My 2006 NaNoWriMo novel. Woo! Note: since I am posting as I go along, the storyline is backwards. To read this, start from the oldest post and read to the newest.

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Location: Los Angeles, United States

I am an awkward, stubborn, slightly insane woman who would rather talk Plato than Prada, rather watch Frank Capra than Carrie Bradshaw, and rather listen to Norse myths sung in Icelandic than anything currently on the radio. Yeah. Told you I was weird.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Chapter 8

I sat at the table, listening to everyone else talking and laughing. The Seder supper lessons had resumed after the Christmas break, and tonight we were going over the basics of the ritual. Marie said we'd go over it every month until April. To be honest, I wasn't really paying that much attention. I figured I'd done my utmost simply by showing up, and I didn't really care to do much more.
I absorbed a few things. Parts of the ritual seemed very familiar; parts were completely strange to me. I was strangely moved by the opening of the ceremony, in which the matriarch covers her haed with a cloth, and moves her hands over the candles, as if summoning their light to her eyes. There was a lot of blessing, a lot of breaking, and a lot of bread, before the meal began. Though we weren't really participating in the ceremony, we did go ahead and have a meal, since the Our Lady people seemed to like to take any chance to get together to eat.
There was something after the meal, about ransoming one of the cracker-type pieces of bread, but I'd seemed to miss the first part of that, so I wasn't sure what was going on there. Marie and the leaders of the session were quick to start the dancing as soon as the teaching had finshed.
I didn't want to dance. I really didn't want to dance. But someone grabbed my hand and dragged me nto the circle anyway.
The goings and comings of the dance seemed to mirror the ins and outs of my own thinking, weaving first one way and then another. I started to become slightly dizzy, head spinning. I managed to keep my feet through the first dance, but stumbled through the second. By the third, I was barely on my feet. It was a newer dance, one we'd only done once before, and a direction change took me by surprise. Unable to get my feet to respond in time, I fell, hard, trying my best to at least land out of the way of the other dancers. I half ran, half crawled out of the circle, waving off the people nearby who reached out to help me. "No, I'm ok, just keep going." They finished the dance, then Marie clapped her hands and called the time to an end. Several people came up to me to ask if I was ok, and many more cast concerned glances my way. I was determined not to notice, and gradually the room cleared. I'd had to catch a bus to the church that night, and the next one wasn't running until 10pm. It was only 9:15 and I didn't want to join the crowd moving towards the door, so I pretended to be searching for something in my backpack.
I noticed that the room had gradually gone quiet, and looked up, expecting to see an empty room. Instead, I saw a hand extended towards me, holding out a cup of tea.
"I thought you might need this," said Marie. "It'll keep you hydrated and might help settle you down a little." She smiled, her red hair forming a shining nimbus around her face. "Besides, I think it'd be best if you sat down for a while." She handed me a spoon and a few packets of sugar, then sat down with her own cup of tea. She took a preliminary sip, then set her cup down, wrapping her long, thin hands around the cup as if for warmth.
"It seems like you're really enjoying the dancing, Jason, despite today."
"Yeah...I guess I do." I let a mouthful of the tea warm my throat, before continuing. "I think I'm just tired, really."
"Yeah, I know how that goes. So, tell me a little bit about yourself. I've seen you around a lot, but I haven't really had a chance to talk to you. I guess that's the case pretty often with the college students here. It's hard to get rides and stuff, to get up to church for anything other than services. Jerry, my husband, wants to try to get the students more involved, to get tranportation set up, but there's nothing certain yet."
"It's not always that big a deal to get ride, it's just being so busy. Schedules are just really weird when you're in college."
"Yeah, that's the truth. So, what are you studying anyway, what classes do you like?"
"I haven't really settled on a major yet, so I'm mostly just doing humanites right now. I figure they'll come in handy, no matter what I do." I ripped open one of the packets of sugar, and slowly stirred it into my cup. "I guess my most interesting class right now is my Bible class, but that's only because we've been arguing a lot."
Marie laughed; her whole face lit up, skin shining like alabaster. I hadn't really known a smile could look like that. "Arguments can be one of the best ways to learn things. So what's the current debate?"
"Holiness, I think. What it is, who has it, whether it can be gained and how. Things like that." I finished the tea, and set the cup back on the table. "There are several people in the class who don't seem to want holiness at all, and think a holy human being is a boring one. Then there are a few that think holiness is easy. At least, I think that their version of it sounds too easy. Read your Bible, Pray, etc."
"And what do you think?"
"I haven't got a clue. I think it must exist, and it seems that some people have become holy, but how it happens...?" I shrugged.
"Hey, what's up? Dancing all finished?" A tall man strode into the room, smiling face half-covered with a graying charcoal beard. "Hi, I'm Jerry, you're Jason Slocum, right?"
I half-rose from my seat, reaching out to shake his extended hand. "Yeah, how'd you know?"
He pointed to the bulliten board in the corner of the room. "They put up pictures of the newcomers at church over there, so everyone can get to know them. Do you remember Father Everett taking your photo?"
I sort of did remmeber someone coming up to me during my second week at Our Lady, and snapping a photo, but had gotten pulled away by Ryan to head back to school, and hadn't thought about it since. So that what happened to that photo.
Jerry sat down, and leaned across the table. "So you're a student, right? That's an awesome time of life."
Somehow, Jerry gave off the impression of being completely absorbed in me and my inane attempts at comversation. I'd never had such a feeling of total attention before.
"Well, Jason, I need to get Marie home, but it was great to meet you! Are you headed back to the school? We'd be happy to drop you off."
"No, that's ok, I'm taking the bus, and it's just down the street." I checked my watch; 9:45, plenty of time.
"Are you sure? It's no trouble at all."
"Yeah, I'll be fine. But thanks for asking."
"Ok, well, see you around!"
I headed out into the night, leaving them to lock up the building. The stars were mostly hidden in the smog, but a few shone through the haze. It wasn't until I sat down on the bus that I realized my dizziness and confusion had passed.


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