In the Christian Orthodox calendar every day is designated to celebrate one or more saints. From that perspective, with so many people named after saints, I can say I live surrounded by saints.
Sometimes that can be scary.
I remember my Psychology teacher when I was a junior in high school. Her first name was Maria.
Tall, thin, with the jaw bone sticking out, she spread fear around her, and she liked it. Comrade Maria was the communist leader in the school. She had the last word in many decisions.
We lived in the same neighborhood. From the seventh floor where we had our condo, I could see her balcony across the market and her shade growing big when she was passing by the window. It was pretty sinister, even though I had just decided not to fear people anymore, but God.
It wasn’t a secret the day I became a Christian. I was in her class, and her job was to find out such things.
One day during the lunch break I wrote on the blackboard for my classmates when and at what time my baptism was going to be.
Comrade Maria called me in her office. I was shaking, but determined not to show it. By the time I knocked at her door, something happened and she had to leave in a hurry. “Come tomorrow and we’ll talk,” she said reaching for her purse.
I can’t describe the emotions I went through the whole night. My brain was alerted with scenarios about what comrade Maria could ask me and what should I answer. By the time I walked the hall to her office next morning, my entire body was exhausted.
I knocked at the door. Nobody was there. I waited. My first class had already started, but I had let my teacher know about my meeting. All sorts of terrible thoughts were crossing my mind while waiting. They could expel me or hand me over into the hands of the secret police, the militia.
The first period was half through when I got back in my classroom. The teacher stopped from speaking and looked at me with concern. “May I?” I barely could articulate those words. She nodded her head and continued to stare at me, a fly sentenced to death.
Comrade Maria came back to school a few days after our appointment and something weird happened. She never asked to talk to me again. She never threatened me, like she did with others.
A week or two after that, the principal informed me that I couldn’t go to college. I was perplexed. Then I understood why comrade Maria didn’t need to talk to me anymore.
After a number of years, the communists lost their power in that corner of the world.
Two years ago I saw teacher Maria with the corner of my eye, when I visited my country again. We passed by each other in the crowded street. My feet stopped in the middle of the avenue while I was looking back. Her loop of hair was sticking up over the crowd for a moment, then it faded away.
That saint had lost her shine.