I’d all but finalized a post about a rain jacket.
I’d been walking across campus with a friend, one hand on the brim of my jacket bracing the hood against wet gusts of wind. I cracked a joke about looking like an undergrad in my Patagonia, and thought about how when I’d bought the jacket I’d imagined myself wearing it on mountain peaks and riverside campsites, but instead I wear it on trips between Stokes Hall and the parking garage. I thought about my series of jackets as a nice metaphor for growing up, the incongruity of my bright green raincoat and my relatively professional future neatly reflecting my reluctance to inhabit that responsibility. I typed five round paragraphs. I emailed a friend for approval.
And the next morning on the way to church, I scrolled past a Facebook post from a priest I’d known in Cairo:
Alexandria: st marks church suicide bomb. Outside. Pope Tawadros is inside. 8 killed 33 wounded.
25 Copts killed and 71 wounded by bomb in church in Tanta, Egypt.
May God be with their families.
I read Nathan the New York Times lede as we passed through Sumner tunnel, an article I can’t find now, after hours of updated death tolls, official responses, and claims of responsibility. We were just late enough to miss the kid’s Palm Sunday processional. Across the aisle, an eight-year-old painstakingly shredded a leftover frond. When the preschoolers went up again to receive the blessing before Sunday school, I thought of little Coptic kids I’d met, about that size. I thought of Egyptian mothers hauling their toddlers into the back pew, late, like us, for their very last mass.
During the Nicene Creed, I went downstairs to blow my nose. Every week, when we recite those words I am suddenly back in the Anafora chapel at evening prayer, seated on a multicolored rug, facing the icons and candles at the front of the sanctuary. It was one of the only parts of the Orthodox liturgy I recognized in Arabic: nour min nour, light from light. And every week, in my church in Boston, I whisper those words to myself. But this week, I hid in the bathroom. The passing of the peace comes right after the creed, and I didn’t want anyone to ask why I was crying.
This is not about me. None of this is about me. Mine is not the voice you should heed on matters of terrorism or religious persecution or Middle Eastern politics. But I didn’t know how to write about a rain jacket on Palm Sunday after forty-four people died in their churches.
I’m not sure how to live in a world where this happens. I don’t know how to celebrate resurrection when these things keep happening, and happening. I don’t know how to talk about faithfulness and the pursuit of justice in a country beholden to conspiracy theories and nuclear politics, in a world where dictators destroy their own people, in a world where anyone could walk into a church full of men and mothers and children, pass crying babies as they moved through the crowd, and detonate a bomb.
I’d written about the rain jacket I spilled tie-dye on one summer in Colorado, the jacket that was too short in the sleeves and now belongs to my sister-in-law, the hand-me-down jacket I wore hiking through sleet one spring break on the Appalachian trail. The jacket I have now, a bold teal-green, and how I’m afraid someone will mistake me for a first-year student. How I wanted to wear it camping with the friends who’d taught me to tie a trucker’s hitch and purify river water.
I’m not sure how to live in a world where this happens.
I keep repeating the only other phrase of the liturgy that I remember: ya Raburrham.
Lord, have mercy.
Katie is a doctoral student in English and education at the University of Michigan. She loves the New York Times crossword puzzle, advice columns, oceans, and dogs of all kinds.