A Sacred Quarantine

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I sat in a room with the four white walls, pristine painted pews, and a

cushion on the benchworn through, but still padded enough for

comfort—and watched people moving up the aisle, one after

the other, to stand before the rector.

“Remember that you are dust,” he told them, stirring oily ashes inside

a clay goblet. “And to dust you will return,” he said, crossing each forehead with a sign.

Yes, there goes another one, I thought, as a woman in soft brown stockings

and pale cotton khakis walked back to her seat.

Oh, no! He has it too, I startled, as a handsome young man brushed

aside shiny black hair, revealing a charcoal smudge.

It seemed as though every person in the building, every heart left

beating in that bright sanctuary, was dying of this sickness, called


Even I will go into the ground someday, I reminded myself,

examining the patients around me; but I didn’t believe it. Not really

that is. Not until I looked into those priestly eyes myself, and felt the

slow, earthen movement of his warm and dirty thumb.

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