by Julie Kane
Walking by the Polish church in Vilnius one Sunday morning, she is arrested by the sound of a male voice, singing over the choir. So deep, so resonant, so mournful: surely it must belong to an opera star. She stands transfixed outside the buttercream stucco façade, then pushes a heavy wooden door to get in, finding herself in a cool, dim, empty interior space. But now the voice seizes her, shakes her like a mouse in the jaws of a cat. She hurries across the lobby space and pauses beside an icon shop tucked in one corner, where she can peer through an archway into the gilt dazzle of the church proper. She can see the priest, at the far end, and a sea of kerchief-headed women, some of them kneeling on the floor. But who owns the voice, and where is it coming from? She will have to walk partway down the aisle, in her blue jeans, then turn brazenly around and look up, up, into the organ loft. Rude, yes: but she has no choice against the power of that voice.
Meanwhile, however, the clerk who has been minding the rosaries and scapulars begins squawking and flapping like a sparrow, and something brushes against her and is gone. The clerk points to her purse, a shoulder bag, and when she looks down she sees that it is unzipped all the way, with one corner of her wallet poking out like a shark’s fin, an Alp. A pickpocket, in church! She grabs the wallet and counts her litas—all there, thank heavens. “Ačiū,” she tells the clerk, but then thinks maybe she should buy something, although she doesn’t know if that is proper during church.
But by then the voice has stopped singing, releasing her from its spell, and she is free to stagger on wobbly legs out into the rays of the weak Baltic sun. And perhaps it is better that way, to exist on the cusp of potential, owning every possibility at once.