Sunday morning, 8am. Ten of us meet in the parking lot of the guest house. The van pulls up and the driver hops out to open the side door. We duck our heads in and find our seats. It still smells like new plastic. It will probably always smell like new plastic.
Out the gates and up the expressway we go. I try to pay attention to the land whizzing by, but my eyes get drowsy and start to close. Twenty kilometers into the city, we slow to a crawl. The shift in speed jolts me awake. Stop and go. Stop and go. There are honks and shouts. It seems like everyone in the city is out.
We pull up to the church. Hundreds of people are already there laughing and talking and slowly filling the pews, inside the building and along the sides. Women in bright dresses and head wraps. Men in slacks and button downs. We look undressed by comparison.
We find space in one of the pews. All ten of us in a line. We could probably fit five more people, but we refuse to get that close to each other. The American idea of personal space is hard-wired in our brains. And we all have a thin layer of sweat that we'd rather not share. There's no AC in this building, but even if there were it would be a waste of energy. All the doors are open. Above us, large fans whirr, but they are too high to make much of a difference. Beside me, Megan digs into her purse for her electric fan. She picks up her hair and tries to cool the back of her neck. Down the pew my mom fans herself with the bulletin.
There is quiet as mass begins. Stand. Sit. Kneel. Sit. Amen. Muscle memory. Communion is where things get interesting. This church is traditional. Old Catholicism. Women are supposed to cover our heads. The Americans grumble. Doilies come out. A baseball cap. A scarf. We stand to walk down the center aisle. It goes on for ages. Not short and sweet like in the States, where there are only a few hundred people in a tiny church. A thousand people have to get to the priest. The Body of Christ. Amen.
We come back to our pew. Wait five minutes. Ten. The line is still going. People start coming in from the pews outside. The adults glance at each other and nod. We quietly file out of the pew and out into the sunlight. "No need to stay for the final blessing," they had silently communicated to each other.
The van is waiting. We climb in, closing the door behind us. The cool air of the AC hits us. I shiver a little as the cold hits my sweat. We beat the post-mass rush back to the peninsula.