The newer, nicer version of me went to my neighbor's first communion yesterday. Or rather, his daughter's first. His name is Gabriel. He lives next door to me with his family, works at a winery and often generously gives me bottles of nice regional wines. It was his daughter's first communion and he asked me to please take pictures for him, so that's what I did. Previously, I had offered to take a portrait of his family as something to offer back to him for his kindnesses. He decided to take me up on the offer, but waited until a moment that was special enough for him. So be it. What would I have done otherwise?
I arrived midway through the mass dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt. I wanted to give myself the appearance of being a paid participant and not a reveler for the Catholic Christ. It worked, I think. Everybody else was dressed for mass, en Español. No one there other than me had learned English first. Many had not learned it second, either. There was lots of smiling and nodding on my part.
I sat and kneeled and bowed my head, listened to the prayers and songs of the believers. Roomfuls of the faithful are interesting places to be. I like the warmth of it, the humanity. It's absurd ritual, but so is poetry, in a sense. Uselessness to one does not render that thing meaningless to another. Many people permit or suffer my absurdities and rituals. So be it.
When the moment of socius arrived and we were all meant to greet our neighbors in fellowship I became a 1970s politician. I was unshaven but smiling, beyond eager to greet new voters. I started shaking hands with the men around me first, then moved on to the women, then became so excited about the process I think I may have tried to kiss a baby.
I became popular quickly and well-liked once I started taking people's babies out of their hands to put my lips on them. Who knows, maybe they thought I was an albino and they were hoping the infants' touch might heal me. It's never easy to know with religious folk, and I don't help anything. Every time I meet somebody's eyes in church I never know what to say. For some reason, I'll be praying for you... doesn't quite convey its intended message of love and friendship. I'm always trying to bridge the divide between us, them, and me, like any good liberal.
I came home feeling cleansed and free of sin, like fish on Friday.
When sorting through the pics I had taken there were an unusual number of girls, but that's why cameras were invented. I had to really do some editing to balance this out in the ones I presented to Gabriel. I did not want him to think that I was only interested in how pretty the girls looked in their white dresses with their hair held up with little flowers, each composed of newly stirring oceans, but it's true. It's all true. If there is anything prettier than girls then I don't know what that is, or what that could possibly be.