Friday, May 12, 2006

CCD


When the day came, I sat with the other ten year olds in the first pew of St. John Bosco Church, waiting for my name to be called. It was a cool October Wednesday night. It was only 6:30, but the sky was darker earlier now. Most of the church lights were off, except for those closest to the rectory door. And it was so quiet. It was a sharp contrast to the sunlight streaming through the stain glass Jesus windows and the out of tune energetic hymns of the choir on Sunday morning.

The other kids were busy discussing upcoming Halloween costumes. All the girls wanted to be Rainbow Bright. I wanted to be invisible. I wished my mom was sitting next to me, smoothing my hair with her long nails, like she did during Sunday mass. The view from my mothers lap was always the back of the pew, an old hymn book , tiny drawing pencils and a stack of envelopes that my dad would unfold so I could draw on the clean insides during the homily.

I tried not to think about what I was about to do.

I was scared. I was ashamed. I wanted to be outside of my own skin, hidden beneath the surface of my last bath water.

Confessions in the movies always had a tiny screen. The priest would slide it open a little crack and you had to lean down close to it and whisper your sins. The priest could only see the outline of your shadow behind the screen and maybe your lips if you sat close enough to the little slot. In the movies, you could always see their lips. The sinner spoke and then the priest channeled the almighty Father and told you your penance.

Bless me father for I have sinned. This will be my first confession.

I practiced the prayer with my eyes closed, gripping the pine wood of the church bench.

The rest of the little girls had moved on from Halloween costumes and were comparing make-your-own jewelry. The boys of Mrs. Ross CCD class sat behind us. They were up to their usual routine of pushing and shoving one another over a game of rock, paper scissors. I lay my blond pig tails back against the hard wood and stared up at the ceramic Jesus on the cross. What if God could not forgive me?

Bless me father for I have sinned. This will be my first confession.

“What are you so nervous about? It’s just confession. It’s not like your getting graded or anything.”

Krissy Stevenson was one of the ‘horse girls’. She and some of the other popular girls spent recess running around the playground tossing their hair back and making wild horse noises. I tried hanging around them and talking about horses. But they never let me in. I decided that was fine—I hated horses anyways.

“Yeah, thanks.”

She galloped off.

“Jane. You're up. Chop-chop. Let’s keep the line moving.” Mrs. Ross teased her hair and combed it into a beehive that sat at the top of her head. Her CCD students often discussed the possibility that the large mass of hair covered a shark fin or devil horns. Our predictions depended upon her Wednesday night mood. Tonight she wore a flowing skirts, lots of beads and a shirt she had macram├ęd at the community center where she was taking a class with my mom.

She bent over close to my ear. And placed a cool hand against my forehead.
“You okay honey?”

“Ready.” I hopped off the church pew, tucked my hands through the straps of my Osh Kosh’s and took one final look back at Mrs. Ross before I knocked on the church rectory door.

When I walked into the rectory I was surprised to see Father Jim sitting on a plastic green chair, an empty one beside him.

Panic.

“Where is the screen?”

“Oh honey, we don’t need a screen. Sit down. Let’s talk.”

He pat the little plastic chair beside him with his hand.

Father Jim had been my mother’s favorite drinking buddy since I was old enough to sit up at the alter on Christmas Eve when they read the story of Jesus to the kiddies. He was a fat man with rosy read cheeks that deepened after a few glasses of Red Wine. He was loud, out going and known to be a bit flamboyant. And there was no way in hell I could imagine telling him what I had to tell him.

“Have a seat dear and let’s get started. I have lots of children out there to see.”

“Okay.”

I took a seat next to Father Jim. My tiny legs were still too short not to dangle. I gripped the seat and could feel the sweat beginning to moisten my palms.

“Bless me father, for I have sinned.-”

He stopped me.

“Oh, we don’t need to do that honey. That’s the old way. You can just tell me what you got on your mind.”

He looked down at his watch.

“Oh well. Um. I’ve been really bad father.”

“Bad. What do you mean by bad? There are no bad little girls in this world. Just bad acts. Have you done some naughty acts?

"You could say that."

"Okay. What kinds of acts?"

I couldn’t speak.

He tried to help me.

"Fibs?"

I stared at him in silence. I wanted to tell him. Why couldn’t I find my words. I could feel moisture brimming around my eye lids.

“Yah. Some of those.”

"Okay, that’s a start."

“What else.”

I started to mumble, but nothing came out.

“Do you sometimes think mean things about your mom and dad? Sisters and brothers? Friends?”

He said it. Friends. The tears began to flow very gently down my cherub cheeks.

“Yeah. That too."

“Okay. What else? What has you so upset my dear?”

Oh Father Jim. If only I could tell you what happened in the dark closet at Stacey’s house. If only I could tell you what we did to each other. If I could just tell you then maybe God would forgive me. And if God could forgive me then maybe he could help me make it stop.

He looked down at his watch and sighed a big heavy sigh.

“Well. Whatever it is. God forgives you. You can just tell him yourself in your nightly prayers. Okay? Now let’s say an Our Father and when you go back out, I want you to say it two more times. Got it??”

“Okay.”

We said the Our Father. I tried not to cry, but by the end I was blabbering like a baby.

“Here is a Kleenex Jane. Now on your way out, please tell Mrs. Ross I’m ready for the next one. Okay?”

I hopped down off the chair. And started towards the door. But right before I reached it, I turned back.

“Father. I have to tell you something.”

I turned my face to the ground.

“Father. I’m a Lesbo.”

“I’m sorry Jane. I can’t hear you. Speak up.

“I’m a lesbo.”

“You’re a hobo? You lay around the house a lot?”

That was it. My best effort. I couldn’t stomach much more of a confession or I was going to pass out. I resolved that God was unwilling to hear my confession. That my sin was unconfessable and that I would likely be punished for a lifetime. Probably destined to be eaten by a snake. Never marry. Spend a lifetime in purgatory.

“Yeah. That’s it.”

“Well. Do the dishes tonight.”

“Okay. Thanks Father.”

And I joined the other kids to say my Our Fathers and pretend that I fit in. That I was just like them. Even though I wasn't.

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