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Ashes to Ashes

Two years ago around this time, six months before 9/11, I exited the subway and walked my two block trek to work. I crossed paths with a white, middle-aged guy with some black sooty looking stuff smeared on his forehead. I thought, “Awww, bless his heart, somebody should tell him to look in a mirror.” But I walked passed him and didn’t say a word.

Further down the block, I passed a Middle Eastern looking man, this time with a black sooty cross on his forehead. “Hmm, that’s odd. A cross? Two guys with ashes their faces.” Then a black woman, also with a cross, “What is this? Some crazy cult’s gonna rage some Waco style blitz of New York City? At least they’re a cross-cultural organization.”

The closer to work I got, the more members I passed. I actually started to get concerned for my safety. Where were they coming from, what craziness were they trying to spread? I was afraid to ask and hurried into to the office. Then a co-worker approached me and she, too, had a cross! I blurted, “Oh my God, you’re one of them! What faction have you joined and what is this cross nonsense?!”

“It’s Ash Wednesday,” she replied incredulously.

“Ooooohhhh, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral is across the street. Right. Sorry. Bless you. I guess you don’t need my blessing.”

People are still hanging on to that old shit? What, they don’t get to go to Hell now? I don’t get it.

Today is, again, Ash Wednesday, and I can’t even look Terry in the face without laughing. How can he walk around like that all day? What a dufus.

So, yeah, I’m still searching for that strange compassion, empathy, understanding thing everyone keeps talking about.