The service continued with more readings and group songs. I had some crazy gurgling pains in my stomach from a santiago cake, fresh OJ, and a café con leche Ellen and I scarfed down before. I turned to Ellen "Leonard, I've got the troubles. Do you think they have a bathroom in here?"
"No. Can´t you wait?"
"I don't think so." I grimmaced and adjusted my posture. "Am I allowed to leave?" I asked looking around.
"I'll tell you when..."
Ellen gave me the cue and I b-lined out the door. I headed into a museum and with inflection in my voice said "Servicos?" The lady pointed me through a couple doors and I found relief. At the door to the cathedral there was a guard turning people away. Shit. I had heard that pilgrim credencials allow you to skip the line into mass but I wasn't sure about how to get in if mass is already underway. I flashed my peregrino passport and he whisked me in.
I re-enterd at a moment where everyone was hugging one another and giving kisses on each other's cheeks. I weaved through the loving crowd back to my bench and of course my seat had been taken. Ellen looked at me like 'oops I didn't think you would make it back.' Communion started and everyone began to file out of the benches and take a little neco waffer from the priest. Most people let him put it in their mouth and it looked like there was some tongue touching of his finger on each delivery. I'm not a germaphobe (I despise hand santizer), but this seemed obvious. As the seat-stealer filed out to get her waffer I filed in. Hey, I was there first. I saw other people getting up from their seats during the service, usually to take their turn at confessional, so how would she know that I had to exit the cathedral for nature's calling? There was no protest when she discovered my return.
Five alter boys unhooked a rope from a large column that held a massive incense burner that hung 100 feet from the dome. The rope was freyed at the end branching into five smaller pieces for each person to hang on to. The priest lit a bonfire inside of it and the boys started yanking on the rope that thread through a winch mechanism way up high. The large, shinny metal lantern billowed smoke and the five boys started getting the rythym of the swing until it was flying hundreds of feet across the entire cathedral, back and forth. They whipped it higher and higher on each swing like a mischeavious pusher on the playground, until it seemed nearly out of control, maxing out and freefalling for a moment, and then 'snap' it jerked back into the smooth swing. The cathedral filled with a smokey haze that smelled like a mix of burning sage and pine needles.
Simultaneously as this ritual began every worshiper pulled out a camera. Arms lifted high holding a little LCD screen, many of the pilgrims lived the experience through their camera, present company included. It was a funny moment where we all said 'yes, this is why I'm here, to see this crazy spectacle and prove it to others.' It was a scene of digital worship as we all clung to our cameras in complete agreement.