“You must know life to see decay, but I won’t rot. I won’t rot – not this mind and not this heart. I won’t rot.”
“After the Storm,” Mumford & Sons
A parking lot filled with cars but decidedly lacking in people is not the best place for an existential, religious crisis, especially not after having too many drinks and engaging in decidedly trashy behavior. Every nice girl is allowed one night of debauchery, right? I wanted to cry and run and hide. I felt as if all of my desperation was put on display for everyone to see, and it was. I did not conduct myself as I normally do. I am ashamed by my embarrassingly public displays of affection with a stranger. He told me his name, but I couldn’t really hear anything he was saying over the bass; my ears still feel fuzzy. I wish my recollection of my behavior was fuzzy, but it is painfully clear.
I don’t know what troubles me most; the fact that I became someone else last night, someone who I am far from proud of, or the fact that I made out with a stranger in a bar and still feel unfulfilled and lonely. I have built romance into an overwhelming, all-consuming absence that needs to be rectified on point of death. I thought a messy, impromptu make-out session would open my eyes and that it would mean more. But it doesn’t mean anything, and I am no closer to feeling loved and needed in a unique and singular way than I was yesterday. If anything, I feel like I’ve taken two giant steps backwards. I feel gross and disposable and dumb. There was no point to what I did. I wasn’t that drunk, so I can’t blame it on the alcohol. Was I really so lonely? Did I succumb to everything that I judged and feared for a few moments of – of what? It wasn’t even enjoyable. I did it to do it, and to be able to say that I had done it; a notch on the belt, something to cross of the bucket list.
But that’s not me! I love love! I believe that love is awesome and worth living for and worthy dying for and I believe that love is something sacred and I ignored everything I’ve held dear for so long for what? I don’t understand, and that scares me. After all this time, how can I not know myself? How can I be so weak and selfish and irrational?
At least I learned that romance and the physicality of romance are two very separate and distinct aspects – for some, they can be easily severed. I learned what I don’t want – I do not want to be a serial PDA. I do not want to be that girl at the bar that strangers take pictures of because she’s being that trashy. It is definitely better being the lonely-looking girl at the end of the bar than it is to be the one making a spectacle of herself – at least it is for me, anyway – to each his own, I guess. I am going to hold tight to my belief that love is real and something special is going to happen to me. I can’t rush it or look for it in dark, desperate places.
PROMPT: “A priest is attacked for being a pedophile. He is innocent of the crime but guilty of something far worse.”
PIECE: Father Brian sat alone in the rectory in his favorite armchair. It was worn in all the right spots so that it fit his tired body like a familiar lover. He knew the analogy was somewhat odd to be thought of by a priest – a man of the cloth, as it were – but at this moment, he didn’t care. Parishioners and clergymen would think what they wanted, all evidence to the contrary be damned. Father Brian was well aware there had been whispers and subtle suggestions that he was a pedophile. The mere thought of it turned his stomach and he wanted to rally against his accusers – blacken eyes, loosen teeth and draw blood. But Father Brian was a holy man – he was not animalistic or base in nature, and was a sentient being. He could almost understand how the implications started; after all, he was very affectionate with the altar servers. He tousled hair, squeezed shoulders, hugged freely, but he only did so to show love and support. His intentions were honorable.
But, Father Brian sighed deeply, let them think what they want because the truth – the real truth – was worse. He was not an honorable or holy man. He was a fraud, a louse and weak, so weak. He was supposed to be righteous and pure. He was supposed to be leading the way in salvation. Instead, he valued the dark places of his soul where he refused the light of the Lord and instead lighted the labyrinthine paths with lascivious desires. Why, just last night after hearing Saturday night confessions, he had gone out to the bar in civilian clothes. He hadn’t mentioned his occupation to anyone. Father Brian – just Brian now; as if it even worked that way – took a seat on a rickety, abused bar stool and ordered a beer. Then he waited. For the past couple of weeks or so, Brian kept meeting this beautiful woman. She found him to be a good listener and they would talk until last call and then Brian would see her home. It seemed harmless enough, but his overly affectionate behavior towards the altar servers made him nervous. Was his affection misplaced? Was he treating the servers like his own children because that’s really what he wanted, a wife and a family? Did he want it with this woman? Why hadn’t he told her the truth?
Because last night she had kissed him and he hadn’t stopped her. He was still a virgin, but was that his choice, or simply because she hadn’t invited him inside?
He was losing his faith – he could feel it shrivelling and crippling away from him. He wasn’t bothering to cradle it in his arms and nestle it in his arms. Father Brian was giving up. The parishioners could sense this, but leveled terrible accusations against him. This he considered his own fault though, because he was using the servers to mask his feelings. He was working so hard to be the Light, to exude love and joy that it seemed false and sinister.
What was to become of him?
He threw the tumbler of whiskey he had been nursing against the opposite wall and watched the glass shatter, tears streaming. It was all very fitting, very fucking fitting.