Churches make me nervous. I never feel like I belong in them. Still. I measure my decisions with the likelihood of future regret. This, I know, I will regret not doing.
There’s a small courtyard between the office building and the church, inside the church gate. There are always a few drifter sitting on the benches or the steps leading up to the side door of the sanctuary. The office is in the back. I take a deep breath, push the door open, walk in.
The girl in the office has short fuchsia hair and a permanent scowl.
“Is your labyrinth open?” I ask.
She looks me up and down, taking in the business casual. “There’s a Muslim congregation worshipping,” she says. “If they’re finished, you can go in.” I’ve no idea why you’d want to, lingers, unspoken.
The main doors to the sanctuary stand open. A few men are clustered outside, telling each other goodbye. I drift up the steps, hesitating at the inner doors. A few more men sit on the pews in the sanctuary proper. Someone stands at the edge of the dais, rolling up a large mat.
I don’t see what I have come here for, but there’s nowhere else it could be. I consider turning around, going back to the office. I don’t belong here. This is not my church.
Still. Setting my hand on the brass handle, I close my eyes and open the door.
The men inside talk back and forth, neither ignoring not acknowledging me. I make my way up the aisle, eyes on the floor in front of me.
Pass-a-grille ids white paint on concrete pavers. Grace Cathedral is metal set into stone. This is a hardwood floor, polyurethane shiny, the path laid down on top like a vinyl sticker. Behind me, the men continue to talk. I’m not sure if they’re speaking English. I’m not sure if they’re entirely with it. I step into the labyrinth.
Breathe in, breathe out, I tell myself. Focus on your breath. Focus on your feet.
I’m here because there are decisions I don’t know how to make. Things that don’t lend themselves to a neat table of pro and con.
One foot and then the other. It’s an easy path to walk, wide enough to contain me, narrow enough to keep my focus. Breathe in, breathe out. Some of the men leave, some stay. The conversation is softer now. Nobody pays any attention to me.
I’m not expecting answers. I’m not expecting anything, really. Still. I walk more slowly as I wind closer to the center. What do you want most? I ask myself, thinking I am asking a question about my job, about where I live, about how I want my marriage to be.
The voice that answers doesn’t care about any of these things. I want to write, it says, as I find the center of the labyrinth. One hour or one thousand words, I promise myself.
I am light, I am breath, I am air. I no longer feel like an outsider in this space.
I know I will fail. I know some days it will be too much. I hope that when I am tired and telling myself there’s no point, I will remember the way I feel right now, the surety certainty solidity.
I walk out the same way I came in, following the path laid onto the floor, the subtle curves, the long sweeps. The men have left, all but one who sits reading a paper in the middle of an otherwise empty pew.
I walk out the same way I came in, eyes on the floor in front of me, feet infinitely lighter.