Roaming the streets of some already characteristically quaint therefore prone-to-all-businesses-constantly-being-closed-regardless-of-it-being-a-holiday-or-not European town, Rilka had to wonder if she had made a mistake in choosing to get back in touch with her heritage. In making such a point to take advantage of her mother’s birth in Luxembourg City so as to capitalize on a bit of citizenship for herself. Yet, strangely, for as sentimental as Zoe was about a country of which only 390,000 people spoke the official language (the made up-sounding “Luxembourgish”), she had never seen fit to take Rilka back to it, instead keeping her sequestered in Washington D.C., where she had met and married Rilka’s father, Preston, a fellow diplomat originally from Boston. It was there that Rilka, unclear why her parents had given her some bastard German name (apart from the fact that maybe it was because Luxembourg itself was a bit of a bastard in its amalgamation of French and German cultures), often fled for her taste of “real life.” For D.C. was a bubble, an endless vacuum of men sucking up and spitting out their own mindless thought debris.
Alas, it didn’t take long for Rilka to comprehend that just because one has a place to stay somewhere (in this case, her grandmother’s) doesn’t mean they ought to. It was easy to see that Boston was a town for townies and prickhead pseudo-intellectuals that assumed coming from an affluent family that went many generations back was what somehow assured their genius. To the point of assumption and what an ass it can make of people, Rilka, too, had assumed that she would find excitement and salvation in fleeing the U.S., a country more mongrel therefore indecisive about its built into the name “unitedness” than anywhere in Europe. That, at the very least, she would tap into something within herself that could only remain dormant in America. Something to do with what solely her Luxembourgish roots could detonate.
As for Zoe, who had died in the all too common freak accident of a piano falling onto her head from a high-rise condo two years prior to this decision to leave, well, Rilka imagined she would have been pleased to learn that her only child was finally seeing where her mother came from. For can anyone truly know their parents until they see the town and country from which they were sprung? Hurled onto some arbitrary part of the Earth like a glob of spit rained down from God’s own mouth. And, on the note of God, Rilka supposed what she least bargained for upon her initial arrival into Dudelange (the fourth most populous city in Luxembourg that she decided to start in) was the total desolation of it. The feeling one might get after having stepped onto the planet after the fallen angels sounding their trumpets have come to roost in the form of locusts. Nary a soul to be seen on the street. Should she have started in Differdange instead? But no, Differdange would not have made a difference either. Because, as she soon unearthed, it was Assumption Day. August the Fifteenth. Just as it had been since (Pope Pius XII dictated) the “Virgin” Mary “assumed” her non-earthly form and ascended into heaven. Or some such milieu equally as destitute as the one Rilka found herself in now. “Having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory,” Mary’s business in the non-celestial realm was finished (even though most men/priests/misogynistic nuns likely thought it was over the second she carried out her greatest life achievement of birthing Jesus).
Rilka wondered if all this enveloping isolation was a sign of the same for her. If she oughtn’t just “assume” her own heavenly (or hellishly) form and check out. At thirty-two years old, what more could she possibly do? She was also mildly convinced that this was the actual age when Jesus himself died, not the long speculated thirty-three (or sometimes, “between thirty-three and thirty-six”). Because if Jesus isn’t the benchmark for how to live one’s life, then who is? Certainly not Mary, who had no life of her own. No, her life was all wrapped up in Jesus, in motherhood. It was for this reason that women were taught to emulate her purity and selflessness as opposed to Jesus’–who obviously inherited it from her, not that Petty Betty called God. That her “Dormition” was never, for the purposes of dogma, specifically classified as physical, does it then mean it was, at long last, emotional? That a light flickered out in her that could not be rekindled even by the accolades that came with birthing the “Lord and Savior” of so many who would use the teachings of said “Lord and Savior” for their own depraved and misguided purposes. Rilka could not say, nor could she ask anyone around her as even the churches seemed to be ironically closed. She stood stock-still in the center of the empty street, wondering if Mary’s light was dimmed even–and especially–when she learned of this “gift from God” (her assumption into heaven, not Jesus). She always looked so depressed in every rendering. Worse still, resigned. To a fate that would never be her own.
Just as Rilka contemplated returning to her rental car and driving elsewhere, any city in Europe that might actually be “open,” she happened upon a bakery with the scent of fresh bread wafting out of it, one that appeared to have descended from the sky just for this very moment to bestow upon her a baguette. The woman who sold it to her would not actually sell it to her, insisting, “No, take it. Consider it a gift from the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. For it is not Assumption Day if you are not feasting.” Filled with gratitude for something so simple, Rilka stared into the eyes of this ostensible angel, who all at once resembled the face of her own mother paired with that of a Botticelliesque rendering of the Virgin Mary herself. She had to blink to believe what she was seeing. But on the third blink, the woman had disappeared altogether, and with her the bakery, too.
Rilka was now standing back in the middle of a deserted and medieval-looking cobblestoned street with no one else to bear witness to what she had. Or was she merely delirious after having gone so long without eating? Something told her, however, that it wasn’t an effect of forced fasting. That it was as real as the earth beneath her as she sat in the Pétrusse valley next to the river, the viaduct looming over her. Gnawing with furor on her daily bread, she pondered: Was it a viaduct, or a portal toward her own ascension into another world (or, at the very least, another persona untied to the one she had embodied on a different continent)?