Lesbian Nuns Who Did Not Achieve Martyrdom

And now, as I sit in this echoing cathedral I wonder: ‘what are the thoughts that invade my mind?’ Is it really a time for reflection, contemplation, marvel or is it merely an extension of the thoughts that came before I walked through those doors? I can’t help but cast my mind back to the last religious imagery I saw: a small  wooden Jesus carved into a phallus; two nude women lying, knotted, in a derelict barn in the dry heat of summer; one possessed by the idea that she is the wife of Jesus, the other possessed by the idea that she must run. Run as far away as possible, run lest she fall back into the trap of religion. And so it is that I sit in the cathedral, in the old town of Nice, surrounded by icons of anguish whilst ‘misere mei’ plays softly over the concealed speakers, and I can think of nothing but lesbian nuns who did not achieve martyrdom. 
        Looking around at the other people sitting on the pews, I begin to wonder what they are thinking of too. Are they really examining the golden stucco, the polychromatic marble, the body of Christ upon the cross? Are they looking and seeing, or are they staring into a place beyond their eyes; a place that no one else has access to. Are they thinking about Italian lesbian nuns who speak in French on screen with English subtitles? A little girl turns from the front pew and stares at me. I stare back. I panic that she knows what I’m thinking about but her expression remains blank as she turns back to face front. What is she thinking about? 
        An older couple sit a few rows ahead of me, unspeaking. The wife, faded and lined by the southern sun, touches her ear, then her nose, and then strokes her chin, looking around slowly at the niches. She looks exceptionally bored as she twists her face around to the altar and watches another couple. I follow her gaze. The couple is oddly dressed, both wearing mis-matched miscellaneous items and one of them carries a rather too large straw basket and long scarf. At first I think they are a lesbian couple but then I realise one of the women is actually a man and I become disappointed. That’s what happens when you can’t stop thinking about sapphic French lovers in a holy place.
        I turn to look back at the bored retiree but realise both of them are gone. In fact, I realise that I’m the only one left sitting except for one man. Is he alone too? I’ve been here longer than I expected to be and just as the words ‘I deserve to be happy’ flash up on my phone screen from a silly app, my stomach grumbles loudly. The choral music has stopped playing anyway so I get up and take a look at the left hand side transcept into the closest niche. It comprises a large painting of the Virgin Mary and Jesus whose hearts are both on fire. This should be an inspiring image but the rendering of the paint makes it appear tacky. The next thing I notice is that the gold stucco sitting atop the painting does not glint but instead sits dull and heavy for a thick layer of dust has settled on it from years of apathy. I make my way onto the next niche, then the next, and the next but I decide that I don’t really like any of the paintings that much. The only thing I really like are the stained-glass windows that hover high above the heart of the crossing; but I’m not wearing my glasses so maybe I wouldn’t like them either if I could only see them properly. My stomach growls again so I make my way to the exit, my heels meeting the checkered marble floors with a satisfying ‘clack clack.’ I avoid the gaze of the man running the building who knows I haven’t donated any money. I didn’t have any change.
        Squinting my eyes as I re-enter the sunlit square I turn right and continue on my journey towards the beachfront. Ahead, the market traders have begun to pack up their stalls. One flower stand has already been abandoned, leaving unsold, dying bouquets of memento mori that passersby take to mean ‘free.’ A young woman stoops to collect one of the pinky purple bunches. A breeze passes through the sleepy market so that her blonde hair and cream shirt rise then fall in unison. She smiles, pleased with her discovery and turns towards the clock tower. Petals slowly flutter behind her as the dying, bone-dry bouquet begins to disintegrate steadily in the girl’s soft hands. She parts the three stems to try and stanch the flow of confetti spilling from the twigs. Sadly this action only serves as a catalyst for destruction so that the only evidence of a bouquet is the path of purples and pinks that trail behind the girl. They float delicately like butterflies and then take their final resting place on the scorched pavement. The last of the petals glide past my face as I leave the flower parade to turn right and follow the arches into the promenade.
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