Trusting Souls
Vida Janulaitis

I find myself at odds here. This is a story not meant to be told. Ever. But the Church of the Holy Virgin stares at me and I'm compelled to confess. People come to Athens every year for the pilgrimage and they have such faith in an icon. First, let me tell you that I make people beautiful. They come to me with all sorts of disfigurations and I spend hours making them into a thing of beauty. Faith and beauty. If you believe someone is beautiful then often they are. I guess that's where it all started, when business was slow and I found life difficult to deal with, I noticed the homeless. They had no life on the streets, barely enough food each day and yet they had such faith. They would come to the Holy Icon looking for something better. How could I disappoint?

It all started with a young man who had an incurable disease, he was meant to die, couldn't afford any care, tossed out by his family and ended up begging on the street. I would bring him food and talked at length with him. One day I brought him something to drink, he gratefully accepted and drank the bottle of wine with an intensity I haven't even seen in a drunk. Minutes later he entered trance like conditions. In his stupor he trusted me to take care of him and I did.

I took him to my place of business and watched him slowly suffocate. The medicinal wine was meant to simply paralyze him. It took nature a little longer to end his life. Then my job began.

I went to see his family and talked them into a proper burial. After all turning your back in life is easier than in death especially when told the funeral would be held in a famous church. They agreed to all the costs. It made them feel less guilty.

I was back in business. The next one was easier. There was nothing wrong with this one. I simply needed the work. The competition had become too much and I wasn't getting my share. Ah, I forgot to mention I was a mortician. I find people too trusting of late. My circle of friends are slowing dying off. But I'm always there for support and of course to bury them at a small charge. Maybe I'll meet you one day. One day the cost of business will become too much.

One day I know I'll see the Holy Virgin in a different light. I always wonder whether it's that day that matters or the next?

First published: August 2002