Friday, December 14, 2007

Downtown Saints

The emissaries of Jesus are out today in downtown. Portland is gray, windy, but warm, with yellow cyclones of leaves spinning their way down the streets. A woman approaches me with tight curled and frosted hair and make -up so thick she seems to have had Botox- her facial muscles barely seeming to move beneath her foundation. She wears acid washed jeans, without irony, a letter jacket and carries a shiny Nike sports bag. She also wears a heavy rosewood cross on a leather strap around her neck. She walks carefully, as if trying to float rather than step and her head does not move as she floats along the train walkway. Her wide white smile seems to pull her in its wake.

She does pause occasionally at some soggy sullen teen or heavy woman with shopping bags at her feet – Jesus Loves you – says the smiling woman, the words on her lips never once interfere with the view of her white teeth - the heavy woman smiles, the teen sulks.

Of course she comes to me – Jesus loves you and he takes you just as you are! Isn’t that awesome?

I ask – How am I?

-A sinner- she says happily, her face a perfect and unnerving mixture of blank and compassionate – shinning empty love.

On the train home, a sour smelling man in army fatigues plays a kind of Christian musical chairs by sitting next to various passengers and chanting loudly, in raw rhythm to Jesus for succor in his time of need – passengers switch seats all around him at each burst of his weird hymn.

Before we cross the river, where he bridge is steaming with cold, our pungent preacher and our beaming missionary woman depart the train, hurriedly, like spirits that cannot cross running water.