Two freak-outs in the Roman wall and one outside

1) Missa est

I became quite familiar with the correct route to the church, though it was very difficult to find. The old streets that led to it were winding and didn’t follow a standard grid. I was always confused when trying to find it. I don’t come from this place.

I suppose, thinking of it now, it isn’t really a church. I think that once upon a time, it had been a church, but the building had long since been converted into a theatre. I suppose the difference between a church and a theatre really only depends on two things: It depends on what people are doing inside it and it depends on the ornamentation.

The vicar was waiting for me when I arrived at the door. Handing me the key, he said, “Leave it in the letterbox once you have finished.”

“Thank you,” I said, “I will.” And with that he was gone and I haven’t seen him since that day. I never needed to again.

The key was large and old. It was strange to me that a key this old hadn’t been lost over the years, or that a key so old would still be functional in this day and age. It didn’t seem essential in providing a secure closure for the building, knowing what kind of technology we have now. It was more of a security blanket for the peace of mind of the proprietors and owners. As I turned it and passed through the doors, I took three steps to the left and using the number written on the tag hanging on the key, deactivated the alarm which had begun to buzz when I opened the door. The buzzing stopped at the pressing of the fifth button.

It was down a narrow, winding street and nobody would know. I hadn’t yet told anyone I would be there. Nobody was expecting me. I simply turned the key in the lock and the door swung open, darkness and an enormous void appearing behind it. It was the perfect place for something like this. It had to be done quickly. It would have been better at night. It would have flowed better. Nevermind.

I went to the confessional. In the dark stall, lit dimly by a ray of daylight entering through a stained-glass window, I saw nothing. Just the seat and a worn cushion, covered in material long since out of fashion. I entered the room. It was no room, as big as a broom cupboard. I sat down in front of the little window where the penitents confess. Beneath the seat, I could feel a small area about the size of a cubby. Reaching in my hand, I felt a small bundle. This was what I had come here for. Quickly, I grabbed it and exchanged it for a smaller bundle. The exchange was made. It felt like about a kilogram.

I raced past the transept and down the nave, out the door. I locked the heavy door quickly, depositing the key in the letterbox where I had found it. This might turn out to be a regular thing. Or, I might never come here again.

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2) Mollis ad astra via

I found that the door opened easily when I ran my shoulder straight through it. Littered with pipes and needles in the cobblestones. I have come to worship. St. John the Evangelist, Friday Street.

Like I have been in days past, down by the river, cheek to jowl, shoulder to elbow. I find that the pews are comfortable, I worship well. I find that the confessional is commodious; I get a lot of thinking done there. I could feel the stars passing down through sunlit windows. Like the tailor in his shop beside, or the tobacconist.

Above everything was a purple picture of god. It had callouses and yearning and kindling and dough and all the trappings of heaven. The colours of the immaculate never fail to dazzle. It sounded like the liquid of sky, from around. Something was coming from underneath the door. Don’t be afraid of being heard, that’s why we’re at least going through the motions, because we think it makes a difference. If they really are listening. You really should only want to be heard if you think they are listening. And then the music begins. To play the game close, and low. One vote per finger. I’m missing a finger.

You put your finger in a bag, and it comes out with extacy, put your hand in a cubby and out come 100,000 pounds. You can take yourself to places afar, and make riches untold. Counting facts, figures, measurements. Learn to spell things correctly, using just the power of your open mind. And language was opened unto you. Speak now, the elders are listening. They will teach you to run their machines. The mentions and motions of tattoos have betrayed your falsehoods. Commodities of the new world, sounds of commerce far off in the distance.

I wanted to learn something about myself here, and maybe gain some measure of rest, a fine edge of awareness. I wanted the sensory deprived sanctity that only a sacred or serene place could provide, and so to find the pure font of inspiration, the wellspring of life, something so irrevocably human, and then maybe I wouldn’t be traced so far. Like a rough draft of things past, with plenty of time for practice. Dark notes of chocolate and sapphire, cash crops of our dynasty, beatitudes of our devotion, indentures of our servitude. The promise of god and a new day. All Hallows Bread Street.

3) Sicut in caelo et terram

This is where the spirit becomes flesh. This is where the sacrament that we have added to our chalice has begun to take its effect. From Crutched Friars through the Savage Garden past blind old Samuel Pepys and his secret language. We all have a language of our own. To Trinity and Byward and Great Tower, rolling on our own wheels and flying on wings of angels. Then Eastcheap and Cannon past the bald dome at Ludgate. Daily bread and express pizza. And filing past the reporters and writers on Fleet Street who try to stop us and say, “How do you find the city, Mr. So-and-so?” and, “How much was that dress Missa Dandova?” And at the Strand where they say, “O rare Samuel Johnson,” with his Gladstone full of dictionaries. And there is a theatre where my father saw the Mikado. And there is the theatre where Diana, and later, where I saw the Mikado. And we stop for a few minutes in the vestibule to breathe kisses upon one-another, and to breathe in once again the secret vapor of ourselves, renewed and reinvigorated from the exchange of fluid and vapour, and cross-filtration. Breathing in your breath and you breathe in mine, and, lips locked on and arms clutching with the strength of revolution, I look up at the wall and someone has written “graffiti sucks” in permanent marker, in a lovely banker’s blue. And there is the teashop that has been there for three hundred years. And there is the little shop that specializes in timepieces just like my father’s where someday I must hire their services and purchase a new strap.

And reaching the square to look up at the sky and see one thousand six hundred and sixty-six pigeons shoot into the sky at once with the synchronization of Busby Berkeley’s aquatic dancers. Racing through the doors and past the tourists, buttery wings aflutter, billing and cooing in the chancel while from next door there float individual notes of Baroque masterpieces, hovering briefly in the air like doves and hummingbirds of peace and joy, recovering a normal rhythm of breathing, sweeping the heavenly pavement of forehead with my panache, returning to the unstained pastures of heaven. Adveniat regnum tuum. In the murmur of the glory and the grandeur forever, clean of sin and plainly in the eyes of the almighty, in the name of all that is holy. Taking, making, and transcending, world without end, to give the great gift and hold it in the air for a brief moment. In nomine filii et filiae et spiritus sancti.

Godric Rochlen is a writer from California whom nobody knows anything about. He is tall, has blue eyes, likes books, languages, and Catalunya. A lot of other Americans mistake him for being English. His favorite BBC programmes are Are You Being Served? and Monty Python.

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Wells Street Journal

The Wells Street Journal is a publication by the students of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Westminster. It is a diverse collection of writing with London as our inspiration.