Church Bells

Looking out my window in the afternoon. The church bell chimes two o’clock. It’s loud. I can hear it over traffic. I hear it over the woman upstairs vacuuming. I hear it over music playing on my phone; Charles Mingus and his band. I see people walking past on the sidewalk carrying bags of food from the church pantry. Kids holding onto their mother’s hands. Fathers wearing cowboy hats and boots. They are brown. Some of the men have a thick mustache. Women wear dresses with flowers on them. They all wear coats and jackets. Children kicking leaves. I watch them; glad that I never had children. Happy I never had that responsibility. I can barely take care of myself.

I watch out my window at cement trucks as they drive down the street. An old abandoned building is being turned into an outdoor mall. Complete with condos and food courts. Bars and entertainment. All these old houses around me are selling for three times over what people paid for them years ago. Landlords are kicking out month to month tenants. Condemned buildings are being knocked down and new dwellings are going up. They say soon the average price for a home in this neighborhood will be over three hundred grand. That price used to be forty grand.

This is good for the city, they say. All this gentrification. Buildings that were once factories where people worked and raised families on decent wages are now becoming parking lots and apartment buildings, hotels, live-in lofts, offices. In the past this was never my concern. We lived out in the suburbs. We had nicely cut grass and flowers. A dog in a fenced in back yard. We had careers.

They say change is good. The displaced will find a place to live. They always do. It’s a matter of survival. Afer all, we’re only renters. We have no stake in the game. No dog in the fight. We are not true Americans. We are not members of the upper class. Not even members of the middle class; if there is such a thing anymore.

My ex-wife was a good member of the upper class. She came from money. Why she married me I do not know. Perhaps it was love; maybe. Maybe it was to upset her parents? They never liked different. She liked to tip the boat. What a treat it must have been to have met me the first time. A fat working class bartender who voted Democrat. I called it operation shock and awe. I flew over their dinner table and bombed everything in sight. Letting them know of my core beliefs. She smiled as the bullets rang out in the conversation. It’s funny how your ideas change. Mine did. Strange how we move from what we used to be only to find that you were never far from home.

The church bells chime five o’clock. I hold my rosary and pray. I feel the wooden beads in my hands and the metal cross in my lap. I open my eyes and see Mexicans walking back to the church. It is Wednesday and I’m skipping mass once again. I haven’t been in years. And I call myself a Catholic. Fear is a powerful tool.

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