By Holly Kent
And so it has come to me, at last.
I stand in a church, my protesting flesh imprisoned in a tight pastel
dress (which I have already vowed never to wear again), trying not to
meet the sharp eyes of the severe saints and vengeful angels scowling
down at me from their bright heaven of stained glass. Like me, the bouquet
that I hold is beginning to wither, in the heat - its soft petals falling,
browned and damp, onto my sandaled feet. I am not listening to the priest,
but instead practicing my painstakingly-crafted congratulation speech
over and over in my head, all the while keeping an unnatural, "ain't
love grand?" smile firmly fixed on my unnaturally pink mouth.
Before me stands my college roommate (she of the omnipresent sweatpants
and ponytail) looking uncannily like an Arthurian maiden, her thick
hair tumbling down her back in long curls, her narrow athlete's body
encased in a corseted dress of spotless white. My roommate, who used
to thrust her Women's Studies textbooks in my face, her forefinger emphatically
jabbing at their pages, giving me lengthy lectures about weddings' oppressive
patriarchal symbolism. ("The father gives the daughter to the husband
- like she's an end table, or a lamp, or something!") My roommate,
all draped in white, with a veil covering her face, looking for all
the world like a virgin about to be sacrificed to one of the cruel,
sharp-clawed beasts of Greek mythology. Wonders will never cease.
Fearing that I will be lulled to sleep by the gentle rumble of the
priest's voice - by the easy rhythm of question and response, vow and
countervow - I allow my eyes to rove over the church, seeking something
of interest in the faces of the teary-eyed relatives and smiling friends
- the bored teenagers and sulky, overdressed children. Swallowing my
fear of their sharp-eyed severity, I even steal a glance at the stern-faced
apostles and arrow-wielding angels who inhabit the stained glass windows
- their faces eternally frozen in expressions of mournful disapproval
and righteous rage - their suspicious eyes questioning what right my
irreligious self has to stand so close to their holy mysteries of altar
Eventually my eyes light on a more congenial sight - a friendly-looking
group of pink-cheeked cherubs frolicking on the ceiling, high above
the squalling toddlers of the pews and grim-faced saints of the windows.
Unlike the bored third cousins and steely-eyed seraphim, these cherubs
are happy, smilingly regarding - what, exactly? I strain my eyes, endeavoring
to see what wondrous sight has inspired this cherubic glee.
As though I were a firefighter scenting smoke, I am pulled out of my
contemplation of these delighted, delightful cherubim by the sudden
awareness that you are close. And sure enough, when I turn my head I
see you, dark and elegant in a well-cut suit, quietly assuming a seat
in one of the front aisles. I take in your apologetic smile of greeting
and then turn away, attempting to resume my study of the ceiling's cherubs.
But, look as hard as I will, I cannot seem to find them again. Every
time I think I am coming close I feel your eyes on me, and all thoughts
of the sacred evaporate under the heat of your attention.