Photo by Khara Woods on Unsplash
In the vestibule, Mum dips her hand in holy water, blesses each of her wayward flock with the sign of the cross. We are well-practiced in this deception: know when to kneel, stand, and pray, say ‘amen’ in the right places and, at the call for Communion, remain seated. Before this grief, I would’ve grinned at our perfectly timed performances, not understanding the comforts of polished pews, polished answers.
Between a boarded-up chippy and a boarded-up florist second- or third-hand fridges lean to attention. But there are no passers-by, no eyes to catch and tempt – just fallen leaves, empty buses, artificial light. In the shelter of a closed shop door a teenager tugs at his hoodie, lifts a cigarette with his left hand, shakes a cannister in his right. Across every shutter one word in thick black paint repeats like a mantra, or prayer. The streetlights splutter on.