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On Religion at Eleven

By Victoria Nesmelova 

Religion sounds beautiful in Russian; prayers, chants and songs float down from heaven when sung by thousands with the same religion, blood and bones. The congregation sits like rigid lines with ironed shirts and covered hair for women when they pray (in whispered tones- they must not speak). My lips are sealed. The men cry, or when they pray their voices break and dance on the verge of tears. They sit on cushioned benches in walls I watched my father build as I ran around the empty rooms playing hide and seek. He wears a baseball cap and walks around in church without his baseball cap holding a cup of wine, touched hundreds of times with different lips, or a black velvet bag passed down the lines collecting cash, and coins, and meals within its grip. My dress presses against my skin like dust inside a desert storm. “Христос воскрес, воистину воскрес” they chant as one. But across my street they drink until red and blue lights come knocking on their door and teenage girls pour liquor on the roses at the edge of our backyard. I watch them laughing through my window blinds. One night my neighbor left his kids outside to cry, their sounds drowned out by the pouring rain. I heard them though; we let them in our house until the drops stopped collecting in our ears and walked them back. Their father opened up the door to their green house. I saw him on the bench that week in a pressed white button- down, head bowed down and fingers clasped.

Victoria Nesmelova is a writer from Westfield, Massachusetts. She focuses on short form nonfiction with an emphasis on political or personal issues.

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