Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Awkwardness of Church


Do I clap?
The lady in purple has her eyes closed and she’s clapping.
The man in blue has his arms folded and looks at the ground.
Do I clap?
I slap my hand against my thigh to the beat.
Does this count as clapping?

Do I raise my hands?
The lady in purple stopped clapping to raise her hands.
The man in blue has unfolded his arms. He looks at the ceiling now.
Do I raise my hands?
I lift my arms and fold them in front of my stomach in an upturned manner.
Does this count as raising my hands?

Thank God the songs are over.

A baby cries behind me.
Another baby responds from the other side of the church.
The baby in the back disagrees with them.
The first baby’s feelings are hurt.
The responding baby is mad.
The baby in the back tries to calm them down.

I have to pee.
Is it considered rude to get up during the sermon?
If I get up, people will look at me.
When I walk down the aisle, what will I look at?
Will I look at their critical eyes or stare at the ground?
I cross my legs, but the pressure forces me up.

I walk up the aisle.
They stare.
Some are sleeping.
Kids sit on the floor, playing with crayons and bulletins.
I make it to the back of the church.
Outside the door, mothers pace back and forth patting the backs of their babies.
The babies are silent.
One mother opens the door to go back into the sanctuary, but the baby starts crying again.
She turns around and sighs, succumbing to stay in the lobby.

I enter the bathroom.
It smells of acid and unsettled burps.
One stall door is closed.
She coughs and then an echoing spatter plunges into the toilet water.
Are you okay in there? I ask.
She coughs again. I’m fine. Late night last night.
I raise my eyebrows and pee.

I pass the mothers and then the critical stares.
I sit down on the hard, wooden pew.
The preacher prays and it’s time to go.
I’ll be back next Sunday.

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