The Sunday was hot and humid, and I was young. I sat in the back of an old church with friends listening to the distant sermon. I was enthralled by the girl at the end of the pew who rocked back and forth like a silent metronome as she twirled a piece of soiled paper between two fingers. The rays of sun pouring through the pale stained-glass window illuminated only her. She sat alone. I searched for any pair of eyes that might be observing, but heads were bowed in prayer. Someone coughed, and I bowed my head. As I looked down I imagined our lives exchanged. What would I be thinking? Is the boy next to me staring? Will my parents remember to take me home? Will they want to? Are they praying because of me? As my friends and I emerged from the church, the summer air washed over my face. It smelled of honeysuckle — how carefully one has to extract its sweet nectar without harming the blossom, I thought. I looked around for the girl, but she was gone.
As I write this I twirl a piece of paper in one hand, an homage to an unwitting teacher whose quiet sermon extolled the beauty of every silent moment. For so many years I wish I had learned her name.