Easter Sunday.

A small, spread out ‘congregation’ hardly congregates, more politely distributing itself evenly among the sparse, simple wooden chairs in Old Saint Paul’s tonight, high-ceilinged, candlelit and draughty. More people are there alone, and there’s perhaps a slightly younger average age than I’d expected – it’s not just little old ladies, in other words, though there are also no children and I may in fact be the youngest person outside of the choir. The choir in their white robes with red bits at the collars: what are they thinking, I idly wonder during the quiet bits. They are equal-opportunitiesishly pick-and-mixed in terms of height, age, gender and skin tone, complete with the requisite big girl who sings like a little girl (she does some bits solo, and she’s got an amazingly high, delicate soprano voice, floaty like dandelion clocks and dragonfly wings), several earnest-looking prettyboys who remind me of a question that occurred to me once, way back in the mists of time, while watching the boy I liked in my primary school choir: does raising your eyebrows make your singing sound better? (well, does it? I’ve never been able to check because I’ve never been able to sing either way). My other favourite is the small, bald, slightly spooky one who looks a bit like Pierluigi Collina.
There’re some ritualistic goings-on, lots of gilded ornaments and the covering and revealing and re-covering of something called ‘the Sacrament’ – it’s something small that I can’t really see. Hand gestures, mumbled responses that I’m not familiar enough to get to in time, and what the order of service calls ‘censing’, which seems to be the act of spreading sweet smoke everywhere by swinging a gold cage that hangs from a chain like a holy nunchaku. A man without any special dress steps up and reads a couple of passages from the Bible, elongating word-final consonants and pausing emphatically just like the priest in The Simpsons. In John 20:19, he seems to especially enunciate the bit where the doors were locked “for fear of the JEWS” and I look at the floor, then feel silly and paranoid for thinking so.
The choir dwells incessantly on the line “see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently”, repeating it ever-changingly over and over. In the emotionally weakened, open, unstable state I’ve got myself into it brings tears to my eyes and I let them flow and fall, wondering, if anybody notices, what they’ll think my story is. A pure, devout and blameless soul who’s undergone some undeserved and traumatic persecution and identifies her Semitic little self with old Joshua ben Joseph; the new Jesus in a double-D cup, Jesus in her cowboy boots and her mineral make-up? Or do I look more like a penitent sinner, a glamorous murderess perhaps, humbly kneeling on the hard wooden floor to beg of your Christian charity, to receive the forgiveness that comes clouding in the sweet smoke, ready for redemption this Eastertide, for a fresh start, a little resurrection of her own?
I’m somewhere in between, I suppose, but definitely a lot more the latter; far from glamour and Gabriel Garcia Márquez on this blustery night in Scotland in almost-spring, far from Jesus and Saint Paul and all the saints and angels, and also far from, but drifting ever-so-slowly toward, peace.

Outside, as I sit on the steps waiting for my man, a little white feather floats down out of nowhere into my field of vision and I watch it as the wind buffets it bouncingly along down the street, past the clicking stilettos and the unmistakable rivers of last night’s urine, until it blows into the gutter and there it stays. Or to be more optimistic about it, there it is hidden by the kerb from my view, and it goes ahead where I can’t follow. There’s always more than one way of looking at these things.

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