Choirs of Angels: Palm Sunday (cont.)
(continued from earlier post)
Fighting fatigue and general pregnancy malaise, I headed to Sunday rehearsal at nine. My husband had gone for an early morning run with a friend and would meet up with me at church.
As I entered the building, I kept harboring a hope that I would faint or puke or do something that would otherwise force me to crawl back home to bed and to my sleep. The choir was gathering in the outer fellowship room. I took one of the few remaining seats, because I could barely stand.
*Plop* Down beside me sat the "Other Soprano." She smiled like an eagle surveying its lunch as her eyes shifted over to me. She peered deeply into my eyes through her coke bottle bottom glasses, furrowed her brow and asked, "How's everything in your life these days?"
This seemed an odd question, considering that she and I had never discussed my life or anything else, for that matter. I stared wide-eyed and made no reply. Was she asking about the pregnancy, which seemed to be a favorite topic of strangers? Did she really want to know my life story? And if so, where did I start?
After several seconds of my silence, she decided to help the conversation along with a gentle prod, "How are things going with this economy?" I was dazzled by this strange choice of direction and was egging my frazzled brain to fabricate a cohesive response when she continued the conversation without me, "I have the best job in the world. I make good money and I'm as happy as can be!" Then she launched into a thorough report of her long and varied work history. I stared helplessly around the fellowship hall. I had been so grateful to find this open chair so I could sit down and now I wanted nothing more than to run away.
After exhausting herself on this topic, she noticed I was rubbing my belly. It was a protective and self-soothing gesture on my part. She interpreted this as a fetal interruption to 'our' conversation. "Oh, settle down in there!" she hollered at my midsection, "We're trying to talk!" I suddenly truly disliked this woman.
She went on to tell me about her son and his lifelong habit of sucking his thumb in the most embarrassing manner. The doctor told her the boy would never stop when he was pictured numerous times in vetro with his thumb in his mouth and 'sure enough!' even when he was in the marines, he would get under his blanket for fifteen minutes in the afternoon for a 'nap' and suck his thumb. My mind was reeling with pity for this poor young man, whoever he was, and all I could think of was escape.
"I really should try to use the restroom before we begin," I said and waddled away as fast as my legs could carry me. Breathing a sigh of relief in the bathroom stall and then laughing under my breath at the poor mothered by this woman. All his life secrets spilling out of every side of her to complete and total strangers. I expect if I had sat there much longer, she would have told me of his extra toe or mismatched genitalia. If she were my mother, I think I'd cower under a blanket with my thumb in my gob as well.
I forced myself to return and found my assailant departed, so I resumed my seat. We practiced a song or two (while 'Other Soprano' attempted to contradict the director's instructions behind her back, only to be told by the rest of the choir, 'She changed it in rehearsal. You weren't there.') My husband came into the hall just before we all processed into the church. All I could manage was a weak smile as he walked in.
Madame Volume arrived in a sweeping floor-length red halter gown, covered in shining sparkles. Evidently, she was to sing a solo this morning.
In the Choir loft at the front of the church, we took our places and began one of the longest services of the calendar year (I wanted to curl up in a ball and go to sleep). The sweet woman next to me noticed I was clutching the railing in front of us and occasionally sitting down. She was extremely solicitous and after I began fanning myself for cooling relief, she put a wet cloth on my neck and rubbed my back. She and the alto on my right kept suggesting escape routes and times, but it made no sense to gather up every belonging I owned in the front of the entire congregation just to walk past my husband, get in my car and go home. I didn't really see what sitting in the outside room would do to make things better either. So I stayed and fanned and drank water till I nearly burst and tried to sing.
It wasn't till the communion solo by Madame Volume that I truly understood the attitude of the rest of the choir. As my husband came to the front, Madame Volume hit a particularly high note at full volume. My husband cringed. I laughed. The sweet lady next to me noticed and said, 'What's so funny?" I told her of my husband's reaction. "My fiance tells me to stop rolling my eyes up here when she sings, because everyone can see it. Truth is, no one can shut her up." Encouraged by this frank assessment of the situation, I confessed that she was the reason I had stopped coming at the onset. "Oh, I know." she responded. "We all know that!" I leaned in and asked her, "Do you ever feel... redundant?" She looked up at me with mock seriousness and said,
"The rest of us might as well go home!"
I snickered a little and she and I elbowed each other for the rest of the service every time the two sopranos fought over the same high note and made the windows rattle.
I crawled home and to bed. My husband made me breakfast and let me sleep. Bless him.