Every Thursday he went to Church. Normal Church down in the city was always on Sundays, as it is for most of the Catholic world, but the boy lived in a small town that was too high in the mountains for the Sunday trip. In the town there was a local pastor, and some time ago he agreed to give sermons in the small space that was made available in the town’s meeting hall. The pastor often left on weekends, and that’s why Church was reliably fixed on Thursday nights.
The boy didn’t understand God. He could not remember a time in his life where he was ever in accord with the Lord that his mother prayed to every night.
Nonetheless, Church was a beautiful thing to him.
On the first night the pastor delivered a sermon, the boy was only six years old. It was summer, but they were experiencing severe wind – unusual for such a high altitude. Everyone had heard about the new coming of a holy man in their village, and they were excited to hear him speak.
When it was almost dark, he sat on his mother’s bed and watched her prepare for mass. She wore a long black dress, and in the dim candlelight you could barely see her body. She hummed as she brushed her black hair. Her hair like ropes, he thought. Once she was done, she wrapped herself in her good green shall, the one she only wore for special occasions, looked at herself in mirror very seriously, and muttered, Dios viene.
When the boy and his mother reached the meeting hall, a village girl with long braids, who was helping with the sermon, asked them to each take a candle from the box at the entrance. They did exactly that, and upon entering, noticed that every person had a lit candle and started forming a circle in the center of the room. The boy spotted his aunt Maria, and when he called to her, angry faces turned to him from their circle and told him to be quiet. His mother grabbed his hand and they quietly rejoined the rest of the family. His sobrino Miguel lit his candle.
When the pastor entered the room, everyone fell silent. He could hear people breathe, and had never felt a room so still. Looking around at the familiar faces, he thought about how loud and animated they usually were. Now, their faces were expressionless and somber. He could hear people breathe. When the pastor finally spoke, it felt like the moon was talking. The voice was brassy and thick and sounded important. When he closed his eyes, he could easily imagine the moon telling him stories of nighttime, water, and kingdoms with queens. He never quite listened to what the pastor was saying that night, but he loved the way it sounded when his voice floated up the walls and dripped down the ceiling. Opening his eyes he saw the faces of his friends and family bathed in the orange light of their candles. They looked peaceful, and the whole room looked like a painting he once saw.
Once the mass was over, every village member gathered around the pastor to thank him and shake his hand. Many of the women kissed his hand instead. Once the boy and his mother had said their goodbyes, they lit out their candles, placed them back into the box at the entrance, and began their short walk home.
The boy skipped ahead of her. He learnt that he liked stillness, but he loved to move his body even more. He started talking to his mother, but she did not answer him. He walked closer to her, and when he saw her face, noticed that she was crying. The boy knew his mother well, and so he did not ask.
The next day was a Friday and that meant he had school. On his way home from class, he went by the market to pick up the rice his mother had asked for. There he ran into many villagers who had only hours ago been at the sermon. It was good to see their faces smile again. Paulo, who sold the boy his rice, made a joke and all the women laughed. The sun was very hot and Esmeraldas sat on a table airing her husband with a fan made of blue shiny feathers. He saw some friends from school. They ate oranges together, and their mouths dripped.
When he got home, he felt wonderful. He went to the kitchen to unpack the rice and hugged his mother from behind while she was doing dishes.
Then he thought of something. He spoke.
Mama, why did you say God was coming?
He dipped his finger in the red sauce his mother had cooked on the stove and added,
Are you sure your god isn’t already here?