I really should have gotten to bed earlier last night. My face rots in the mirror, eyes like two black holes.
Should I shave? Will it even matter?
No, why fake it. This is what I look like, just run with it and hope for the best.
My crusty vision fights the morning light. In the Dakota, I battle a bit of rush hour traffic, bringing my nicotine breakfast in and out of the window.
The parking lot of St. Thomas is relatively stark this early on a Monday. All the weekend warriors are busy back in their normal lives until Sunday.
Should I tell him my deep-seeded depression might not just be mine, but shared by an entire generation without a purpose? An entire future sitting alone on a computer, detached from what little you create. Less likely to go outside and build something, less likely to know your own neighbors. Driving and living shoulder to shoulder amongst thousands of strangers, zombies, self-centered lifestyles out of fear.
Or it’s just too early and I need sleep. That could be it too.
I find the Parish Office 15 minutes early. I try the door but it’s locked. So I back off from the door, and a moment later, this girl opens it to let me in. She’s shapely, with long dark hair and a pretty smile.
“Good morning, I’ll tell Father John you’re here,” she smiles again.
Mmm. I could stare at her all day.
Great Andrew, why not lust after the receptionist in the priest’s office while you’re at it.
I sit on this quiet couch and sink deeply into it. On the walls are sporadic Jesus-related paintings, and a picture of John Paul II, looking very much like Yoda if he were weighed down by overly ornate garb.
Within minutes I feel like I’m waiting for a dentist. Distant office chatter about how-was-your-Thanksgiving-oh-it-was-good, the occasional phone ringing.
The third person in as many minutes walks by, suggests I have some coffee.
“Oh no thanks.”
Do I really look that tired?
A tiny old lady, trying hard to walk in without assistance, finds the receptionist and asks where her sunglasses went.
Pretty Receptionist does her best to tell the old lady she has no idea who she is, or where her sunglasses are.
A third woman appears, jovial and pleasant, from one of the back offices. She corrals the old lady back outside with a helpful demeanor.
I glance at the coffee machine’s clock from across the room, it’s 9:10. Father John’s purposely having me stew for a while, it seems. Can’t show up right away, have to let the patient wait a bit. Make it look like you’re busy.
I get up and see John. He’s not wearing his dress today. Instead he’s in all black like I am.
“Yeah that’s me.”
“Uh… there’s coffee over there?” he points, with a concerned look on his face.
“No thanks. Hey sorry I got scheduled so early. I think they do it on purpose, so I’ll be rotten and grumpy, and more likely to tell you how I really feel.”
“It’s true,” he says, as I follow him into his office.
“Hey damn. Nice office man. Stained wood furniture, black leather, plenty of literature.”
“Yeah,” he drops into a comfy chair opposite from my own, “I should have a nice office, don’t you think?”
I crack an offensive joke about priests rollin’ on 22 inch rims.
“We totally could if we wanted to. At least the kind of priest I am. We don’t take a vow of poverty.”
The both of us shoot the breeze for a while. I mention my world view of ironic isolation because of the internet. Instead of being weirded out, he chimes in immediately. We exchange jokes unheeded on the subject. I tell him if Jesus were to appear now, people would be taking Twitpics of him and texting while he’s standing there confused.
“I just feel like I could be right next to someone, yet they’re miles away. I mean the other day I saw a commercial ‘Use your Visa Card for a chance to win tickets to the Super Bowl for you and ten friends!' And I’m like, I don’t even have ten friends. And the two I have don’t even give a shit about football.”
Father John laughs.
“Seriously, I’d just sit there with an entire row to myself. Sorry these seats are taken, I have the tickets right here.”
John laughs again, then tells me about how he used to be on Facebook, but kept offending people and stopped, “It’s like I have all these ‘friends’ mostly nutjobs from high school that I never even talk to. I’d say the smallest thing on there and they’d all freak out.” He went on about the anonymity of the internet. How people say bold things they normally wouldn’t in person. How meeting a lover now is so cold, calculated, statistical, and distant through online ventures.
I tell him I feel awkward in Mass. That I watched this angelic girl sing in front of the crowd, tried to clap afterwards and felt like a moron.
“THAT WAS YOU?!”
“Dude yeah. I was like what the hell she did great. No one claps? She could have died up there and gotten the same reaction.”
“Well it’s a song about Jesus. It’s about Jesus, not her.”
“Then we don’t clap for Jesus?”
“No, we don’t clap for Jesus.”
“So if she does lousy, then what?”
“Then I fire her, I guess. I can’t believe that was you clapping. I seriously thought it was some mentally challenged kid or something. If that happened like five or six years ago, I would’ve gotten on the mic and publicly berated you!”
“Then I would have twitched like a retard, cried and ran out.”
We both laughed hard again. I like Father John.
I crack a few more offensive jokes about Jesus waking up in the middle of the night when the church is empty, scratching himself, stretching, then returning to his normal Crucifix pose. John enjoys them, then checks the clock and goes “Oh yeah, so you have some sins?”
“A load of them.”
“Ok well we better do this by the book,” he takes this silky looking purple scarf out, kisses it, says “I do this so it looks like I care. I mean, I do care. You uh, you know what I mean.”
“You sure you don’t want to work on some crossword behind a clipboard while I ramble on and you act like you’re listening?”
“I already did my crossword. Guess I’m out of luck,” he chuckles at me again.
We get the formalities out of the way, then he motions for me to begin.
“Yeah so I lied, I double-parked, will vote for Ron Paul again and I’ve been intentionally avoiding some bill collectors.”
“That’s not so bad.”
“Well I didn’t want to give you a heart attack right off the bat, father.”
“I appreciate it. But go on.”
“Ok, make sure you’re comfortable. You need a snack?”
“I just ate breakfast, go ahead,” he says.
So I went on about my worst secrets. The drug thing, the crimes, the miracle story, the broken heart and so on. He interrupted me a few times with a “Whoa. Wait. Really? Then what happened?”
He was even leaning forward.
So I conclude.
He says “Wow.”
I respond with “Though it sounds like it, I’m not Satan I promise.”
He raised an eyebrow, “How do you figure?”
“Satan would be better looking.”
We both shared a hearty laugh.
“So is that it?” he said, wiping his eyes.
“That’s the gist of it, I’d say,” my stomach growled hungrily.
He then held his hand out and spoke a bit about how I was absolved of my sins. I recanted a prayer with him about how I’m sorry and won’t do it again. Afterwards I ask “What time is it?”
“It’s 10am on the dot,” he said.
“Dang, you’re a professional!” I shook his hand, “How much I owe you doc?”
“Three Our Fathers in front of Joseph in the church. Ask him to pray for you, to help you become the man God wants you to be.”
“That’s it? I don’t have to paint the roof or get whipped by some Haitians?”
“Not on Mondays.”
We chatted outside for a bit longer about Italian food. He says he feels fat, I tell him don’t worry I’ll be fat soon too. He shook my hand again with a big smile, and I left for work. J