Just for a moment
When I was a kid, I went to church because my parents wanted me to. Later, I had friends I wanted to see and besides, it was just the thing to do. So why now? Why am I sitting in this same backrow pew I’ve been in every Sunday for God knows how many years? Routine? Do I need stability in my life so badly that I have to get up every Sunday morning and sacrifice another hour of sleep, just because I always have? Is that why everyone else does it?
The faces, surrounding me in half-empty pews. Bored faces, sad faces, but mainly happy faces. An empty happiness. They see me and they smile and I smile back, but it’s fake. It’s all a terrible sham. I see them every week but I have no idea who they are. They think they know me, but they don’t. All they can see is a clean, healthy veneer, and not what’s underneath. But I look happy.
Maybe that’s what it is. I need the fake happiness because it’s the only kind I’ve got. Pretending to be happy is better than being genuinely miserable, isn’t it? I need to be reminded of what things used to be like. See the fake people and pretend to be someone real so I can remember what real people and real life felt like. Remember a time when people were actually happy and I was too.
I come here and sing about how I love God, hear someone tell me I love God, and for a moment, just for a moment, I can, and I can feel him love me, too.
And I’m in heaven.
Then it’s gone, and I’m back to being myself, loveless and unloving, back to being myself, pretending to be someone better. Trying to fake it until I make it back to heaven. Trying to slip the veneer back over the rotting carcass, but it never fits quite as right as it did before, and it never will again. I miss an hour’s worth of sleep for that moment, and the rest of the week I tell myself it’s worth it.
The sermon’s over. We’re holding hands. The choir is singing. Everyone is singing. I’m singing, too. I hate singing, but I pretend not to.
[Original title: “Pretenses”]