May 14th, 2014

Fingers trace the lines of the knotted wood polished, like rocks made smooth by the crashing of the waves, by the seeking hands of the needy. Desperate fingers ring the wooden front of the pew, hopeless fingers, hoping fingers, searching fingers, tired fingers, angry fingers, ecstatic fingers, but most of all, human fingers holding tight to the wooden beams of fallen trees lined up like old layers of bricks used to fortify the foundations of a building. The pews filled with people, each with a different word, or a different hole in their heart, seeking searching, for something they know not the name of, the know not the form of, nor know the true power of, yet they come with heads bent down and palms raised up for answers.

There is a side chapel in the Vatican, reserved for prayer alone, where tourists cannot enter unless it is God, not vacation experiences, they seek. A room of silent reverence where a strange feeling lingers in the air, an odd shared glance with the nun kneeling beside me in which I realize we are all here for the same thing. No matter who we were, where we came from, or the thousands of different reasons or things that happened to us in our lives that led us to this moment where a nun and I shared a knowing glance with one another, in which we both acknowledged that we came not for ourselves, but seeking another.

It is in the moment in which she is beginning to stand to leave that our eyes meet, a little smile shared, but no words spoken. When she has crossed herself and left the small chapel, I turn to look back at the now empty place beside me. My eyes rest on the red kneeling portion of the pew where the indents of her knees in the red material are still visible. These indents of burden, these indents of faith, these indents of understanding left in her vacant space. Knowing that when I stood to leave, my own indents would remain where I once was too. There was something beautiful in the space she left behind, like an afterimage of a single part of a larger being. We all walk these different roads, lead these different lives, but can you not hear the sound of a heart beat always in your ears, and have you ever wondered if it is not your own? Have you ever stopped to think that these afterimages we leave behind of ourselves are all simply pieces of a greater being, drifting like ghosts in a world not meant for them because they forgot the sound of their own heartbeat when it was entirely whole?

The afterimage begins to fade, the marks of being have risen again, the pew left empty ready for the next apparition with the questioning weight of knees bent who forgot their way home. I stand and look down on the marks I will leave behind, knowing soon they too will fade, forgotten, into the red material of the wooden pew. Wondering, what soul had occupied the same space before me, wondering what they had prayed for, and what had led them to this point where they got down on their knees.  Knowing soon, I myself will be an afterimage, flickering for a brief moment in a little chapel in the Vatican, in the heart of Rome, wondering where my ghostly feet will lead me.

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