“No one wants you when you have no heart and
I’m sitting pretty in my brand new scars”
-“Hallelujah” by Panic! At the Disco
The pew is cold beneath her, somehow, through the denim of Maya’s jeans and the wool of her coat. The stone feels heavy, the high Gothic arches oppressive. She knows they’re not supposed to- Gothic architecture is all about light, pointing to heaven to glorify. School has taught her that much, she supposes, though that’s a frigid comfort to the darkness around her, darkness that seems to leach from the ebony pews and soak into her bones like invisible ink into parchment.
It’s fitting that the church is empty, given what Maya’s done. An ironic smirk hovers, hesitant. Even she has deserted herself. Evan’s face was blank when he stood and walked away, leaving his drink in the barista’s waiting hands, leaving Maya to scrounge frantically through her purse for enough change to pay for the drink and still go flying after him as he leaves, leaves, leaves. Maya should have known, even as she dodged pedestrians whose surprise didn’t even have time to turn to vague irritation before she was gone, gone, gone, scarf trailing like a flag. She should have known it was too late; he melted back into the city like butter in a pan, and there was nothing else.
Is it wrong to not have cared? That wasn’t the right way to describe how Maya felt, but it was closer than the reckless desire her frenzy implied. The loss of Evan had not felt like the loss of Evan- it had felt like the loss of humanity itself. Compared to that, Evan was unimportant. A mouthpiece for a species who had clearly indicated that Maya didn’t belong. Wasn’t one of them. There were too many, she guessed. Too many mistakes. She had learned too late what love was (and what it wasn’t). Her face feels like ice now, crusted with tears. The church shouldn’t be comforting- religion always seemed like a pretty fantasy that empiricism mocked with the stark truth of data- but she had known it would quiet inside. Maya was right; it’s deserted, but the oppression of its walls is strangely comforting. It seems to know, somehow, who she is and what she’s done. Why she’s done it doesn’t matter here (did it matter anywhere?)- judgment has been passed, and Maya has been found wanting. A pretty fantasy is tempting.
A creak at the front of the cavernous space draws her attention; a choir in red (blood) robes is filing out, spilling around the altar. Maya tries to swipe at frozen tears with her braid, up and out of her seat to run to the door. Beauty is too much now, and sweet piety would be a lie. The people are strangely silent, or maybe the space is too vast, for Maya can’t hear them until her hand is pressed to the cold bronze of the door handle. Her hand falls, slowly, like even gravity is momentarily shocked by the voice produced by so many voices. Are there lyrics? She can’t tell. Without even feeling the motion Maya is seated again, this time in the very last pew by the door, and the voice is still moving through her like the hammer against a string in the innards of a piano. The piano of her heart is waking, which feels like dying, and she thinks she’s crying again, for sight seems gone completely. Her knees are against the floor, and her soul (hopefully that’s not her mouth) is wailing, for this is what she has lost, what she never really had- pure, human beauty, and the realization of loss is a drowning.
Maya doesn’t move until the choir has finished practicing: not when the members shrug out of their red robes and murmur to one another in voices that bounce off the stone that smiles now, not when their priest comes out in his high collar to speak to them, not when they begin to file down the aisle, leaving out the door Maya couldn’t have born to open in twos and threes. She’s frozen, a statue of broken humanity- but, a tap.
“Your braid is pretty,” the pert little girl informs Maya, still tapping her shoulder. A woman beckons her, smiling apologetically at Maya.
“Come, Katie, let the woman pray. Sorry, miss.”
Maya is not sorry. The girl walks back to her mother, red pigtails swinging, and the sheet of ice cracks. “Thank you,” she calls, raising a hand to the girl. For a moment she fears the girl will walk straight out the door, straight out of a heart that needs her for just a moment more.
The girl turns.
“I hope you liked the music,” she says. The door closes between them.
“I loved it,” Maya whispers in the empty church.
Maya never regained her life. In her new one, she goes to the church every week and listens to the blood-red choir sing.