I’ve spent a lot of time in churches, trying to be quiet, listening to sermons that I didn’t understand, pretending to pray. I remember going through the prayers in my head as I moved my lips silently. I guess I might as well have said them. I never found much in those places, in those words I barely spoke.
Sometimes a friend and I would sneak into the sacristy and eat communion wafers from a gallon Ziploc bag. They didn’t taste like much, but the thrill of stealing them was savory enough. A couple times we had a sip of wine from the boxes on the countertop, the heat pouring down inside my throat and chest and pulsing there. We never got caught.
It was always sort of earie being in the church with no one else, as if in the absence of other people a presence moved through. It couldn’t have been god because it mostly scared me, really. Jesus on the crucifix leering as I snuck in and stole pieces of his body from a plastic bag. Above the vestibule a remake of the Pieta followed me with creepy, lifeless eyes, pupils of cement but still sharp and scathing.
When I was out of school I stopped going altogether, stopped performing my belief. I claimed to be an atheist, and that might possibly be true. But for years I said it just because I thought it sounded cool.
I’ve visited more churches in last year than I had in at least the previous decade. Probably even longer. I’ve been in them all alone, between services, when I can hear the air displaced by my own feet as I walk. Several times I’ve sat and listened to a priest give liturgy. When it’s time for eucharist, I just sit as if in prayer and think I’ve had my fill of Christ. Let the others have a share.
They’re still rather ghoulish when they’re empty. But now I’m into the macabre–the quiet, unnerving ubiety of a history of secrets.
The emptiness is like a corpus to supplant my own, a body of substance so utterly vacant of the world that it wipes away what semblance of consciousness I think I have. For a moment, all the gods of all the churches have the space to wander through me.