I was spending every waking moment I could with Stacey before the Christmas break was over and I went back to my sweet little junior college and she went off to her University a couple hours away. I could almost feel the clock ticking every time we were together. I couldn’t believe I’d met this incredible girl and I had less than a week now to convince her that I was worth saying “no” to all the guys back at her University that would be asking her out.
That’s why going to church with her sounded like a good idea to me.
At the time I was, let’s say, “between churches”. I wasn’t really going anywhere but had some solid church experience on my spiritual resume. Stacey however didn’t miss church and her family, as I was learning, took it very seriously. As we drove into town they gave me a rough break down of the morning. I’d never had to be prepped for going to church before and there was an edge of fear creeping under my skin as they told me more and more about what to expect.
“All the women will be wearing hats.” Stacey explained. “But it won’t be hat hats, most of us will have these on our heads…” and she held up something that looked an awful lot like the doilies my grandma used to put on the back of her chairs.
“Am I going to fast for you?’
“No, no, I just…hats?”
“And we’ll meet for an hour, then we’ll have a break and then come back together for another hour.”
“Two hours? For church?” I caught her dad looking up in the rearview mirror at me. “Sounds…great.”
“If you don’t understand something or you have a question, just ask me but we’re not really supposed to talk during the meeting.” She looked at me and smiled, her eyes sparkling, long hair smelling like sunshine and if she’d asked me to jump out of the van and run alongside I would have.
“Sure,” is what I said, “sounds fun.”
When we got to the little brick building everyone else went right for the door while I was checking the place out. It wasn’t anything like any church building I’d ever seen or ever been into before. Her dad was holding the glass door open for us so I walked in, not as fast as Stacey but in pursuit of her. The building was a big rectangle with a long hall down one side and the left side divided into two meeting rooms with washrooms in between. The first room, immediately on the left, was smaller than the second and it looked like the inside of a church but if what I was used to was the sedan, this was the compact model. The air carried the unmistakable smell of church which I figured comes in an aerosol can or scented candle and the people were sitting on hard benches called ‘pews’, stiff and mostly unhappy looking. I decided it really was a church after all.
Stacey’s family walked through the door into the smaller room and filled a pew with a space and a half left at the end. As we came to the door Stacey stopped and introduced me to the man standing there. If it was a club I’d have said he was the bouncer but it was church so I’m not sure what his official designation was. Stacey introduced me to him. He grabbed my hand and shook it. As he shook he looked me hard in the eyes and said, “Tell me son, are you born again?” Inside I thought, “down periscope, dive, dive…” but on the outside I smiled big and said, “I sure am!” This was clearly the correct answer as he then released my hand and stepped out the way for us to get the last two spaces in the pew with Stacey’s family. As we sat down she slipped a little doily from somewhere and put it in top of her head. Her mom had already got her doily on and I scanned the room that was full of men in dark suits and women in plain dresses with doilies on all their heads.
And it was quiet.
It was so quiet I could hear the rhythmic, shallow breathing of the very, very old man seated right in front of me. I was just about to say something incredibly funny to Stacey when the guy behind me started to sing and I almost screamed. I looked around and I was the only person in the room that seemed surprised by the impromptu solo behind me. An anonymous soloist belting out a hymn behind me was not my usual church experience. In a couple beats more people were singing along, no piano or organ in sight, and soon everyone in the room was singing but me. I looked over at Stacey and she looked back at me as she sang. If her will would’ve been enough I would’ve jumped right in but there was no way she was going to hear my voice trying to sing and especially not singing a song I’d never heard before. I smiled, hummed and gave it my best lip synch.
Once the song was over there was a second of silence and then a man a couple rows up and over started talking away. I was thinking, “Ah, poor old guy must have dementia.” But as I listened I realized he was talking to God, it was a prayer, I recognized it by the “thees” and the “thous”. This went on in no particular order that I could figure out for the whole hour. During that hour, jammed in to the pew, I could feel the heat from Stacey’s thigh through the fabric of her dress and the material of my pants against my thigh. And it was good. And I was thinking about how good it was when it occurred to me that I might be struck down by lightening for thinking about that during church.
And then it was over. We got up, went back to the other room and there was coffe, water and some biscuits. Stacey went off to the washroom and I stared after her, terrified to be left on my own. I grabbed a cup of coffee, which I didn’t drink, and stuffed a biscuit in my mouth so I could avoid conversations I was afraid to get in to. The bouncer was working his way around the room chatting with people and I kept moving to keep myself on the exact opposite side of the room from him the whole time. When Stacey came back she asked me how I was doing, asked me if I had any questions, I could tell she really cared about me and how I was processing this whole experience. After a few more minutes we went back into the little room again and started the whole process over with some slight variations on the theme that included a bit more talking and some kind of official talk by the bouncer. If I hadn’t been sitting next to Stacey, my right thigh pressed against her left thigh, right hip to her left hip in the tight little pew, it would have been the longest hour of my life.
Secretly, as we left, I was glad she wouldn’t be in town for us to repeat the experience the next weekend. Out loud I said, “It was great, really great.”
…to be continued…
O.K., I’ve decided to start charging for installments. I need to get at least 5 comments below here from 5 different readers of CV for me to continue the tale. Anything counts as a comment. “You suck!” is fine, I’m just looking for at least 5. See you on Tuesday with something.