Confession by Colin O’Sullivan
Click: the sound of slim heels on the church tiles, click click.
Click: her long nail on the wheel of the iPod, shutting it down, to silence, that reverential, pregnant, church silence, the kind of quiet that suggests something is about to happen.
Click again: the sound of her compact mirror shutting; she’s just checked herself and she’s more than ready, pout-perfect, long-lashed, blushed, and enough cleavage showing to fracture the fault lines of any faint heart.
Click: an old woman exits the door of the confessional; it’ll be Sarah’s turn next, another Saturday and she’s more than ready. Up for it.
Most of her friends are still hanging around their rooms, still in pyjamas, some feeling sorry for the thunderous headaches, the punishing post-binges, others watching pop videos, apologising to parents for their manifold misdemeanours, but already scheming their Saturday night. More of the same. Week in, week out. The parents are tired of it. Most of the parents just dog-tired.
The church isn’t far, a twenty-minute walk at most from Sarah’s house, though sometimes she wants it to last longer, give her more time to appreciate the tunes. She’s just getting stuck into an album when the church spire comes into sight, then the black spiked railings, and then the big brown doors. She often takes a roundabout route, not just for the music’s sake, but also to enjoy the stares of morning men and boys who can’t help but fix on her legs (she pulls the skirt up higher on the thigh when leaving the house) or rubber-neck to catch a glimpse of that behind if she’s in those jeans. This all from a body not even finished, waist still slender, not an ounce of fat, breasts full and not yet done with their forward charge; a tidy package all in all, as if she doesn’t know.
The perfect-arse jeans were flung in the laundry basket the previous day. Mother will wash them for her: another one she’s got wrapped around her fingers.
Today: a skirt. Short enough to cause car accidents, to short-circuit the very traffic lights and make them want to flash green only and go go go.
Must have been a sinless week because there’s no one ahead of her and she waltzes right in. Click. Action.
When the old lady shuffles past her smiling and muttering she takes a deep breath and struts towards the box. Before she steps in she makes sure there is no one else around. If another sinner, bent on penitence, should approach, then she’d have to take a cautious step back and wait a little longer. This is the way she works it. She’s careful. She’s bad in her bones, scorching to the touch, but she’s careful, oh so.
Everything in a church is done slowly. She likes it this way. Outside it’s all skipping and prancing. Her nights on the town especially, the clubs: under strobes, struts and poses; in here though, all slo-mo. She likes that sense of gravity, the tension.
The door shuts behind her: a final click.
The little square shutter opens. And then…then she gets the whole operation underway.
“Bless me Father for I have sinned, it’s been a week since my last confession.”
She can hear the tremble in his reply, his very first words, and she can see the shadows his hands make as he begins the ritual. The air in the box is heavy, musty, and she lets him wait a few moments before she begins.
“Go on, my child.”
A little more of this pausing, adds to the drama, the way she works it.
“Well, you see, Father, it’s been a very bad week for me. I’ve done some very naughty things.”
She tries to contain her smirk. It wasn’t easy at first, all those months ago, but she’s getting the hang of it now, can stun that smile, as if ice wouldn’t melt in that sweet, hot mouth.
“Go on, Sarah, tell me everything, God will absolve you of all your sins, no matter how bad they are. But you must confess. Tell me everything, child.”
He calls her by her first name. She calls him Father.
She loves these Saturdays, loves her clandestine escapades. Her English teacher asked her about her hobbies recently and for a minute she almost told him, almost confessed. Only she saw the irony and chuckled, it got her detention when she couldn’t stop laughing, the rest of her classmates stared, bemused. If only they knew.
“Oh Father, Monday night I was taking a swimming lesson in the pool with John Murty. He’s so big and strong and has these muscles.”
She sighs here, wistful, longing sighs. She does actually attend swimming lessons, not yet as competent a swimmer as she would like to be, but she won’t drown, that’s for sure.
“And he was there in his little swimming pants and, oh Father, is it so wrong of me to be staring at him?”
John Cavanagh is indeed a fine figure of a man, an Adonis for anyone that’s vaguely interested in that sort of shit. There is no John Murty. She doesn’t know where she got the name. She creates.
“No, dear, it’s not wrong. Your natural biological impulses will lead you to do that, but you must try to avert your eyes because you are not yet old enough to deal with such things, the consequences.”
“But I couldn’t help it, Father. I just had to look and look again, and I think he knew I was staring. Do you want me to continue, Father?”
Does he what?
