The ceiling of our church is the underside of a piano, those rolls and baubles, carved rods, that make fancy furniture from rude trees. The service had been: nine slain. People had cried, well, Episcopalian cried– sniffling and wiping eyes.
When I stood in the water the evening after the day at the beach, I knew how warm and loose and filling of holes a good shower was We had read how Jesus calms the water, though only after they said, “Lord, do you not care that we are all about to perish?”
I knew it was like that, that Jesus did not care I was about to die of loneliness, or of wanting a husband whose shirt I would even iron, poorly, and would tell me I could and should be a mother, and that I was beautiful, in a different way than other people said it. I knew Jesus didn’t care if you asked to make the kids shut up so you could talk, please, just for a minute, so we can go on, so people will say, You’re a good teacher, you demand respect, Jesus slept through you even when you cried sitting on the floor or sitting on the steps. Jesus slept through all of it, like my baby brother slept through his first Easter when he was a week old.
I believe in church, more than I believe in anything. I know God, Christ, The Divine. I know Art, including The Text. But I believe in church. So although I had slept fitfully all night, woken again and again, hot and cold, remembering dreams and what my life was, what to gird for, and dreams again, I happened to be awake at 9:50 AM, I had been to my usual service the night before, and I didn’t feel great, but I thought, people at my church wanted to speak, were hurt, church was at 11, and it was a good day for white people to go to church, you know, unarmed.
Our priest told us she loved us. That made me tear up, too. What does it mean for someone who doesn’t know whow awful you can be to say, I love you? Or if she does? I will take either.
A poet read a poem, and another woman read a prayer she had specially chosen, she managed to read it with great effort.
I was too full, too nearsighted, to accept Charleston’s story, but I felt betrayal for them, abandonment. Jesus did not show up and spare anyone. Their reverence, politeness, kindness, does not stop bullets.
Moving to New York did not fix everything about me. I mean, I knew it would not fix everything, only one small what if about moving to New York. And it broke things. That happens.
The awning across the street says, “Crown Hights Beauty.”
When you try so hard. We who are church people, we have problems, maybe more than people who don’t go to church, but I would say our virtue, if we have one, is that we try so hard.
Those people in that church, they were really trying, man, they were showing up.
I showed up at church. Singing helped. We sang “Let Us Break Bread,” and “There Is A Balm in Gilead” (which, oddly, I didn’t know), and “Go Down Moses,” which felt funny with an organ and a classical signature. And “Go Tell It On The Mountain.”
I knelt and thought about if I would get a bagel, how hungry I was, or maybe I would make breakfast at home. Maybe French toast. I would be tired forever. I should have gone back to sleep.
Jesus was just a person, he slept like people do, he had to. Christ, though, is always awake, and you should call him when you’re upset, how else will He know? All those numbers in your phone, a good number of those are Christ, as are most people standing next to you waiting for the light to change and the people sitting at the bar.
I was walking up from the subway, on the way home, when I felt really tired, though, it all fell down on me, and I delayed-reaction wanted to cry. I remembered the Orthodox people I had seen the last time I got off at my stop, three young women walking together, two young men walking together. The women in their long sleeves and tights, even in the heat, and the men in their beards and hats, though they were young. Sabbath was over. The Saturday sun had gone down. There is a siren on Fridays, the first time I heard it, I was like, tornado? Where? There is no siren for the end of Sabbath, you just see the sun is down.