Exploring the art of prose


Author: Jenny Feldon

Author’s Note

It was late afternoon on an ordinary Tuesday. I was stopped in traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard in front of a small white Catholic church I’d driven by a thousand times. Its wooden doors were closed; the church grounds looked deserted. I watched as a girl wearing a lace minidress and combat boots looked over her shoulder just once before pushing the door open and slipping inside. I stared at the space on the sidewalk where she’d just been standing. It was like a magic trick. Here, then gone to somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be.

I’ve always been fascinated by churches. On the East Coast, where I grew up, so many of them are breathtaking architectural landmarks: centuries-old neo-Gothic cathedrals with bell towers and stained-glass windows fifteen feet high. Places I assumed were holy and impenetrable. Los Angeles churches tend to be humbler. You could mistake many of them for regular places: a bank, an office building, someone’s 1920s Craftsman home. I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl who’d walked right in. In my imagination, she’d been escaping something. What had she been hiding from? What happened once she went inside?

When I began writing the early drafts of this story, all I knew was that the narrator kept going into churches. I’d drive around LA, mentally collecting new churches for these scenes, peeking through windows to conjure details for the interiors (unlike the narrator, I never mustered the courage to go inside). But it took many, many balled-up pages to discover what she was really looking for; the thing she needed to live her life instead of running away as she always had before.

Anxiety is as much a character in this story as the human beings are. There can be something shameful about living with anxiety, and I believe that shame is magnified when we’re unable to tie it to a specific source. Privilege itself is something to feel ashamed of. The narrator has been given every opportunity to thrive, but she’s so paralyzed with her fear of what might happen that she’s unable to exist in the world, or in her own skin. Churchgoing becomes a lifeline; a way to quiet the cacophony anxiety creates in her mind.

In the early drafts, which my brilliant writers’ group kindly workshopped far too many times, the question of whether she dies at the end kept coming up. Did the reader need to know the answer? As the author, did I? The stranger in the green coat represents so many things in that final scene—the God she’s been seeking; the connection to another human being she’s desperate for; the terrible tragedies of this world from which we cannot hide. As I wrote and rewrote the ending, it always stayed essentially the same, and I decided it didn’t matter. The journey she takes starts and ends in that moment. I’ll leave the revelation of what happens next up to the reader, like all my favorite stories tend to do.


JENNY FELDON is a memoirist, essayist, and fiction writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and American literature from Boston University and an MFA in creative writing from The New School. Raised in New England, she lives in Los Angeles with her family and will always call New York City home. Find her on Instagram @jennyfeldonwrites (mostly books and writing) and @jennyfeldon (mostly kids, travel, dog).