“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holly Spirit,” the priest proclaimed. The chorus chanted:
It was the Christmas Eve. As the majority of people go to church only twice a year, on Christmas Eve and on Easter’s Eve, the church was crowded. I couldn’t enter it, so, I was standing outside, with a candle in my hands. It was cold and dark. The candle light danced on the rhythm of my breath.
“Lord, have mercy upon us, Lord, have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us…”
A woman came and stood next to me. She was looking for something in her bag. At last she found it, or rather them – an old mobile phone and a small, tiny notebook. The buttons of the phone had a greenish-yellowish light, the phosphorus-like one. They made a clin-clin sound, as the woman pressed them.
“Gio, lovely, it’s already twelve, phone to aunt Roza and wish her merry Christmas,” the woman said in a warm-sweet tone, “Now what does that mean?!” her voice suddenly became harsh, “Well, lovely, neither do I, but we sometimes do what we don’t want to do. Do you want her to think that you’re rude?.. Why, care about me then! Do you know what she’ll say? That I couldn’t bring you up, as I had to… “ the voice again calmed down to that warm-sweet tone, “Right, lovely, do it.”
I sighed with relief, as I thought it was over. In fact, I had witnessed only the beginning: the woman opened the notebook, holding it near my candle. I unwillingly looked inside. It was a list, the list of phone numbers.
“So many,” the woman whimpered and then the mobile phone buttons started clin-clining again.
“Hi, Anzor, merry Christmas to you and your family!.. How are you?.. Oh, poor you! Where’s your wife?.. Oh, right, but you couldn’t go. Thank you, Anzor, thank you…”
“Hi, Naira, merry Christmas! Thank you!.. And to you.. And to you!”
“Merry Christmas, Nata, lovely! Thank you! How’s grandma?.. Right, right…”
I tried to concentrate on the prayer. In vain—the only thing I could hear was the woman’s sweet-warm voice. I got angry.
“Can’t she do it at home?! People have come here for the Divine Liturgy!” I thought.
Meanwhile the woman continued. Each time her voice sounded so cheerful, as if the person she was talking to, had been the first, to whom she was wishing merry Christmas; as if she had just started to congratulate to her friends and relatives. I wished to take her mobile phone and smash it. And my candle was, regrettably, still quite long to burn down easily and leave the woman without the source of light.
“Merry Christmas, Aleko!.. And to you family, lovely!.. Oh, really? Is it a long time?.. Three months?! Wish you all the best, to you and to your kid? Is it a boy or a girl?.. Ahaa, right, right.”
“Merry Christmas, Lyuba, Daragaya! Have your grandchildren come back from Germany?.. Oh, on the ninth, right, right…”
I looked through the list, searching the name Lyuba. I found it. It was before the last one.
“Thanks God,” I thought.
“Merry Christmas, Gia!.. Oh, thank you!.. Is Natali with you?.. Could you please call her?”
My heart started to burn with wrath:
“Oh, come on!”
“Natalii, merry Christmas! Thank you, lovely!.. Yes, I did.. No, not really… Right, right… Good Buy, Lovely!”
The woman closed the notebook:
“At last! That’s it,” she said. Her cheerful, warm-sweet voice turned into that of a bored person.
“It’s over!” I thought, but the woman called someone, whose number she knew by heart:
“Gio, lovely, have you phoned aunt Roza?.. Now, who’s my polite boy?.. Right, buy.” She put the mobile phone and the notebook into the bag. Then she looked at me.
“Thanks for the light,” she said.
I smiled, though not candidly, but as kindly as I could – I did not want her to think I was rude, did I?
The woman went. I watched her going down the stairs to the street. I thought it was bad, that she didn’t realize the importance of the Divine Liturgy. I also thought that one must congratulate others to share the joy of a holiday with them. She, however, did it because of courtesy. But this was not my business at all, was it? So, I had disguised my annoyance, which was apparently the rightest thing to do.
These thoughts put out the fire of fury in my heart. My ears began to hear the priest’s voice again:
“Rejoice, for unto us a Child is born, the Sun of Truth, the Savior…”