I turned in my last paper of the semester this afternoon, and as I left the classroom, I heard a chorus of angels.
No, really. I did.
At first I thought it was just in my head because I do that sometimes, but after a few seconds I realised the chorus wasn’t just singing one heavenly chord like they usually do in the heads of people on cheesy sitcoms, but instead they were singing an entire song—a Christmas song, no less.
Joy to the World.
By the time I realised the chorus was real, I had made it to the atrium of the university and was heading up The Staircase to my next class, but I couldn’t rest until I figured out where the angels were (running with the assumption that they were not, in fact, in my head).
I backtracked a few steps into the centre of the atrium and looked around—plenty of kids with headphones on, but none with ghetto blasters. And no choir in sight.
I walked back to the staircase and leaned over the railing, peering down a few levels to where the drama majors usually hang out, but all I saw were the regular black lipstick wearing kids—not exactly my idea of angels—and anyway they weren’t singing.
I decided to start walking up the stairs toward my next class to see if the angels were up there, but they weren’t: after an entire flight, the music only got softer.
So I walked back down the staircase (by this time anybody watching had surely deduced that I was off my meds or something), which, strangely, didn’t result in an increase of heavenly volume. Every direction I went, the angels were one step ahead of me.
I started to feel frantic—where were the angels? Why were they singing? Why wouldn’t they show themselves to me?
Just as I was about to ditch my backpack and jog through the halls to find them, I had an epiphany:
IT DOESN’T MATTER.
They were singing Christmas carols, they sounded beautiful, and if they wanted to stay hidden, I should respect that. They were angels, after all. They could smite me if I wasn’t careful.
So I reshouldered the burden of my heavy pack and headed back up the stairs to sit through my last class of the semester. As I trekked up that ridiculous staircase—the bane of my existence these long years—I decided that All Was as it Should Be. I had been sent a gift—a last-day-of-term miracle—and all I needed to do was accept it.
By the time I made it to the eighth floor, I had all but convinced myself I was God’s Chosen University Student, His particular favourite and enlightened. He had sent me a chorus of hidden angels (now they were singing “Hark, Hear the Bells,” my personal fave), and not in my head but in real life (even though they were nowhere to be seen). I was Joan of Lethbridge.
I rounded the corner from the staircase landing and stepped toward the hallway where my class was held. From the corner of my eye I saw a new installment on the wall beside the staircase where they let the art students hang their projects to make them feel like they’re real artists in a gallery instead of what they really are, which is a whole bunch of failures. The installment had a Christmas theme—fir trees, stars, the like.
Having just learned about German Expressionism in my art history class, I recalled the notion of “Total Artwork:” the idea that art consists not only of a painting on a wall, but of taste, touch, smell…and sound.
I tried not to do it. I tried to leave my faith unchallenged, unchecked, untried. I tried to walk straight on to my class without another thought, but just like Lot’s wife (she didn’t deserve a name, the floozy), I looked back.
And there, in the corner of the wall, was a speaker painted white so as to blend in, to conceal itself from the faithful.
The same sort of speaker that is wired into every wall of the university.
My angels were an iPod on a repeat loop hooked up in the basement New Media lab being negligently manned by a bearded grad student getting paid twelve dollars an hour to make sure nobody steals the audiovisual equipment.
I went to class, took my last notes of the semester, and drove away from campus without further incident.