Darren looked up at the large building, his eyes tracing every curve, every arch. It was a slate gray, though it had been a pure white when he was a boy. Over the years the dirt and grime had been allowed to build up and no one had washed it away. People entered and left the building at a steady pace, mass didn’t start for another several hours, but confession was being held. A part of Darren longed to stand and walk through those doors, to go into the box and confess all of his sins and be granted absolution. But he wouldn’t. He couldn’t.
Every day on his lunch break he came to this bench, where he would sit and eat his lunch, once that was done he would just look at the building, take it in. It had been a huge part of his life once. The first time he had sat on this bench he had been nervous, he expected people to recognise him, to come over and chat. No one did. No one had approached him in the last five months he had been sitting here. Even those he recognised would scurry past, pretending not to see him. As if afraid that his lack of faith was contagious. He had been so involved in that place, ever since he was a child and though he didn’t like to admit it, it hurt that these people, some of whom he once considered close friends, were ignoring him.
He understood their reservations, after all there was nothing to spark off his crisis of faith. One night he said his prayers and went to sleep and the next morning he woke up questioning everything he had believed in. One or two people suggested it was because of the death of his wife, Annabelle, three months before. Darren knew that wasn’t the case, before he had the comfort of knowing that he’d see her again some day, and that they’d be together in heaven. Now though, now he didn’t expect to see her smiling face when he died, just endless darkness.
Darren packed up the remains of his lunch and put them into his bag, his break was almost finished. He stood from the bench, looked at the church one last time, then he left. He didn’t know what he expected from coming here every day, maybe that the answers would be revealed to him, or that God would provide something for him to grab onto, but there was nothing. It felt like a part of him was missing, without his faith he had lost a large chunk of who he was as a person, and so far nothing had been able to fill that void.
At five he gathered his things and left work, the earliest he had left in months. Usually he would keep working until seven or eight, then head home. By the time he had dinner cooked and eaten it was time for bed. He knew it wasn’t healthy, but he didn’t know what else to do. He had no real hobbies, not now that he had stopped attending a church, normally he would go every day, even just to pop in to say hello if not to attend mass. Then there were the church functions, the game nights, the picnics, the potlucks. All of it had helped pass the time, and he had enjoyed them so much. Now, just like Annabelle, it was all gone.
He let himself in the front door and stopped. The house was silent. He put his briefcase down and took off his shoes. He started walking away before he felt a pang of guilt, Annabelle always hated it when he left his stuff by the front door. He turned back to move them, then stopped. What was the point? Who would it help? He turned back and continued on to the kitchen. As he entered it the thought came again, why was he here, in this big house, all alone? He could move somewhere smaller, somewhere that wasn’t mired in memories. He sighed, the house was his only real connection to Annabelle. They never had children together, it always seemed like there would be more time, until there wasn’t.
He went through the fridge, looking for something to make for dinner. Something large, something complicated, something distracting. There was still a lasagne in the freezer, the last meal she had ever made, neatly portioned out and labelled in her tiny, curly handwriting.
Dinner ended up being a simple affair, pasta, as there was little of anything else in the fridge. He would have to go shopping soon, he had let it slip lately, he had been letting a lot of things slip. The house was starting to become a mess, no, that was a lie, the house was already a mess, it was starting to become uninhabitable. After dinner he started cleaning, filling the dishwasher, picking up the dirty clothes, cleaning down the countertops. A few hours later he felt tired, but good. The house was reasonably clean, he knew he should keep it clean, if not for himself then for the memory of Annabelle. She always loved this house. He stood from a moment, hand on the doorframe, it felt warm under his palm. He patted the doorframe twice, then continued on to bed.
The next morning he woke, he could feel the crushing weight on his chest, wanting him to stay here, just a little longer. He was tempted to give in, but something wouldn’t let him. He got up, showered, and dressed. He didn’t eat breakfast, he couldn’t stomach it today. Some days were like that, harder than the others. He left the house and felt that familiar tugging, how easy it would be just to stay. He could take a day off work, he hadn’t done it in so long. People wouldn’t think anything of it, just one sick day. But he knew that one would turn into two and then who knew how long he’d stay here. He could live off their savings and the life insurance he had gotten, the house was already paid off. It was tempting, but he knew it wouldn’t be good for himself. He needed something to do with his days, something to keep him going. He closed the door behind himself and took a deep, steadying breath. He just had to keep going, that was all, he couldn’t give up, he wouldn’t let himself.