It hasn’t been a very good twenty-four hours.
Our menacing neighbor has been harassing us again– letting her enormous barking German Shepherd out to urinate on our lawn when Rosie comes out to play in her sandbox, then screaming curses and imprecations at us when we look up at the dog. She’s been calling Rosie and me four-letter euphemisms for a prostitute and luridly speculating aloud about what kind of services we provide. She’s pasted obscene messages to her window facing our house where Rosie can read them. She’s screamed at and even flashed me, and made fun of my bald patches, trying to provoke me to yell back or make rude gestures so she can take a funny video on her phone, and occasionally she succeeds because I’m not very patient. We’re trying to get a restraining order and praying that’s enough.
Meanwhile we drove to Wintersville to get our second Moderna shot, and while she was sticking me the nurse noticed one of the moles on my shoulder looks awfully dark. She advised I get it checked. Moles and skin cancer are among my bad anxiety triggers. I keep track of my skin the way a miser keeps track of his money. I always knew I had a dark patch on that shoulder, but she’s right– it’s darker than I thought and I’ll get it checked. I’ve been panicking about that as well.
This afternoon, when I got in my car about to leave and run errands, the neighbor ran off her porch with her phone in hand. In another moment, she was in front of our house in nothing but her robe and slippers, filming the porch and screaming for Michael to come out and fight her. I couldn’t go inside to help Michael, who probably wasn’t in danger anyway, and I couldn’t get out of the car, so I decided to drive downtown to the police station and file a report in person. I hate the police. I hate guns and violence. But I didn’t know what else to do. I’ve been told that a paper trail of police reports is the best way to get a restraining order approved by a judge.
After I filed that report I got in my car, shoulder already aching from the Moderna shot, trying not to look at my mole, trying not to think about the neighbor and what she’d do to us when she got served her court papers.
I was too discouraged to go home.
I wanted to drive someplace fun, but I couldn’t imagine were.
Sometime in the past week, I’ve noticed that driving doesn’t frighten me anymore. I can drive on main roads and make dreaded left turns— yesterday I even practiced merging left to get in the turn lane several times, and liked it. So after filing a police report, I decided to drive for awhile. I’ve always wanted to see how far a certain road downtown goes. It looks like it goes on forever, through downtown, until it gets swallowed by tree-covered mountains– down to the bridge at Marietta, perhaps, down to the beautiful part of Appalachia, down to Greenbriar and Pocahontas Counties where my ancestors came from where everything is alive. So that was where I drove. I kept driving down it until I saw it turned and went up around the city to the mall, and I turned around, disappointed. No adventures to be had. No exit. No escaping Steubenville.
I drove back past the Greek Orthodox church, and remembered that it was Holy Thursday– not according to the calendar I worship by, but according to theirs. I love that church. It’s beautiful inside. I went there to pray a few times after we got bullied out of the Byzantine Catholic Church, and the old pastor was very nice to me, but they’ve got a new one now and I don’t know if he would be. I am petrified of being bullied by another priest. Still, I wanted to talk to Christ on Holy Thursday. I wanted to see if the church was open. I drove into the parking lot to find a space, but I’m such a new driver and it’s such a tight parking lot, I found myself driving around the church in a circle and back out onto the street.
It reminded me of that one Pascha Matins in the Byzantine Catholic Church, where we followed Father around the church in a circle, chanting “Christ is risen from the dead! By death he trampled death and to those in the tombs He granted life!” I was so full of hope. I thought we’d finally found a community, that Rosie could receive the sacraments and then we’d move to Weirton and be safer than in Steubenville. I was singing. Rosie was singing. Everyone was singing. Everyone felt hopeful and alive. The priest knocked on the door of the church with the cross in his hand, and opened it. We went inside to celebrate. “Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen! Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen! Christ is risen!”
I felt like I was in a procession just then, a driving procession, around the Orthodox church.
Maybe we’re always in a procession.
I drove back down the street, turning the corner near the Serbian Orthodox church and ending up at the big Baroque Roman Catholic church I know so well. This church was open and the parking lot was easy, so I went in. I found it all festooned with festive silk flowers, because in the West Christ has already risen from the dead and appeared to the apostles. I found a parking spot there, and went in. I begged to not have cancer and for the restraining order to work. I apologized to Him for making that gesture at the neighbor. I asked Him to get us out of Steubenville and to make the future easier than the past.
When I came out, the bells were chiming three.
“It’s three o’clock on Holy Thursday,” I said to myself. “Christ has twenty-four hours to live.” But it was also Easter.
I got back in my car and drove up Washington Street, but then I pulled up a side street to get out of the way of an ambulance quickly. And then I found myself at the door of the third Orthodox church in Steubenville, the tiny little OCA church.
I prayed for whoever the ambulance was rushing to– maybe a false alarm, or maybe someone who wouldn’t live to see Orthodox Easter.
Maybe it’s always Holy Thursday and Easter. Maybe we’re always in a Paschal Matins procession. Day in and day out, in fear and anxiety, trying to do the just thing but wondering if it’s really just. Downtown to the courthouse, uptown for a vaccine, downtown again to the police. Side effects or no side effects. Cancer or not cancer. Feeling at home and losing a home. Cruelty or kindness. Afraid or not. Whether the court order works or not. Whatever the time and season, processing round and round and round a church, singing “Christ is risen from the dead,” waiting for the priest to open the door and let you in the Sanctuary. It’s three o’clock on Holy Thursday and Christ has exactly one agonizing day to live, but it’s also Sunday and He’s already appeared to the apostles. The spiritual life is like that.
The whole life of a Christian is like that.
I drove home.
The neighbor heard me come in, and released her dog on the lawn.
It was Holy Thursday, but also Easter.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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