The background is dappled with a thousand blurred flames glowing through red votive glass. I walk into the pew and stand next to the woman kneeling with fingers in a prayer weave, wrists resting against the seat back in front of her. She looks ahead. Not at me. Lips fused. A spreading fervor seems to shed from the center of her eyes.
“Ms. Ortiz?” I say it again, just above a whisper. I do not want to be here. I don’t want to be standing here with all these blurred candles and the gilded cross hanging above us. I look down at the woman and wait. Then I let out a steady heaving breath, which propels my feet. I turn and walk away.
“The cross hangs there for all of us.” I hear her say it. It’s her whispered tease to stop my feet. And it works. But I want to keep walking - to leave all of this behind me. I shouldn’t have come at all. It’s over. This is all fucking over. I don’t like this woman. I like her family even less. I loathe them. And I loathe this stupid cathedral.
“Yeah? How’s that?” I speak. I refrain from making more audible huffs.
“Your bible says they came together to be admonished and to admonish each other. I think that’s remarkable.”
“My bible?” I think she must hear my impatience. I don’t think she cares.
“Your Mormon bible, yes.” She continues looking to the gold-gilded cross, studded with rubies and who knows what other gaudy crap. Blood money.
“We believe in the bible. I guess you mean the Book of Mormon.” I force politeness into my tone.
“They came together to be admonished and to admonish each other. They use the word ‘equality’ a few times in your Mormon bible.” She bows her head and kisses the rosary between her thumbs. And looks up again.
“Yeah? Okay. Ms. Ortiz, do you remember me?”
“And they established much peace in the land. And they came together to admonish and to be admonished by one another.”
“I knew your son. You remember, right?” I really want to get the hell out of here. Fuck your ‘admonish and be admonished.’ Just look at me, for fuck sake. I have an involuntary vision of grabbing that damned giant crucifix and smashing out every last one of those stupid blurry candles with many many satisfying hammer moves and then crashing the whole thing through the stained glass window.
She grabs the back of the pew and pushes herself erect. And hobbles over to me, then rotates to look at the bench where she had just been. “A Korean woman came in with her baby son just before you arrived. She sat next to me. She said that she and her husband had just ordered seven chickens to put in their yard. What a sweet boy she had sitting just there. Right there next to me. He smiled up at me with his beautiful chubby face….” Her voice cracks and she palms her cheek with one hand.
“I know who you are, Edmund. You knew my son.”