The Comfort House Chronicles:
The Dead Lounge
written by: RayFed
There's a certain smell that lingers in holy places. An aroma of incense, time and decay. Not altogether unpleasant, by the way, and somehow a familiar sense of coming home. Sometimes I wonder if this is the smell of God? Catholic School masses have ingrained that odor of tarry wood smoke into me forever. Leaving the premises, all the elderly parishioners have that scent of god on them as well, mixed in among the daily smells of formaldehyde, pale blue rinse and piss.
In all the years of my attendance to the church, I've been the only very young man there. The only visitor under thirty, besides the children in the choir. It's a godless town, what can I say? Every adult novelty shop or tanning parlor I passed along the street bore that clear with all their neon flashing effrontery. The young women who burn saints' candles in their windows do it as a backup scheme similar to how other women keep birth control pills in their purses rather than their medicine cabinets, just in case they are caught unaware with so many other seductions that worked faster and went to your head harder.
In my heart of hearts, I believed in no theology, and believed in no god, but this place is much less expensive than therapy sessions at The Comfort House and where counseling is good for the mind, church is good for the soul and just as comforting as a new suit, or good pair of briefs are for the body.
Without a plush bed or a soft warm girlfriend to go home to, and only work after that, I made my daily evening visit to those hallowed grounds and deliberately prolonged my stay after the service. Savoring every nuance offered. Every little step I take gets on like clockwork. The Stations, the dodgy business with the holy water, the benediction of my footsteps on the stone floor with every move according to the plan in my mind's eye. Once or twice, my cell phone went off during the proceedings. I had it set to vibrate. Thank God for small miracles. I let the voice mail catch it and let the missed calls fester until I was back in the world of the modern.
Leaving work, with a nod to a woman who held the door for me, I made my way down to the car park. In my head, I privately amounted how much I'd spent on the one-dollar prayer candles, and what the value of each was against how long they would burn. Counting on how each prayer had a price tag and in which way they would be most cost-effective. I could be practical like that when I wanted to even when it came to God.
Behind the wheel of my plain brown two-door sedan, the uncomfortable piety melted right off of me. Somebody else had been driving this car recently. The seat was moved almost entirely forward. A uniquely feminine sabotage technique that never failed to annoy me. Nothing grounds you in the secular like realizing that in event of a collision your kneecaps will be blown straight through your own face. Girls, huh? Why I ever let them borrow the car I'll never know. Definitely not trustworthy. I kept my gaze sincerely forward, adjusted the seat, smiled to myself and drove. Arriving home and absently going through the motions of defrocking the week-old coat off my shoulders I headed for my room. Reaching the welcoming softness of my plain bed and single pillow, I dropped off into a darkened sleep. Weekends are a blur and I set myself on autopilot for the duration.