The burden of how I might feel on my birthday was gone. At the end of school, I put the flowers my dad and stepmom sent into my bag and walked to the uptown subway instead of the downtown.
A girl with her own birthday balloon, in the shape of a giant cupcake, crossed a street with me, and her friend said, “Be careful! You almost hit that lady!”
“Really, I’m okay,” I said. I had had a birthday, only the second year of thirty-seven that I’d been away from my family, not had them singing to me in harmony and my mom fussing and my dad telling the story of my birth, and it had been okay. It was done.
On the train, a guy carrying an eight-foot tall plant sat next to me, and said, “I think we have something in common.” I smiled.
St. John the Divine looks just like a cathedral should: old, heavy, nook-full and dark. I sat in the main area for a while. There is a place near my big toe where the patent leather flats rub. I slipped my shoes off and put my feet onto the shelf of the chair in front of me. When the security guard walked by, I hoped he wouldn’t notice or care. He didn’t. After about fifteen minutes, I went back to the chapel for evening prayer.
A lady carried in some books, and then turned six chairs on the aisle to face each other. She handed me a Bible and asked me if I would read the section she pointed out. Of course I would. It was Luke, Jesus reading from Isaiah and telling people he was the shit, and people getting mad and chasing him away. I was a little bummed we weren’t reading the part about people chasing him out of town, because that’s pretty funny stuff. Your home town.
There were only the two of us, but it was time to go, so we went.
For the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may he unfeignedly thankful: and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service….
She had learned English somewhere other than the United States. Her consonants hugged each other and her syllables tumbled out like puppies and her vowels were slightly more sour and more sweet than mine. When she asked me to read with her, or responsively, it took me an extra second to think, Oh, this is what she just said. We spoke our way through the ritual, and about halfway through, another woman sat down with us and joined in.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake.
At the end, if you’re smart, as we were, you’ll use this:
Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely
more than we can ask or imagine.
I carried my flowers home.
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