Golden light filters through the tall, window panes upon us as we pray in this stuffy chapel in our small village. The tall willows - which shield us from the road and passers-by outside - whisper amongst themselves. Inaudible and conspiratorial. I wonder what they’re saying? Their long tendrils beat rhythmically against the outside walls, stained glass windows and roof as if wanting inside – wanting to be protected by God’s almighty power or possibly attacking this building for its ridiculous notions and dogmas. I’m afraid I have lost my faith. I open my eyes and look at my tanned, clasped hands in front of my face. I turn and gaze at the other members of this small congregation: - a lone woman on the back pew, with eyes tight shut and murmuring under her breath; an elderly man on the front pew staring solemnly out of the window to his right. The red light form the stained glass illuminating his age-burdened face as he sighs; my mother to my left gazing at me angrily from her open right eye. “¡Madre de dios! Face the front.” She hisses out of the corner of her mouth. Every syllable hits me like a stone. What have I done wrong? I quickly face the priest at the front and clasp my dirty hands together and close my eyes.
The sermon continues. The priest, it seems, is oblivious to the murmuring members of our holy communion. He seems to shine like the statue of Jesus hanging from the crucifix behind him. I gaze at the crown of thorns, the iron nails through Christ’ wrists and feet and wonder what he died for. Did you die to save us from our sins? If that is true, then why do we still suffer? We sit upon these moldy, pine pews and pray amongst the dust and dirt while the celestial ornaments: - the candles, Christ and the alabaster statue of the Virgin Mary gleam and shine in the evening sunlight. My olive-green eyes once again travel across the room. What are we praying for? Salvation? Ha! God does not answer us you fools! Has he ever? When we prayed for help during the flood that struck us – did it come? No. When we prayed for our crops not to fail because of it – did the almighty help? No. That is because he does not care. That or our prayer are snared before rising up to the pearl gates above.
“¡Madre de Dios!” Sounded my mother’s angry whisper. She jabs me in the side with hear spear like elbow. I wince. The sunlight saturates in hue, darkening from a palled yellow to somber amber. This small room seems to smolder in this light. A small light above me flickers and comes to life – a small white beam encircles me, illuminating my long black hair, white cotton dress and small white sandals. My mother continues to chastise me, “The Lord’s words are the most important in the world. You will learn much hear and should pay attention as it will help you become a better person.” I just managed to suppress a giggle. How stupid she sounded. Was God there for her when father died? Was he there to comfort her while she cursed and questioned everything she believed? This plump woman beside me, with her dark skin, black dress and curly brown hair was so full of hypocrisy and self-importance. Traits of which I have always feared I would inherit from her.
God hasn’t been there for me either. When Papa got sick I prayed he would get better. I prayed and prayed but God never heeded my call. Papa slipped away while I held him dear, leaving an empty hole in my heart and soul. I grew angry and loathed church. Mother had to drag me here every Sunday while I protested. Again and again. I would dig my heels in the dusty earth, and try to yank my arm free. It would always end the same – mother would turn around and gaze at me ludicrously and, in rage, slap me across the face saying that I should be ashamed of my behavior and that I would not get into heaven by acting the way I did. What was heaven? It is this realm where our spirits go to reside in for eternity after we die. Is there really such a place? I mean we die, that is it. Do we care? No. How can we? We are dead! Also is that the only reason we believe in God? It seems awfully selfish to believe in him so we could get into Heaven.It is just so absurd.
I stand up and walk towards the dark doors of this dimly-lit chapel. My mother curses under her breath and the priest’s droning speech falters. I push open the stiff, impenetrable doors and step out into the bright, sunlit streets and smile happily.
I have made my choice.