“Er...um...oh, yeah. Bless me father for I have sinned—” I leaned forward in the darkened confessional, a place I’d feared since second grade when Sister Mary Margaret made me stay in one for hours for not bringing my rosary to school on the first Friday of the month—when all good Catholic children went to Mass and confession. How many sins could a seven year old have anyway?
“Are you there my dear?” the disembodied voice of Father Nawrocki said.
Father Nawrocki. Since high school all my friends and I had a crush on the tall, brown-eyed priest. Priest! I should add that to my list of sins right now. Ogling a priest.
“Um...yes, I am.” I managed a few fake coughs and despite knocking on the door of hell by lying to a priest in the confessional no less, I coughed again. I ran through the first part of the confession format, which I’d learned rote in Saint Stanislaus Catholic school from the nuns who told us we didn’t need to know the reason for learning things, we just had to memorize them.
Now the priest coughed.
I gave him the benefit of the doubt that it was real and continued, “my last confession was—” Good Lord. Did he really need to know that? And when was it? Second grade? Did it not count if I wasn’t accurate? “—well, it was...awhile so I’ll wing it.”
“Wing it, Wiktoria?”
Oh geez. The only thing worse than having to go to confession and spit out your sins was when the priest knew who you were through the supposedly camouflaged screen! And, no one, no one, called me by my Polish name since grammar school other than my mother when she scolded me. “You know, Father, I think I’ll just tell it like it is.”
“I would assume you would anyway. It is confession.”
Was it getting hot in here or was the trapdoor to hell and beyond opening up? I forced a laugh, knowing he couldn’t see my face and the pained look it must have on it. Or could he? Damn it. Oops. I had to get out of here if I ever wanted to scurry through the Pearly Gates to all eternity someday. Because right now I thought I caught a glimpse of fiery flames coming from beneath the hand-crocheted throw rug near the kneeler. “Yes, well. Look, Father N, I really didn’t come here to confess anything.”
“I know. I know. I’m holding up the line.” And what a line it was on the first Friday of the month at Saint Stanislaus Church in the cozy town of New Bochenia, named for the hometown of the Polish immigrants founded it. Over the years it was Americanized to New Boch, pronounced New Boc by non-Poles and the rest of the world. Anyway, in a town like New Boch you could count on a long line of Polish Catholic women snaked around the pews and nearly out the door. Only males were the priest and a few from the over eighty crowd.
“Okay, Father N, I am going to level with you.” I leaned forward as if that would draw his attention to the confessional screen where I knelt, sweating and waiting for the devil to yank me out of here, which at the moment didn’t seem like such a bad idea.
Phew. He’d lightened up or at least wanted to get this over with as fast as I did. “Okay. My last confession seems like eons ago, but you know me. I am a good girl—” I could imagine him rolling his eyes. After all he’d been hearing my confessions throughout the teen years. Gulp again. There was that night with Ricky Rinaski...never mind. “I really am, a good girl that is, so consequently, I don’t have any sins to confess at the moment.”
I heard him sigh, rather loudly for a man of the cloth.
“Really. When I was fifteen I used to make some up to give you something to do. Er...never mind. The reason I am here is more to ask a question to see if I need to confess something. You know, clarify something I can’t Google.” I giggled.
“Perhaps we can talk in my office after confession is over, Miss Gansecki?”
Lord no! Then we’d be face to face. It was one thing to be hidden behind the confessional haze, even though he knew who I was, but to be face to face with a priest sent shivers down my Catholic School induced conscience’s spine—as if I really was a bad girl.
Ricky and I only made it to second base.
“No. No, thank you, Father. I just want to know. I mean, I need some clarification of the 21st century list of sins. The lite sins. Not mortal ones. You know, not murder, stealing etcetera.”
Now I could see his pious shadow shaking his head. “Go on, Wiktoria.”
Yikes. He wanted me out of here badly. Maybe he figured he’d get sucked down into hell along with me as some kind of innocent bystander, so I hurried on. “Is it a sin? I mean, you know I mean no harm. So, in the scheme of things and remembering that these are modern times—”
“Is what a sin, child?”