the baptism

“how was church?”

it is a text on a small bright screen.

it is a joke.

how was church?

there was a baptism.


At church the ceilings are vaulted and high like a waxen diamond except it is wooden paneling and it is more like a very airy cabin with rustic wide chandeliers, chandeliers that look more like spoons or glowing ladles dipping down and flanking the corners and in the center standing at the alter is a couple.


They are young.


Exceptionally young.


The woman (of course it is a woman), has more wrinkles than the man (of course it is a man) but we don’t know this yet; the man has a face of rubber and an elastic smile, he has strong framed black glasses and lush black hair cut down the middle and swinging, he looks like a nineties lawyer. The couple’s features are curved and blunt and symmetrical, they could be movie stars, they aren’t, this is a suburb, they are well dressed.


Exceptionally young.

How old are they?

They are not even thirty.

They want to baptize their child.


I think, “Jesus,” to myself and then realize that it is inappropriate and then realize that it is entirely appropriate and am stunned by this realization and say nothing.


The priest is a man in a blue robe with white hair. They say their names. They say, “Lauren Mensel” and “Adam Mensel”

“The child?”

“Bryn Ashton Mensel.”


An incredibly elegant woman walks in donning a long beige winter coat, identical to the color of her messy straw hair. Sharp, precise features, she slides in as discreetly as she can, everybody notices.


Bryn Ashton Mensel is sleeping. She.


I don’t know what the woman at the alter is wearing. Her face is impassive, her husband wears a suit, she wears something in a shade of brown.


The elegant woman’s presumed husband enters. He is Superman. Everybody knows it. He has eyes of crystal and a jaw of steel and his hair is waved brown and he is cut beneath his business-casual turtleneck, he is cut you can just tell, “I’ve never seen such a good looking man in my life,” some women whispers to her daughter, leaning away from her husband—there is a child the man is holding against his shoulder, a boy.


In fact everybody in the audience (of course it is an audience, it is a mass) is young and good looking for it. It is strange for the church regulars, they are in awe, they are pleased. It is the baptism. These young people bring children. They are Catholic. They are at church. This is a baptism. They see their friends. They bring their children. They are quiet and some are smiling.


Behind the couple at the alter stands a slightly more awkward pair. A woman and a man. The woman is Asian and heavier, she wears an unflattering loose shirt and long skirt, she is tall, she is the woman’s best friend, she is the godmother, they went to school together they were straight A students and studied and giggled together and she is totally sensitive to being watched but then again not at all, everything is written on her face, she feels, she is feeling, she is poking behind the couple, trying to see the baby, she is unafraid to do this, she is the blunt-featured brunette woman’s whose name should be Meghan not Lauren ’s best friend and the godmother and stands on tiptoe, trying to see Bryn.


The man at the alter still looks like rubber with that elastic grin, he still looks like he’s from a sitcom with that black haircut and those glasses and that suit and my mother is laughing, actually she is chuckling but she can’t seem to stop.


The man behind the man at the alter is his best friend and not standing close to the Asian woman. He has long unruly hair and jeans under his jacket and is decidedly less polished than the father, a double chin but carefully shaved, a hooked nose, a sense of franticness, a waft of the musician maybe, but his hand is on the other man’s shoulder, and he keeps it there, and you know it is warm, and you know they are best friends, even though this married couple is like their better halves, their halves before they met their halves, you know they are best friends, the pair behind the couple stands above them on a step like guardians or angels or parents.


Then the pair leaves the alter and the couple with the baby.


The pair descends into the audience.


There must’ve been some words in between this but I forgot them or they were murmured.


They part through the center of the pews and reach a tall, white candle. It was silent but now it is still.


They light the candle. The unkempt godfather holds it, shielding it with a hand, striding forward, they walk slowly, the parents at the alter silent, watching, the baby silent, sleeping. They approach the parents and place it down, they look at the parents, the parents hold back their smiles with tenderness towards their friends, the priest suddenly reappears. He is the middleman. He is the middleman only.


I don’t know why I’m crying.


The priest in the robe cups the baby’s head in a wet hand; three times, he rinses her small undiscernible forehead. It is not oil, it is water. It is blessed water. The baby does not make a single sound.


When I was baptized, I was naked and fleshy and they dunked me in a glass case of water. I was gulping, I was giggling, I don’t remember, I was cleaned.


“I’m kind of hesitant to do this,” the priest says, turning, facing the audience, the mass, gathered here today, “because she’s sleeping so soundly, but you can clap now.”


A roar of clapping. We are all standing. I forget how that happened. I cannot see the couple anymore. Then I do, uneclipsed, they are smiling. First at us, then at the child, then at each other. The godfather’s hand on the father’s shoulder, the godmother with a grin that splits her face. I believe it’s called beaming.


The ceremony mass finishes. There are children everywhere.


There are children everywhere.


I can’t stop crying. Nobody notices.


The children are frantic or idle but everywhere and uniform and cannonballistic and kaleidoscopic and I stop in the parlor of the mansion of God’s building, his arms wrapped round us for a second, just one—I stop there off center where they are standing, this man and this woman, this woman and this man, this girl and boy this couple these parents and infant, swathed in lace Bryn is beautiful and I cannot even see her, she is sleeping, and I start saying something but I can’t, an elderly lady with frail dyed red hair and a plush brown coat cuts in front of me, says something more graciously, I move on as if in a dream, up close the woman has more wrinkles around her eyes than the man and has strong legs and wears an autumnal brown dress and there are children everywhere. Outside the sun is bright and cold and the sky is an enormous vaulted diamond.