The girl inside St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans. Photo by David Lansing.

I was supposed to go fishing with some of those knucklehead crackers I was talking about the other day but I just couldn’t do it. Made me sad to even think about. Instead, I got up late, had two cups of coffee down in the bar of the Hotel le Marais, and then walked down to Jackson Square. Some guys were playing music in front of the St. Louis Cathedral. I listened to them a bit and then I walked in to the cathedral and sat down in one of the pews in the back. In the aisle was a group of high-school-aged Catholic school girls wearing blue, long-sleeve blouses, listening to a tiny little nun who spoke in a whisper. I couldn’t hear what she was saying. But the girls in their crisp blue blouses would crane their heads in unison following the tiny nun’s uplifted arm as she pointed to a painting on the dome of the cathedral or maybe one of the flags hanging down.

A tall, pale, gangly girl with a ponytail tied with a white ribbon, yawned, with exaggeration. “Jesus,” she drawled and then clapped a hand to her mouth as her eyes got big. The other girls all tittered and spun to face her. The little nun looked hard at the gangly girl but didn’t say anything. “I’m sorry, sister. It just came out!” said the gangly girl.

A few of the girls, tired of standing, sat precariously at the edge of the pews, as if prepared to jump up at any moment. One of the girls saw me watching them and stuck her tongue out at me and then quickly turned around. An elderly couple, whispering to each other, sat down in the pew five or six feet away from me. The woman, who had a tight bun of white hair piled on her head and was wearing a puffy purple jacket, had one hand on the old man’s arm and was talking to him rapidly in French while he slowly nodded. Something she said to him made him very sad for his eyes got moist and he took out a perfectly pressed white handkerchief and handed it to the woman who dabbed at the corners of his eyes, as if he were a child who’d gotten sand in them.

I don’t know why, but I kneeled. I clasped my hands as if I were going to pray but I wasn’t praying. I was thinking of someone I knew and I then I started to wonder why I had started thinking about that person, since I hadn’t thought about them in a long while—no, that was a lie. And then I realized that the tall gangly girl who’d murmured “Jesus” after yawning reminded me of her. Not in the way she looked or anything but just by the way she stood there. All loose limbed. Like something just awakened. Like a cat stretching on her way out the door.

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1 comment

  1. Angeline’s avatar

    I wonder why churches have that effect on some of us (kneeling, almost as if bidden to do so by some unheard voice).
    I’m glad you didn’t go fishing with the knuckleheads.

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