Termite church

I can't stop thinking about the termite church down the street.

I noticed the church the first time a few weeks ago, midday on a Sunday, when the carillon bells were ringing and a ragtag crew was huddled under the patio awning. It has a beautiful steeple, elegant and sharp, its tones resonant and comforting amidst the slight chaos and confusion of downtown San Jose. That first Sunday I figured that people were gathering to pray, but then I noticed that many of the parishioners had that same skinny lean to them, and that some of them resembled the regulars who spend their nights in the public park across the street. I half expected to see a friar breaking bread, his head bald in the sunlight. I wish now that I had stopped walking and gone inside.

A few nights ago Ryan and I went walking and I noticed a thick blue fabric wrapped snugly around the steeple. It looked like a giant band-aid, a gauze so thick even the glass windows were smothered in its red and blue. As we drew nearer I saw that the entire church was cloaked in awful stripes, the telltale advertisements for pest control hanging loosely to the facade. It looked like God had spun a colorful spiderweb around a church and left it to catch flies.

"Is this a sign?" I asked.

"It's a sign that there's termites," Ryan said.

I wonder if they pray. We kept walking but my impulse was to turn back, to get up close, to zero in and see if they were inside, thousands of small, fluttering, invasive pests, huddling closely together, praying. How did they know? Did they know? What was it about that old, bitter wood that tasted better than the buildings across the street?

Even now, days later, I wonder what the inside of that steeple looks like, with thousands of creatures turning ever inward, and what would happen if one day a divine hand pulled back the fabric and let them loose.

Do you think they would go?