At St. Patrick's
by MARK ARTURO
He's the the only man I regret.
Stress comes and goes in waves at this time. Recently I read a novel about the adventures of a bird in a human's body. The bird becomes very depressed, as you might imagine, and eventually catches a cold because he gets claustrophobic in rooms and has to walk the streets. Eclipsing what I believed the basic difference between a bird and a man, he is disappointed to be so large.
This is the first fact of being a man he understands as difficult, and strains at it.
I have been a man since the early 1980s. This was a low period for St. Patrick's Cathedral. They had plenty of money, but not so many parishioners. This is what the security guard at the North door tells me. I am not allowed to bring the only object into St. Patrick's that I would really like to, which is a miracle.
The bird eventually, and I read this on wikipedia since I could not finish the book, becomes obsessed with Ella Fitzgerald and wishes to meet her. The novel kind of had Blade Runner vibes. I wouldn't recommend it.
I remember my first teacher on the subject. She told me that the thing people do most often that gives them away is they blink too much. You can't measure a heartrate from across the room.
Spending a lot of time in the cathedral has its perks. You've never seen construction workers so well-behaved and giggly. Jesus, I think, would love these men. The only thing that reminds me of our lord, then, is something outside of the church, that seems to be preying on it as it reinstates a fastidiousness of purpose I have always found entirely at odds with faith.
There was a certain amount of time, as a mere child, when I questioned the ways of this place.
If faith was for everyone, then it would be meaningless. Defined by his most moral enemy, Michael came to earth, not bothering to disguise the fact that he was the greatest of angels. He asked all his devout, "Do you think I appear this way to those who displease me?" and they shook their heads.
Some believed. You can walk out that north entrance to the cathedral to Saks Fifth Avenue, and it always feels seamless. When I knew the bishop here, he would never do any shopping - he hated the long escalators, the feeling of being in a rat's maze. He said, "A holy place can be nicer than a store, a factory, a restaurant. But it seems it always is, and that's what makes me wonder. I keep waiting for someone to take iconography away from Christians, but they never grab the mantle solidly enough." I recall that I replied it was never ours to begin with.
Of course the bird in the human body misses flying the most. He goes to a man who he believes can restore him his wings. The man refuses to engage with the project unless he knows the reason the bird was changed into a man initially. So the bird inhales the laboratory air, and tells his best, last lie. He says it was an accident.
Keeping the cathedral open during its renovation was half a stroke of genius, half a gauche mistake. It makes me realize that this is a just a place like any other. You can't take pictures in the chapel area, because it's where the saddest of the believers position themselves, and one condition of their grief is that they not be observed by technology.
The bird man meets Ella Fitzgerald. Both of her legs are missing, and she is depressed. The bird man leaves disappointed.
I wish to meet Michael one day. I dream of it. I hope he will come to see me here, in this place, so I wait for him. If he does not come, I know it means he does not like this place. If he comes to Saks Fifth Avenue, I might assume he does not like St. Patrick's Cathedral, but it could be just that he slightly missed his mark. If he visits in my sleep I will try to tell him the miracle, which is this: sometimes I feel I have been on this earth for too long.
Mark Arturo is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about JMW Turner's theory of color.
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