“Forgive me father for I have sinned…”
My chest heaving, holding the silver chalice towering over the black robe that lay still, the words escaped my mouth. They were cold and my eyes steely. Unblinking I watched as the blood dripped from the edge of the chalice onto the lifeless body.
“Child I have taken a vow. I cannot know the warmth of a woman’s bosom. I live in a cold world.”
I did not know why Father Joshua told me this. He asked me to come closer perhaps to feel my warmth. I did not like being alone with him, his hands big and coarse wandered. Mother had always said that when he put his hands on you it was a blessing.
“Peace be with you my child” he would murmur then mother would kiss his hands and walk away wiping her tears. She had a lot on her mind. A dead husband, a dying child and an eager mouth to feed. Peace, she needed peace. She said she found it in those graying walls of the church. She found it in his calm voice when he spoke. She found it in the hymns and the prayers. But it did not last. So every chance she got she was there seeking peace, seeking the father, seeking answers and seeking refuge.
His hands were stretched, they looked flabby and worn. He did not have the long rob to cover him up. Years in the sun worked against his translucent skin. It was dotted with pink spots, it looked diseased, like the lepers people in the bible avoided. He beckoned, his thin lips parted in a wry smile.
“Come my child.” His calm voice called “We have to partake of this bread.”
I thought of mother and I was afraid. Afraid that she would know I refused the hands of a holy man to bless me. She would curse me then spit. She would blame me for all her troubles. She would call me the seed of the devil himself. When mother did not know peace no one knew peace. So I had to receive my blessings. I closed my eyes, and stepped forward. His hands were rough to the skin and he smelt of incense. I could feel his skin next to mine and his exploring hands blessing every inch of my body. My body stiffened, even parts that shouldn’t have. His low moans and groans, how he summoned the blessings perhaps, were intrusive. They assaulted my ears. I kept my eyes tightly shut like we did during prayer. Mother had said if the angels saw us peeking they would strike us blind. Maybe I should’ve kept them open. Maybe I should have let the angels strike me blind. But weren’t they too blind? Couldn’t they see?
I could hear him coming out of his trousers. I could feel his hand on my chest, rubbing. It burnt, like sand paper. He led my hand, like a shepherd does with sheep, to parts of his body. The groans got more aggressive. Finally, he had to break bread. Jesus was not enough, he had to partake to in my body. The scent of incense lingering on my body way after the deed was done. The heavy breathing on my neck and whispers to keep the work of the Lord secret where etched in memory like the epitaph on my father’s grave. ‘He died because he did not believe’ mother always said.
I was too young she probably thinks. Too young to remember how his fists landed heavily on her face. How he reeked of alcohol every morning. But I remember everything in detail. The sound of his uncoordinated footsteps outside the house. The banging on the door in the middle of the night. The breaking of glasses and moving of furniture. The muffled screams asking him to stop and finally the grunts and groans. I remember how she made special tea, mother. She told me not to touch it but Denver did not listen. He took a sip, he was father’s favorite. Now he is sick and father is dead. But his death did not bring peace.
I always wonder what father would think of me. He always called me a man. He said I was a man like him. But if he saw me now? What man cannot use his fist? He would be disappointed. He would bang on me like the door at midnight. He would hear me scream for my mother and laugh. He would spit in my face and call me no son of his. I would be a disgrace. A child unfit to have a father. I know what I have to do to become one, a man.
People love Sunday. The woman down the street who sells vegetables wears a flowery dress and red shoes. The man that sharpens knives wears a white shirt and grey trousers and polished black shoes. The rich man puts his family in the car, the girls in matching dresses and the boys in suits. The wife wears a pink hat. He drives them to the doors and they go in. Everybody seems happy. It’s a beehive of activity before and after. People exchange pleasantries. Some come up to me and tell me how lucky I am to serve. They say ‘Even Jesus was a servant.’ They say it is a calling that I shouldn’t mind bending over backwards. Little did they know that all I ever did was bend over.
When the sun rises it finds me putting on my robes inside his chambers. By now he has groaned and grunted. He has laid his blessings upon me. This Sunday was no different. In fact, I was there earlier. I obliged to his will and let him have me. I remembered the first time he touched me and the words he spoke “Child I have taken a vow. I cannot know the warmth of a woman’s bosom. I live in a cold word.” A rage inside of me grew burning like a wild fire. He grunted and I knew it was over, he put on his robe. I turned to leave and saw it, the chalice. Standing there, the luster from the colored windows forming a halo around it. The angels, they must have been sending me a message. So I picked it up and turned, holding it above my head and walked towards him. His back was facing me but the shadow must’ve betrayed. He turned with his eyes wide open full of confusion. I could hear my father saying ‘Now you’re a man.’ With the wrath of the floods that destroyed the earth I let the chalice fall onto his head with all my might. Like a sack he fell. He did not let out a shriek. He just went silent. There was something satisfying that swept through my being. The steady soft thuds of the blood that spattered on the cold floor calmed the fire in me. The bell rang, the church would soon be full. I hoped mother would not be angry that she would not get her blessings.
With a smile on my face I started my confession
“Forgive me father for I have sinned…”