For today, an excerpt from a story about me n' Jesus. durka.
Shock came in the form of a skirt. Blue plaid pleats stared back at my trembling pout. Private school. My mom had convinced herself that no one could hurt her baby if God was watching. The night before my first day of first grade, Mom had decided to match my haircut with the swoop of my now required collared shirt. Once again—this was all new to her. I don’t want to hold the hack job she gave at fault, but I didn’t have friends until the sixth grade. Are you there God? It’s me, Bowl Cut.
These Catholics were strange. Although I was a fellow member, I had still been at the age where it was acceptable to go to the nursery every Sunday—playing with my sisters as booming homilies were played over a hidden intercom. Here, morning prayer held priority over the pledge of allegiance, uniformly pleated skirts were required for girls, and after receiving the Sacrament of Communion (I’m eating Jesus???), with no thanks to Canon Law: Altar Serving. This was like being costumed in an entirely different parade, except this time I was following a great white ghost of a man, his mustache dripping with sweat and his breath of stale quarters.
Being a shy pineapple head of a child, I had no desire to offer my services to the Church. Reconciliation had been enough. The room had been one of shag red carpet that seemed to have spread itself over the entire span of the makeshift room. Crammed into the center of the dimly lit confessional, a strange looking wall had been erected. Roughly the size of a door, the wooden separation provided the optional privacy of the participant. I didn’t like the muted privacy of the room, and chose to maintain an area of separation between the priest and myself. Crouching on reddened knees, skin dried from the earlier crash of a playground fall, I peeked through the lattice, which screened the face of the priest. The woven window was surrounded by tiny placards that had been haphazardly taped around the frame displaying the shadowed priest’s face. Each laminated rectangle contained a different prayer, and worked as an answer key to assist new penitents in the process of simultaneous prayer with the priest. Staring at the uppercase C on the Act of Contrition card placed directly to the left of the priest’s nose, I whispered a quiet cough to remind the priest that I was there, just in case he had forgotten the dull knock he had welcome into the room not thirty seconds earlier. Untwisting the knotted blue program, I opened the tiny handout to remind myself of the first step.
“Forgive me father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession and my sins are… um.” Seven years old and kneeling on the crushed velvet stool of gold, confessing my sins of not sharing toys and forgetting to feed the dog, I was terrified of the supposed authority that the Church held over me. The outline darkening the screen adjacent to me provided no attempt at acknowledging my trailing list of trivial encounters, and only a muted cave silence inspired the anticipated voice of this mystery man.
“Three Our Fathers and a couple of Hail Mary’s.” Without waiting for any acknowledgment that I understood those prayers to be saved for later, the priest continued. “God grant this child peace and redeem her soul, forever into the eternal glory of thine name, Amen.”
Unsure if this was a queue to leave or an invitation to prayer, I began to stutter.
“My, er , Our Father, who art in heben—“
A loud verse of coughs interrupted my unsure regurgitation.
cough cough cough cough cough.
Confused, but taking the hint, I projected myself from the stool and stumbled towards the door. The nerve of some shadows. The situation reminded me of making the annual trip to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap and request a gift of choice. In the worldly knowledge of the playground, I had learned that these costumed men were not the actual Santa, but rather intercessors for the big guy. Priests seems to exude the same presence. A collective of men, uniformly attached in their somber black garb and collared by the clerical white of salvation, they worked as figureheads for the Father up above. My first Penance had been met with the same hurried approach as that of a velvet crusted Santa fifteen minutes past his smoke break.