Sitting in a church, or whatever sort of building this is, you sit and watch a woman pray until she cries. It’s not really a church. It’s outside the Catholic Church on the other side of the parking lot, next to the switch grass and Queen Anne’s lace and prairie sage. The giant towers buzzing with power lines and the still, cold train tracks. It’s octagonal, this room, this building, the one room building that has pews and an altar and you wonder what exactly you’re supposed to do in here, how you’re supposed to go about things.
And your sister is at home with your parents cooking dinner. And you should be there too, but you needed to go out and do something else. You needed to go someplace you could be alone. But the bars were all too full, the trap house was too empty, even for you, and so you ended up at the church, in the building across the parking lot.
But the woman came in praying and suddenly you felt like you were surrounded by things. By noise and faith and light and nothingness and shame and sadness and fear and everything everything everything.
And she says Hail Mary Full Of Grace The Lord Is With Thee and you start to learn the words by her repetition and you smell the over-handled leather from the books in front of you, and you wish you had a pen and a piece of paper so you could scream without being heard.
Your mother is worried about you.
Your dad is sitting in a chair.
And she says Hail Mary Full Of Grace The Lord Is With Thee and you start to wonder how long it took her to learn the words, if she heard it once and memorized it or if she had a hard time keeping the words in order, like you have a hard time keeping words in order. You stand up and empty your pockets into the trash can by the door. There’s a cheap cameo of the Virgin Mary on a chain on a table next to a box half full of coins and crumpled bills. You take the cameo and put it in your freshly clean pockets. The woman is still praying, still saying Hail Mary Full Of Grace The Lord Is With Thee and you push the door and walk outside into the dying light.
You tell yourself never to say “dying light” ever again.
You tell yourself never to walk out again.
From now on, wherever you are is where you stay. From now on, you are permanent.
And you get in your car and roll your windows down and even though it’s not quite warm enough for that, you like the breeze. It smells like hope, and you’ve been depleted lately.
Your sister is sitting outside of your parents’ house smoking a cigarette and you are filled with regret that you don’t talk more. You feel bad that you never call. You never write. You pretend that California is a different world, a different universe. You pretend that two years is two hundred years. You start hoping that 2-6 years is a conservative guess.
Your sister looks up and sees you staring and she doesn’t move. She stays frozen, the cigarette lifted halfway to her lips and you know that she’s thinking that you ran away again. Like when you were 14. Like when you were 20. How you disappear without another word. How you show up when its convenient.
And you want to say that none of this is convenient.
And you want to say that you plan on staying this time.
That this? This is permanent.
Wyl Villacres writes and lives in Chicago, Il.