Hellion! Demon! Troublemaker! These words follow me, taunt me, lead me to devalue myself. I live up to them and embrace them with contradictory glee. I step forward into the cold stone building with high vaulted ceilings, an atheist in a sea of worshippers wanting to escape their critical gaze. I sit, the service washing over me, not listening, engaging or seeing. I don’t want to hear God’s word. The sacristans pass me on their way out, the priest looking at me, seeing the devil in my soul.
I sit. I wait.
The crowds walk out passing a beggar, desperate for food, without seeing him. I turn from the hypocrites, scowling to myself. Finally alone with God, I stand up and take a slow breath stepping across the uneven blocks of stone feeling the whisper of a breeze touch me, perhaps from a natural wind or a spirit. I don’t think about it until I come to the candles, three of them are lit, symbolising the lives that have been lost, the prayers that had been whispered. I’m completely alone now, feeling even God has abandoned me and donate a coin, hoping the golden disk will bring me peace. I light the candle, watching the wax drip onto the slab below before righting it and fixing it into the holder. Now I’m alone, I can pray and the Lord’s Prayer flows from my lips as I ask God to bless my father who left three years ago. The pain is with me every day and will stay with me every day for the rest of my life.
When I leave, I pull off my leather jacket showing the scant piece of fabric I wear as a top and the tattoos circling my biceps. People stop, stare, talk about me. I throw my jacket over my shoulder with a detached smile. Let them think what they like.