This story was originally published in Volume 31 of Plainsong, a non-profit journal published by the University of Jamestown’s English Department. Slight edits were made from the original story.
Every time I went to church, which was not as often as I would like to admit, he was there. He sat in the same spot in the same pew in the same corner of our old church. The sun shone through the same stained glass windows with the same array of colors lying on the heads of the same worshippers filling the same pews in front of him. He always had a pleasant expression on his face as if patiently waiting for a loved one to catch up.
He never sat with anyone and no one ever sat with him.
When the pastor told everyone to stand and greet their neighbors, he stood and greeted his neighbors—saying no more than good morning to those around him. When it was time to sing, he stood but never moved his lips—when we prayed, he maintained the same expression, slightly bowed his head, and kept his eyes open. When the service ended and everyone went downstairs for coffee and treats or Sunday School, he slipped out one of the back doors only to appear again the next Sunday.
I saw him every Sunday my parents dragged me to church and I found the situation—his situation—odd, but I didn’t know why. One Sunday I asked my mom who he was and why he always sat in the same spot and why he was always alone and why he never sang.
“She said, “That’s Les. I can’t think of his last name, and I don’t know why he always sits there or why he’s always alone—he’s done that as long as I can remember. Maybe you should go sit by him.”
I don’t know what compelled me to stand up and walk to the other side of the sanctuary. I sat down beside Les as the clunky sounds of the organ filled the air. I glanced at the clock over my shoulder and saw that church wasn’t supposed to start for another five minutes, which meant it would start in ten, and then I blurted out everything on my mind.
“How come you don’t sit with anybody else? You could come down and drink coffee with the others in the basement, but you don’t. How come you don’t sing any hymns or even pretend to, like my brother? My mom says you’ve been doing the same thing as long as she can remember. How come you do the same stuff every Sunday?”
He smiled and I sat embarrassed, hardly believing what I’d said or how he’d take it.
“I’m waiting,” he said.
“Waiting for what?”
“Just waiting for it to hit, for it all to click.”
“I don’t really know, but I ask myself that every day—what is it? I’ve heard other people say it will come all at once—it will rush over you, and you’ll know what it is. I guess you don’t really know if it will hit, you just have to hope and wait and see.”
I spent the entire service trying to understand what he meant as we sat in silence, and when church was over I went to Sunday School.
>He wasn’t there the next Sunday, or the one after that, or the one after that either. He never returned.
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