POV

Spirit in the Sky

I took him to a cafe’ and told him my story. He started crying almost immediately, pouring tears over a half-eaten tuna sandwich.

Story and photos by Icarus Blake - icarus @citizenbrooklyn.com

Photo © Icarus Blake

I went to a private catholic high school. I had been kicked out of public school after throwing a dictionary at the French professor. I aimed for the head of a class mate, but he dodged the hit and the paper brick went on to smash the professor’s face and basically sent her into early retirement. It was an inexplicable accident. And so I went and joined the ranks of rich idiots, random geniuses and juvenile criminals in the middle of the school year. For the first few months I tried to blend in and performed my best altar boy impression. We had prayer each morning, with everyone half asleep including the priests. There was a red haired boy in my class, skinny and full of freckles. He spoke to no one and always kept his eyes down as if somebody from his family had passed away each morning. People called him Reddy. I was tall and strong with a penchant for fights. I began to protect Reddy from a distance. I let the senior students know that Reddy had to be left alone. I started taking him along to rugby practice after school. He couldn’t play, he would have been annihilated, but he loved to sit in the corner of the bleachers and watch. We were friends, I believe, although we did not exchange more than ten words in three months. Reddy had a secret; it was obvious that he was hiding something big.

Photo © Icarus Blake

Father Bianchi was one of our confessors; he had dragon breath and an oily nose. We had to empty the sin bag to him once a week. The confession farce went on smoothly for a while. I would keep Father Bianchi up to speed on the quantity of my wanking, and he would assign me an equal number of “Our Fathers” as a penance. Then, one morning, it happened. I had smashed my knee during practice the day before and I asked Father Bianchi if I could confess standing.
He immediately took me to the infirmary, had me lay on the bed, and started massaging a smelly cream onto my knee. Before I knew it, he had my testicles in his hands. I burst out laughing, grabbed and crushed his hand and left the room leaving him bent over in pain holding his hand. In the weeks that followed I noticed a change of attitude in some of the priests that were also my professors, they became hostile and my already shaky average started crashing dramatically. I was furious. My father was dead and I could not tell my mother. She would have slapped me across the face telling me to find a more plausible excuse for my academic failure. I decided to tell Reddy. I took him to a cafe’ and told him my story. He started crying almost immediately, pouring tears over a half-eaten tuna sandwich. He then got up and ran out without a word. He started to avoid me, but I finally understood. A few days later during confession, I hid behind the organ and waited for Reddy’s turn. He came in like a dead man walking and knelt next to Father Bianchi who immediately put his arm around his shoulders and started whispering in his ear. Suddenly, Reddy’s back hunched as if something had hit him in the stomach and I could see Father Bianchi’s other arm reaching down and moving. I heard Reddy’s tenuous voice in the silent chapel: …please…please. Enough.

Photo © Icarus Blake

I ran out of hiding, grabbed Father Bianchi by the neck, threw him on the floor and dragged Reddy out. We sat on a bench in a park nearby. He was shaking and crying. I spoke to him trying to convince him to tell somebody. He begged me to take him home. Days went by and I did not know what to do. I could not tell the rector, he probably would have protected father Bianchi. Reddy’s mother had a store, one afternoon I showed up after practice and I told her everything. She listened carefully with her eyes down, just like her son. I saw one tear steam down her cheek and hit the counter. She thanked me and caressed me on the back of the head as I was leaving the store. A week later Reddy was gone, we were told he transferred to a different school. I went back to the store to ask about him, but a sales woman told me the store was for sale and the mother wasn’t going to work anymore. I was fourteen and I had a bad reputation. I went to war with the priests for the remaining four years of high school. I drove them insane. Father Bianchi was also transferred citing ‘health problems’. Other people’s health, I suppose. And this Pope, that just quit his job, also claimed health problems as the cause.
No. It’s a lie. This Pope is weak in the spirit, not the body. And so is his church.

(the names of the people involved in this story have been changed to respect their privacy)

Photo © Icarus Blake

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