Sunday was the day for church. Sarah pulled up a long skirt that tugged over her bottom on the way up to her waist and then tossed a tee shirt over her head. Getting dressed for church was always a bit like getting ready for school. Twenty minutes later Sarah pulled into the parking lot. There was only one space left, near the back corner where the utility shed covered in overgrown bushes and spider webs stood.
Rushing out of the car was unnecessary. Service had already started ten minutes ago. But she did it anyway and ran tip toe across the lot with her keys half falling from the pocket of her purse. With a sharp tug on the door handle, she swiped inside. The hydraulic gears hissed their disapproval under the sound system broadcasting the service across the church building. The speakers were there for the convenience of those who may need to leave during the service. They were very courteous to mothers at the church. Nurse or disciplining has no place in chapel.
A prayer was being said. So Sarah lowered her head reverently. No one was looking, but she did this anyway. Once the “Amen” was said she chose a spot on the lobby couch and curled her feet beneath her. If she was being honest, she liked sitting here better than the chapel. The cushions of the couch sank pleasurably beneath her weight and the fabric, which pilled on the arm rests, was soft. If she wanted to, she could read the Bible instead of listening to the sermons or testimonies. Sometimes the Bible was interesting and she could choose the story she read.
Just then a clunking bang resounded from the chapel door. The woman dragged her three year old boy by the wrist and power walked down the hall toward the bathroom. A few minutes later the pair of them returned to the lobby, sitting casually on the one armchair across from the couch. The woman pulled her child into her lap. Although her mouth did not move even as she looked up at Sarah with her feet up on the couch, she managed to convey her meaning. Sarah settled her feet back on the floor and bowed her head again. On the speaker system a man spoke of the power of the Holy Spirit which guided his hand in his career. He’d gotten a promotion, he said.
While he spoke, the woman and her son sat bored and waiting to reenter the chapel, waiting for an appropriate pause. Then, without warning the door banged open once again. Another escapee, dashed across the lobby. Sarah noted that the girl went the opposite direction of the bathrooms. That was taking the long way round. The church was an egg shaped building with hallways rounding in an ellipse around the chapel which stood at its center. The bathrooms were on the opposite end, at the bottom part of the egg. Good girls didn’t take a walks around the building rather than listen to the sermon. But this girl did. Sarah knew her from school as well, but not really. In a few minutes (the building was small) the girl joined them, sitting on the far end of the couch.
The child was beginning to squirm in his mother’s lap. And in frustration his mother dropped him down, wiggling onto the floor. He immediately ran to the couch and, looking up at Sarah’s face, smiled. Then he proceeded to heave himself with all his might onto the couch. His little face screwed up until it was all white and red spots.
When he reached the cushion it seemed he was not yet content. Rather than sit calmly he turned directly to Sarah and crawled on all fours to reach her then began playing with her skirt. The girl on the other end of the couch inspected the split ends on her hair cuticles. Slowly, the skirt shifted up Sarah’s leg inch by inch. The grin on the boy’s face spread wide. His mother, happy to have her lap to herself, was leaned back in her seat with her eyes squeezed closed.
Unsatisfied with his resultless foray up her skirt, the boy stood up on the couch and grabbed a section of Sarah’s hair. He tugged and smoothed and knotted it with his sweaty palms. Finally Sarah could take it no longer and she tried to gently remove her hair from his grip. But he resisted. She looked at the little boy and his determined frown, much like his mothers, which suggested that it would be better to let him proceed.
The podium had been taken over by another man now. About every month, the church opened up the floor to members to testimony. Each man and woman was welcome to share their spiritual reflections. His voice was sharp and made the speakers crackle. With a start the woman in the armchair woke form her nap. Noticing her boy manhandling Sarah she snatched him up by the armpits and tried impatiently to settle him back in her lap with a Noah’s Ark coloring book drawn expertly from her brown leather satchel.
Freed, Sarah rose from her seat and walked to the back of the church towards the bathrooms. But when she reached the bathrooms she kept walking. The lights were not yet turned on back there. The dim light was like twilight, or morning and it was cool and quiet. There were no speakers in the bathroom. I guess God doesn’t belong in the toilet stalls, Sarah amused herself thinking.
A few doors down Sarah stopped at a classroom door. The small window, just high enough for an adult to peek inside if they were tall, looked in on a dark blue room. The chairs for class were stacked neatly against the wall five across and ten tall. The curtains were drawn against the afternoon sun. Inside the speakers blared. But on the wall opposite the door, behind a little plywood podium was a white plastic knob. Sarah walked directly over to it and rotated it all the way to 0 and sighed with relief. Brother Harper was such a windbag.
From inside her purse she pulled out her phone and set it on the floor. A soft melody escaped the phone speaker. Just quiet enough to remain inside the room and no further. She pointed one toe to the floor and floated onto a single foot, lifting herself upward. For a second she wobbled and she stabbed her other foot to the ground to regain her balance.
Sarah leaned forward. Her back arched. And then she began to dance. When she spun around, her skirt lifted up over her knees of its own volition. Her arms waved. Most of the time she kept her eyes closed. But then she was turning, spinning straight on towards the other side of the room in a straight line. For a while she danced just like this. It was easy to forget the time. The songs played one after another and there was no interruption except the slight three second silence between each song. Then Sarah would pause for a second too, lean back on her heels and take a deep breath. Her belly would fill with air. Then the next song would start again.
Sarah was just leaping through the room, her leg stretching out behind her, her skirt hiked up to her waist when she heard the clanging bang of the door open and the whine of the hydraulic mechanism.
“What are you doing in here, Sarah?” Brother Kilare said with surprise.
“Oh, um, nothing,” Sarah mumbled.
Brother Kilare looked around the room as if checking to see if perhaps she was hiding an audience but was disappointed.
“Okay, well, you should be in the chapel,” he said, “come, take a seat with us.” He motioned towards the open door and waited for her to exit the room. Sarah gathered her things and silenced the music on her phone with a sinking feeling. Brother Kilare closed the door behind her.
This week, Dylan Hughes picked the song “Belly of the Beat” by Grimes. Check out her piece inspired by the song here.