By: Joe Lucas
Church is always better on a Monday morning. The laypeople are off at work, Father George is tending the garden out back, and I’m left alone with the pews. There’s about 50 of them separated into two, uneven columns. They’re made of polished oak and have green cushions laid out on the seats for the older church-goers. I like to run my fingers down the sloping curves of the arm rests as I walk down the aisle. The carpet muffles my footsteps and preserves a silence so thick I can feel it on my shoulders.
I take a seat three rows back from the altar and lean against the sturdy wood. The pew has a slight, outward bend to it that makes laying back more comfortable than it should. I never sit up front during Sunday mass. My spot is always in the back so no one could notice when I didn’t get up for Communion. I’m always the first to leave so I can avoid the odd looks from the people who don’t know me and the outright glares from those who do. I stay out of sight and wait a bit so I can talk to Father George when everyone else has left.
He leaves me be most Mondays, though he offers to teach me botany every now and then. He’s old, half blind, and more than a little deaf, but there isn’t a kinder soul for miles around and certainly no better listener. I used to rant for hours on end, pacing back and forth in the grass. He’d pull weeds out of the ground and offer a word here and there to let me know he was listening. When I was done, he would lead me to the Sanctuary and have me sit where I’m sitting now.
“Take a moment,” he’d tell me, “as long as you need.”
I’d trace the mortar between the bricks of the wall like I am now. There’s a second layer laid on top of the first that shapes a cross about 30 feet high and 15 feet wide. It blends in with the wall and you can’t see it unless the sun is shining through the skylights at just the right angle. When it does, the cross casts a shadow that can reach down the floor. I’m here too early in the morning for that. Instead, the sun lays a path of warm light across the altar as dust motes float lazy in the air. I follow their dance until my eyes grow heavy.
I close them and lean my head back. My arms stretch out to either side and I breathe. One breath follows another, slow and even, long and deep. I feel my heartbeat slow to a crawl as the seconds tick by. I hardly feel them pass as I start to drift along with the motes. This room has a peace in it; a type of serenity that I can’t find anywhere else. There’s no fire or brimstone within these four walls. No right and wrong. I don’t have to question everything. Here I can leave my rants and doubts at the door.
Here, I can just sit back and be.
Here it’s only me, and the brick, and the pews.