Walking about the city yesterday, I found myself in front of a church I’d never seen before. It was large and overbearing and dark, and I decided I NEEDED to go in. The door was heavy and made me feel small. Once inside, my eyes took a few minutes to adjust to the barely-lit, spacious room. Only one other person was there, and I sat down a few pews behind him. I wondered then, if he hadn’t been there, would I have still sat in that same spot? Hm. I took out my red journal, always somewhere at the bottom of my bag, for when I feel like writing words, arranging and rearranging them until they suit me. This time, there were no erasures, no cross-outs. I wrote the story of the man in front of me. I noticed as I sat down that his head was hung down, but that he appeared not to be praying. Then I realized how violently his shoulders were shaking. In churches, is it appropriate to comfort a stranger? To give them a tissue, to pat their back? I sat rigid, dashing back and forth from frantic scribbles to glimpses of this man. I named him Daniel. His head shook ever so slightly to the left, and I took in his unshaven chin, the grey threading through his dark brown hair, the way his collar was upturned on one side. These things mean nothing to someone, and everything to someone else. I wondered if he had a lover. A wife. A dog. How old was he? Why was he crying?
Why did I care so much? I’m just a girl, sitting about three rows back, watching this man so intently that if he turned around, I wouldn’t have the time to cover up my semi-stalkerish actions. And then he did turn. He turned and got up and walked briskly down the aisle of empty pews, with a set jaw and intention in his step. It didn’t matter that I watched his every move, because he did not notice me. He was handsome, I realized. And wet around the eyes. I won’t ever know what he was so upset about, or if that church, the God he prayed to (or didn’t), the religion, or maybe just the quiet, helped him to realize something, or cope with something, or decide something.
It was the quiet, I decided. That and the darkness. Things always seem more managable, in the quiet and dark.