(Minha, Yom Kippur 5766, continued.)
Trying not to trip over the many layers of white fabric draped around my body (skirt, blouse, parachute-sized tallit), I ran up the side steps to the low, deep stage. It felt, oddly, like a living room that just happened to have one wall missing, a thousand people in upholstered seats in its place. To the left were the musicians, instruments resting carefully at their sides as they waited for everyone to assemble at the bima. At my right, a row of folding chairs was filled with nervous, whispering teenagers getting ready to chant haftarah. The Minha shaliach, who had seen many dozen more services than them or myself, sat calmly off to the side; he would join us, once again, at the very end. A large Oriental rug covered the center of the grey stage floor, the Ark standing patiently at its farthest perimeter. I took my place at the bima, a podium with three microphones twisting out from its sides like strange metallic flowers. Even though it was odd to look down at everyone's faces (I imagined, for just a second, Evita about to address her minions) I felt not at all far from the thousand other people. We could have been a family up there on the stage, waiting with measured anticipation for the turkey or a favorite uncle to enter our home for the holidays.
The Torah reading began and ended. I have no recollection of who chanted, or how well; my eyes didn't leave the machzor for one second, because I was so exhausted that I knew I would never find my place again if they did. The teenagers began a tag-team version of the long haftarah, and I sat back down with the congregation.