Part 1: A Life In Pieces (click here) Part 2 Another Life In Pieces, part 3 A Life in Anguished Pieces, Part 4 A Life in Mobile Words, Part 5 A Life in Coffee Part 6 A Life in Loneliness, Part 7 A Life In Rags, Part 8, A Life in Confusion, Part 9, A Life In Families Part 10, A Life in Memories and A Life in Contemplation
A LIFE IN CHURCH
“I need advice, Reverend,” whispered Saphie as quietly as she could whilst managing to remain audible.
She was standing in the nave of St Bollard's Church down the road from where she lived. She had never been in this particular church before and wasn't quite sure why she'd walked in just now. Having spent the years in a convent as a nun that she had there was no mystery left in the field of gods and faith so far as she was concerned. She had seen them all for what she had discovered they were and was happy to get on with her life without them.
The Reverend Josiah Pike was standing with her. A vicar hurtling towards retirement, he knew what his job was. It was to guide those seeking guidance, but not towards salvation in an unknown ethereal afterlife but, rather, towards both inner and outer contentment on Earth. As for God, he didn't believe in his existence, so why should he try and convince others? His faith had become his income, no more and no less, and he did no harm. That was his mantra, and it was as good as any: at least, that's what he thought when he was sober.
“If I can be any help I'll try,” he replied, gently. “But don't expect any big answers. I've been in this job long enough to know that the only answers people really want are little ones, or something like that.”
“Little ones, Father?”
“Hey! I'm not a Roman! Call me Josiah or Reverend, but not Father! Yes, my dear friend, little ones. They might, for instance, be consumed by guilt because they fear for their sexuality. They might, therefore, be led to believe that the entire world is against them. A man might even contemplate suicide as a way out of his torment, and he comes to me for a huge answer that will absolve him of his guilt, when there isn't one. But there are small answers, like it's his nature, like he had no say in it, that he is who he is and if he causes no harm to others then what does it matter? And if he's still in doubt I tell him that I'm gay myself, or something like that...”
“You are, Fa... Reverend?”
“It's what I say. And if you must know, I never tell outright lies, so I am what I say I am. So what is your problem?”
“I have a friend. I man who I met quite recently and who I like and we discovered quite recently that his sister had been a nun in a convent, and asked to leave because she, like you say you might, fell inappropriately in love...”
“Oh. I didn't say I might fall inappropriately into anything, my dear...”
“I wasn't sure how to put it...”
“We mustn't be too precious about the words we choose to use or we won't get any answers at all! So his sister is a lesbian or something like that, and, I'm sure, perfectly charming..?”
“You must have met her!”
“No, but from the way you have sought me out to discuss the matter … I say, would you like a glass of something warming?”
“I have a weakness for the grape. And at the moment it's wine o'clock, or something like that! I have a nice bottle of red that needs opening before its sell-by date, or something like that...”
“It's tempting... “
“Then by all means be tempted. We're in an ancient church, so it can't be wrong, can it? And I have heard that the fermented juice of the grape can be beneficial in all manner of ways, or something like that... Come on, through to the vestry...”
Saphie followed the Reverend Josiah Pike, not quite sure why, but the notion of a nice glass of wine was one great temptation too many for her.
It was good wine, too. Fruity, and not too acidic.
“My favourite,” sighed the vicar. “I have it delivered by the crate, for my sins. They probably think it's for communion, but I have so few communicants I make blackberry squash do... blessed, of course. I always bless it. Or something like that...” He winked at her.
“It is … good,” she said, sipping hers.
“I'm glad you share my tastes! Now then, tell me about the poor woman who is ashamed of what the good Lord made her...”
“I don't think it's too much to do with her shame. You see, I was a nun once, too, in the same convent...”
“Oh delicious irony!” he almost exploded, “and you and she... there being no gentlemen present … it's perfectly understandable. The most powerful driving force of them all is … er … sex, sexual attraction, or something like that. It can eat into our psyches if we find ourselves in the presence of that special person. I know what it's like … the Bishop is so damned attractive... or something like that!”
“The Bishop?” she asked before she could cull the words.
He nodded, and smiled. “So what is your problem? Is it as simple as you've had the sister and are worried whether having the brother would be right...? Or something like that?”
“Something like that,” she couldn't help herself saying, grateful that he didn't seem to notice the mimicry.
“There doesn't seem to be much of a problem there...” he began.
“But your faith … what does that suggest I might do?” she interrupted.
“My faith? Oh that! It says you are old enough to know all the answers for yourself! I don't mean to be rude, but you're obviously no spring chicken. Which of the siblings do you really, really like the best?”
That was the question that had stumped her innermost debates and which had probably driven her into the church in the first place.
She shook her head.
“You don't know, do you?” asked the vicar, gently.
Then Saphie found herself opening up.
“I don't need anyone,” she began, “I was perfectly happy on my own. There are no complications if the only person you've got to worry about is yourself! Izzy, the nun, was in my past, years in my past, and I'd got over her … I thought. But when I saw her … and she was standing on my stairs dressed only in a bath towel … it all came flooding back. Her vulnerability … she's always been vulnerable … the things we had done years ago got me expelled from the convent, sacked as a bride of Christ!”
“And her brother?” nudged the Reverend.
“He's a sweet man who introduced himself to me as a serial killer! Though he's nothing of the sort, of course. It was only a joke!”
“And are you having a sexual relationship?” asked Josiah Pike bluntly.
She shook her head. I should be shocked, talking like this to a man of the church, but funnily I'm not, she thought.
“No. I think we're both beyond that sort of thing,” she said quietly.
“Then your answers right there, my dear. Look at me: I'm no youngster myself, we're probably just about the same age as each other, but if the Bishop were to walk in right now I'd start quivering and shaking like a teenager, and not be responsible for what's happening inside my pants! It's a cradle-to-the-grave thing, is sex. Once you've caught the bug it doesn't go away. No medicine can cure it, no antibiotic can drive it away! You're stuck with it, or something like that...”
“So your answer is the same as the answer to the big question. Which of the siblings, my dear, would you most like to climb into bed with? Which would you most like to shag?”
©Peter Rogerson 18.03.14