the darkness and all of the light out, to free it.


January 21, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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