Twenty-nine people were "let go" from our company yesterday. Regular income, health insurance, friendships and projects now are gone. Dust.
I was told my position would not be affected. My position was not. But my position is not me. Two ladies I will miss especially. C and K managed the small cafeteria in our building. Some would not touch their fare deeming it too starchy or too common. I ate as much of it as I could afford. I work on the third floor and truck in words and sentences. They worked on the ground floor and created dishes out of Velveeta cheese and butter. My walk down to their area always seemed to ground me, remind me of first things: food, drink, breath, laughter, friends. Dust.
My little girl had an accident at school yesterday; she peed her pants. Why? I don't know. Why does anybody pee their pants? In the rush of after-school-do-your-homework-let's-get-ready-for-church, her story was I spilled my drink. The confession just before leaving the house left no time to change. She sat close beside me during the Ash Wednesday service, smelling of urine and little girl. Dust.
Her confession led to anger, frustration, sadness: Why didn't you tell the truth? Then tears, harsh words, several of the deadly sins. As I pulled out of the driveway with a vanload of people having the same last name as me, there was fury: Why in the name of God almighty are we going to church tonight? Huh? Somebody tell me. Dust.
The church was filled with people, many more than they'd anticipated. Before entering the sanctuary, I bent my six-foot frame to forty-one year old knees and felt the priest's thumb: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. It was as if the ashes were still hot.
We all came from different places to have a spiked-hair priest tell us something we already knew. I'd had dust in my mouth all day. But the conclusion of the service surfaced another "remember": remember me when you come into your kingdom. The dust-pocked thief on the cross, hanging by tendons and a prayer. Me.
Almighty, remember us. Please, O God, do not forget us. We have lost our jobs, our way. We have peed and shit ourselves and lied about it, thinking, hoping no one would know. We have grown angry at those so fresh from you and the fruit was anger, wrath. We have spoken words like sticks and stones, words that hurt. We have wrapped ourselves in ourselves and told everybody else to kiss our ass. We've had black-thumbed priests press ashes into our alpha-hydroxy-ed skin and we've risen to then sit before one another, forced to see the marks. Thieves, one and all. Dust.
You hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. You have put us in mind of the message of pardon and absolution. Remember us. Remember me. Amen.