the best place to be.


during my sophomore year of high school, i went to church on a saturday evening with my parents. i sat in the pew, and i thought how it was weird that all these things had happened, but i still felt like a kid sitting in that pew. i mean, at 15, i was still only a kid, but it was different. i thought about how i had biology class the next day, and how i wasn't a student at the elementary school anymore. i don't know why it was so weird, thinking about how i was a sophomore, and particularly that i had a biology class, and that i was sitting in a pew with my parents like no time had passed.

and then, when i was twenty-five, i went to my younger cousin's graduation at that same church. i sat in that pew thinking about the time i was thinking about how i was a sophomore and had a biology class, and how i felt it was weird then. when i was twenty-five, i had obviously experienced a lot more things, but sitting in that pew, it still felt like no time had passed. it was almost like i might as well just spend my whole damn life sitting in that pew because no matter where i went, and no matter what i did, i would just end up back at that church, sitting in one of those pews.

my parents always liked to go to church on saturday evenings. "less crowded," they'd say. i liked it, too, because then i didn't have to see all my classmates. the weekend was meant to take a break from the people i saw everyday - i understood that, even as a child. my family would always sit on the right side, and usually toward the middle or the back. i remember when they split the pews in half so that people could take communion half-way. the move was made to speed up communion, i think, and i liked it because then i wouldn't have to walk all the way to the front of the church, where people might see me and we'd have to exchange awkward smiles. i felt that the church was helping me be more anti-social than i already was.

i remember there was a young blonde woman and tall, skinny man and the two of them would always sit near us, but never next to each other. as a kid, i watched them, and i was fascinated by them. they were always well-dressed, and probably in their twenties or early thirties, and they looked so goddamn lonely all the time. i would dream up stories for them. that the blonde had anxiety about dying a spinster, or that the man had lost his entire family in a flood. i wondered why the two of them wouldn't just get together. and then i wondered if i would grow up to be the kind of person who attends saturday evening mass by himself.

at some random masses, the priest would tell all the parishoners to stand up and introduce themselves to the people sitting next to them. i hated doing it, and from what i could tell, my dad hated it, too. he'd roll his eyes, stand up, and shake the hands of the people sitting behind him. i'd shake hands, too, and sometimes i'd even say my name. everyone was older, though, and they all seemed so unfriendly. i'd say my name, and expect to have the other person introduce himself/herself, too, but usually, i'd just get a smile and a vacant stare. catholics didn't make much sense to me.

there used to be a fat priest named fr. ballard, and he used to be a drunk. once, he forgot to give the final blessing, and he just walked off the altar. another time, he caused a big controversy by serving grape juice instead of wine at communion because he was a recovering alcoholic. my parents liked to laugh about him and joke about him being a "lasenga," or alcoholic. he had been to nepal, and he told the congregation how, when he visited a tribe in nepal, and they couldn't communicate, he just started to sing the beatles' "hey jude," and everybody sang along. it made me think of that story about the tongues of fire, and that music is universal and that catholic means "universal" and all that junk.

going to church was a hassle more than anything. it meant that i couldn't spend my entire saturday in pajamas. it meant that i had to believe that god was watching and judging me at all times. it meant that how i lived my life was going to determine how i spent eternity, and that scared me. it did feel safe in there, though. my mom always told me that if there was an earthquake or other disaster, that church was the best place to be. i believed her. even if the world had opened up, and all those bricks fell down on us, it would've sent a strong message to god that we were trying, that we were doing the best we could.

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