--- M I C H A E L L U N N E Y
The nuns do not hear Celia talk. She asks for nothing;
she accepts nothing but dinner; and when she is finished, she always leaves.
Each day before dinner, locked in the bathroom on the third floor of
Nazareth House, Celia reapplies the white powder she uses to carefully
cover all of her exposed skin. When she finally does come downstairs, Celia
searches out Mary in the dining room and she will not sit until there is
a seat from which she can whisper and Mary can hear.
The Sister sees Celia leaning towards Mary, whispering things, but Mary
remains unmoved (Mary knows she should tell the nuns that Celia threatens
her, but Mary doesn't pay much mind to the crazy white girl who's always
muttering to her in the dining room). Celia finishes her dinner and then
stands to leave. She bends to Mary and whispers one last thing.
It's six o'clock on a Friday evening in a still-cold March. There's
no one on the street but Celia. She waits for Mary to come out of Nazareth
House. The sun has not set and the street lights come on. There are two
faint shadows of her on the sidewalk. A thin rain begins.
Mary is an old woman with no home. During the day, she sits in the Westside
Cluster or she sits in the Open Door. At night, she has a bed in the basement
of the Holy Cross Church (until they close in the summer).
Celia steps from the doorway and follows. Night has come but she does
not care. Finding a place to rest does not concern her; sleep and fear
On the southwest corner of 40th Street and 9th Avenue, a garbage fire
burns -- it's caretakers across the street on the Salvation Army's sandwich
line. This careless fire of loose paper will burn quick and hot, the wind
lifting up ashes and the pages of a burning Times.
There is the mournful wind and there is the rain beating on the window.
There is only the bed to sit on (an old bed with old covers, neatly made).
Mary sits with Dorothy in room 926 of the Times Square Motor Hotel, quietly
drinking tea and dunking toast.
There is the unseen moon and there is the rain. Celia is wet and she should be cold (the women at Nazareth House say that she is made from stone). The weak fire flickers and the drug-thin men do not return to the corner with their window rags.
The room is gray and the walls are bare but for a cross and the shadow
of a cross.
Now the fire gives off little heat and not very much light. Celia no
longer remembers why she has stopped -- and she leaves the dying fire to
the rain and walks north on 9th Avenue.
Dorothy is in bed with her coat still on, and because she's so tired
tonight, Dorothy lets Mary wash the few dishes in the small, water-stained
sink. When she's finished, Mary turns out the light and crosses back to
It's almost ten o'clock. Celia is on 43rd Street, across from the Holy
Cross Church, in the rain, waiting. Women are entering a side door that
leads to the basement.
Celia looks toward 8th Avenue but doesn't see Mary. It starts to rain
harder. She steps into the shadow of a doorway -- and she waits.
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