Bloodshot eyes, her pale face and dyed black hair reflect in the holy water which her nail-bitten pudgy fingers slowly sink into. For a moment, she questions all that remains of her sanity, before blessing herself – not once, not twice. Then she steps forward and enters the archaic stone chapel for the first time in twenty-three years.
As Julie steps meticulously across the border she drags down the hood of her sodden Led Zeppelin jacket, and instantly glances up, seeking hope, seeking a miracle…Once inside she hears the heavy echoes of her maroon punk boots reverberate as if shooting this sacred Silence.
Walking down the aisle, she smells a variety of odours: an aroma of decaying wood, burning candles and the slightest whiff of incense. Her eyes, not daring to look at any sacred statue or pious painting, search for a free seat in this empty church.
After some time, Julie kneels down at a row of seats which lay between stations, stations of the cross. She can no longer attempt to hide, for there is nobody to hide from; and yet her brown eyes stare down.
Every minute the scars are a little more inevitable; yet here she feels a sense…Of wonderful loneliness – as if silence is now a friend, someone who she feels may listen. And although all the muscles in her five foot four frame remain tense, she’s comfortable in the emptiness, where she is free, where her fuddled thoughts escape the cage of a loving family. A family which she feels are squeezing, just a little too tight, as if their tender hearts entrap her in an arena of trepidation.
As if on cue, Julie’s phone vibrates, impolitely interrupting the peace. The ringtone launches into: ‘‘I feel good now I knew that I …’’ She swipes the sound away while declaring the action a beauty of technology. She contemplates how better life could be if one could swipe away their fears and troubles – she then looks up, fabricates a smile and swipes across her forehead.
Once more, Julie is in what she deems as beautiful silence. She tries to assemble her jungle of thoughts as if tactically aiming to find clarity in her mind. But she knows that in these thoughts one will always be at the forefront. In this peace she believes she can recognise everyone’s gentle lies; stare for long and all that is true can be seen in those loving eyes, she tells herself.
Julie remembers all the sorrow in the room she had departed. A waiting room where positivity had been crushed, where hope laid in the corner battered, bruised and believed to be beaten. To her it felt as if a shovel lay waiting to carve his grave. John’s grandmother had handed her a set of rosary beads, asked her to pray. Normally, on a normal life, she might have laughed, and maybe say that she’s too old for fairytales but she took the beads and smiled. Nevertheless, she had not prayed, not broken her laws, but simply hid them in a pocket.
Yet an unplanned hour’s walk brought her to Saint Columba’s Church where she was baptised – Julia Kathleen Collins. Today’s entry, of her own free will, she tells herself is not to pray but to plead.
‘Am I yer fool, fodder for the darkness,’ escapes her lips, escapes her prison.
Silence: busy roads, busy lives and a whirlwind of a busy 21st century lay outside while all bar one so placid within these hallowed walls.
Silence: only the sound of Julie’s beating heart, or she questions, is it the rumbling of harrowing thoughts which persecute a sinking soul. ‘
‘Can a soul sink?’’ she screamed; a scream that seemed to echo for longer than eternity.
Julie removes her damp jacket as her mind muses over doubt, death and darkening regrets. Again she stares down at the floor as if blinded by the tranquillity of a winter sunshine that was beginning to timidly travel through parting clouds and the chapel’s stained windows.
A simple wish Julie makes as her mind contemplates her fears of a forever isolation in a forgotten future. All she can think of, concentrate on is John: how they first met, their first kiss – a drunken shift which nears its sixth anniversary…She curses her vanity for thinking is he, in a coma, thinking of her.
The last words Julie said to John are ‘Fuck you,’ their classic duo of words – her truth so often mute, her lies so often loud. She remembers their anger, their happiness, their problems, their fun and their lust.
Julie thinks of the end; and how it is that, as one approaches their end, nobody who loves you remembers your anger, your faults, your failings, all that they remember is your goodness and she thinks this may be life’s final gift.
In the pocket of the jacket which Julie discarded, a few minutes ago, lay the rosary beads that John’s grandmother gave her. Alongside the beads were a two unopened packets of paracetamol. Fortunately, Julie’s headache has eased.
Yesterday, what happened yesterday? Where had he been, yesterday? Julie asks herself. However, she knows yesterday’s forgotten, unlike the torturous memoir that today is building. She believes in any future, today will be remembered forever.
There is no splash when a tear slides tentatively down her cheek before falling upon the floor, disappearing immediately. Forever. Forgotten for eternity.
Read my mind, she says internally. … ‘Or is it too late, too long a wait for me to bite your bait?’ she roars out, her voice carrying a vibe of delirium.
All is silent.
All is heard.
The church bells chimes. Julie’s glances up again, her mind questions her mental stability. She remembers her father’s words: ‘Sleep, sleep, rest you need, it is rest you need.’ And then, as if speaking to herself, she hears a murmur of words from….No….. From nowhere, or everywhere.
..Lonely I am ‘til yer sun dies down
and then a miracle is called,
Always a miracle that is called.
Julie buries her head in her hands and asks her mind for a second of peace, for him, for her, for their sanity. She needs… He needs a miracle.
She hears slow footsteps.
So slow,she fears it’s a friend.
Her pulse races,
a thunder in her thoughts,
the sound of steps are all round,
everywhere or nowhere…
She curses herself, her mind crowds with doubt
– until she looks up, to where I do be.