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Mum and I get to church earlier than the usual time, I had pushed that we go earlier just so I can ascertain he is the one taking confessions that Saturday but that isn’t what I told her, I told her I just wanted to sit through and meditate a little. There are a few people already waiting, we sit in and wait till the priest arrives and goes into the confession booth. I feel my stomach turn seeing him ever so adorable in white garb. Confession starts exactly at 5pm, one by one everyone walks in sober and comes out more sober. It’s my turn, I adjust my scarf and go in.
It’s a small room with a demarcation, wood on the lower end, and glass at the top. Me on one side, the priest on the other.
“Bless me father for I have sinned. I can’t remember ever doing a confession. I’m not sure what my sins are or if I committed any. But I know I’m obsessed with you and I had to come out and say it.”
His face is expressionless, he probably hears this kind of thing every other time. He smiles at me.
“Thank you for being bold and open with me but I am a priest of God, sworn to celibacy and cannot commit to any woman, or feed your obsession.”
“We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I pray he forgives you for the ones you know and don’t know. “
“Amen” I say and stay kneeling there looking into his eyes,
“Fr. Preston, please I…”
He smiles and tells me to go back to my mother.
I get up to go, “at least let me be your friend, I need someone to talk to.”
“You’ll always find me in church.”
“I’ll come back to confess properly.”
“Till I see you. The peace of the lord be with you.”
I get out of the confession booth feeling like an idiot, mummy throws a scrutinizing stare at me. It’s all over my face that something had gone wrong, I’m not particularly proficient in pretending.
On the drive back home, I say nothing, despite all her questions.
“Did he say something to offend you? Did you do something you can’t forgive yourself for? What’s wrong Rita? Talk to me baby”
I silently watch as we drive past stores and joints to the lonely close that leads home. We honk at the gate but for what appears to be forever Paul fails to open the gate.
I drop from the passenger seat and go ahead to open the gate.
I walk to the house and then straight to my room, still not talking to mum. I bounce the door behind me and begin to cry. Who falls in love with a priest? Who obsesses over a man who has sworn to celibacy. I cry myself to sleep and wake up to 11 missed calls from Dami. This man I’m trying so hard to forget still manages to show up in my life every time.
First text, “Haven’t heard your voice in weeks, just wanted to say hi.”
I reply “Please stop showing up when you like, I’m trying to deal with this. We are no longer a thing.”
I’m wearing a short sleeved Burgundy gown, mummy says it makes e look sick. I ignore her comments and hug her good morning. She’s set too in her CWO wrapper and white blouse.
The crucifix hanging where the altar is the first thing that hits my gaze as I walk into church. It felt like Jesus was about talking to me. The church is scanty, the high mass always gas few attendants. It’s like last Sunday, only this this I try to hear him, I try to not be distracted by his voice, by his build. Mum and I say our hellos to him after mass, I want to stay back and see him but I fathom he may just want to go to the parish house and rest. I tell him I’ll come around the church the next day, he tells me he’ll be expecting me.
I’m sitting in his comfy office. It’s like a suite, i imagine how much money may have gone into building and furnishing. He’s sitting opposite me, I notice how uncomfortable he is yet confident.
“I’m not here to seduce you* I say, breaking the silence.
“I’m not afraid of being seduced” He relaxes on the sofa, as if beckoning for me to come.
“So, why?” I’m point to the finger rosary on his right hand.
“Why what? “
“Why did you chose to become a priest?”
“I didn’t choose, I was chosen and called by God “
“Like, he called your name from the sky in the middle of the night,?
“Something like that”
“So, you said you wanted to talk to me about…”
I move to the edge of my seat.
“The first time I walked into this church after many long years, your face was the first thing I saw, not even that crucifix that hangs up there, too conspicuous to miss.”
“That’s an error”
“I’ve not stopped thinking about you since that day, I feel connected to you in a deep way.”
“You are obsessed, it will go away”
“I know you get this a lot but I’m not here to just experience having sex with a priest and moving on. I want to be in your life for a very long time.”
“We talked about this during confession, I don’t have what you want.”
“ You do.”
“I can’t give it”
“ Now we are making progress”
“You need to leave.” He gets up from his restive position, I stare up at him.
“You’re asking your parishioner to leave your office in her time of need.”
He stares at me and smiles
“What do you think you are doing?
“ Expressing my feelings”
“You need to leave, your mum must be home waiting for you”
“ I’m not a baby.
“Go, please Rita”
His voice is firm now. I throw a deep stare at him, take my card from my bag, drop it on his table and leave.