(Inspired by “Love” by Lydia Davis)
A woman fell in love with a man who had been dead a number of years. Several hundred years, in fact. She saw his face through the glass. Even though his nose and cheekbones protruded like the features of an Egyptian mummy, even though he was shorter than she—his head having been replaced after he was killed and then canonized–, even though the clothes he wore were frayed and impossibly outdated. Despite all that, she fell in love with his beatific expression.
She came to the church every day of her husband’s conference. While he sat with other business people in the leather and smoke of the room at the hotel, she sat with her love. She sat as close as she could, in the first pew, unless there was a mass. She sat and told her rosary through her fingers and gazed at his sweet face.
His glass case was edged in gold. He wore a gold miter on his head. Even his fingers were encased in little gold caps. She stared at his face so long, with such yearning, that he seemed to breathe. She saw his eyelids ripple as if he were dreaming and would wake up at any moment. When he did awaken, she was sure he would be smiling, smiling at her, of course. And he would push open the lid, gather up his robes, and step out onto the stone floor.
He would hold out his hand to her, a hand miraculously restored to firm, warm flesh (minus the gold finger caps) and he would say her name, “Kathleen,” and then…
This was where it ended. Then what? He was a saint, a performer of miracles, a martyr, and she was the plump wife of the owner of a chain of dollar stores.
Could she throw herself at his booted feet? Could she plead, “Take me with you, wherever you go? Please, please, just let me be with you!”
One day when the church was empty of people, she knelt at the side of his glass case. She leaned her head against the cool glass, clutching her rosary of onyx beads in her hand.
That is where the priest found her. Her husband accompanied the body back to Atlanta. Several weeks passed before the priest noticed that there was a rosary of onyx beads wrapped around the saint’s wrist.