A small crucifix hangs behind her on the wooden wall. It’s eerie. The whole thing, encased in a box is eerie, like a coffin, a coffin with company. She never turns around to look at the cross. First time she was in there she felt a presence behind her; in the dark she thought it was a sleeping bat. Turns out it was much more frightening than a winged rodent, a man nailed to wood, a crown of thorns, fucking gruesome.
“Well, yes Sarah, if I am to clear you of your sins then it is best to know everything in detail, so I can give you the correct amount of penance, you know, to be getting on with.”
Weigh up the sins, get out the scales.
“Well, it is embarrassing to speak of it…but what he had inside those swimming shorts, it’s like he was just packed into them. His thing, you know, his “thing”, seems huge, all the girls say it. And we are all only hoping that somehow it will slip out and I can get a good look at it, to see if it really is like the snake I imagine it to be.”
Fr. Michael Mulcahy’s breathing is heavier; she can hear him, a rustling of vestments on the other side of the dark box.
She waits a moment, then continues.
“I know the serpent in the Bible is evil, but God forgive me, I want to see this one slither out of his shorts and stand up right in front of me.”
He lets out a rasping gasp, the Rothmans doing the devil to his fifty-eight-year-old lungs. His elbows bang against the wood panels.
She keeps going. Gathering speed. Working it. Working it.
“That night, Monday night, I was thinking about him all the time. When I was in bed I couldn’t get to sleep. I was just thinking about him, taking me in his arms and kissing me all over. Kissing me all over and then taking off my nightdress, I still wear one of those childish ones I’m embarrassed to say, you know, with Minnie Mouse on the front.”
The details. Fr. Mulcahy likes the details. He can’t help but blurt:
“Yes, yes, do the voice now too. Do the voice now, Sarah.”
She does. She does the voice. A high-pitched, child-like voice, embarrassing, but practiced enough to get through this, to pull it all off.
“But of course Johnny doesn’t even look at Minnie Mouse, he just tears it off and starts kissing all over my belly and then licking my breasts. Father, my breasts aren’t even fully developed yet, but he says I look like a woman, that my breasts are full and heavy, and he holds them in both hands and squeezes my nipples. His hands are soft, maybe from being in the water so much, but his caresses cause my nipples to harden.”
Gasps and crazed shuffling from his side of the box. A flurry.
“Oh Father, I can’t believe I’m confessing these sins to you, these dreadful fantasies that keep coming back and devouring me, I spent all week lingering on them. Am I wicked? Am I a naughty, wicked girl?”
“Please continue now Sarah, we’re almost done. Confess. Confess.”
She tries hard to contain herself, holds her hand over her mouth, closes her eyes and tries to concentrate on the task. She can smell his rough breath coming through the mesh, coffee a half-hour ago perhaps, fags too, pungent. He’ll have a heart-attack in front of her one of these days. Poor fool.
“Please continue now Sarah, we’re almost done.”
She doesn’t know how she doesn’t laugh, how she keeps serious, keeps it all together. But she does.
“Do you do anything to yourself when you are imagining these scenes?”
He cues her right up.
“Oh yes Father, I can’t help but touch myself. I know I shouldn’t, but I just can’t stop, I slide my hand inside my white panties and I rub myself until I’m wet and…”
The shuffling gets louder. His eyes against the mesh, bulging. Panting now, really gruff. The other side.
“Should I stop, Father?”
“No, keep going!”
Her voice high and squeaky, a Minnie Mouse parody, but reducing now to whispers, to counter the gruff priest. When she slips into her own tones he almost shouts:
“No! The voice! Do the voice!”
“And then Johnny puts his tongue on the inside of my thighs and he licks right along my flesh until I’m in a frenzy and then, oh the shame of it, he puts his tongue right on my pussy lips and licks and licks, where I’ve never even been touched before…”
“On your what?”
“My pussy! My pussy!”
And then he groans and the shuffling and motions on the other side of the little square window stop, and she can just about make out his dark hands moving to his forehead as he dabs at sweat and coughs and sighs and mutters something about a decade of the Rosary and how God will forgive us all our evil deeds and something else about wantonness and the fires of Hell. And the shutter opens and he slides across the fifty Euros and mumbles some more and he waits until she clicks open the door and exits before he starts his sick sobbing. They never even got to her Tuesday activities this time.
Two old men are seated at the back of the church, on either side of the aisle, and when she passes she can feel their necks turn to get a glimpse of her calves. She sashays out of there knowing that the head on the crucifix is the only head that never turns in her direction, no matter how many Saturdays she shows up, it hangs, dismayed.
Dave Drake is waiting outside for her, all height, meat and solidity. He smokes, hasn’t yet got that Fr. Michael rasp however, twenty years too young for that; he just oozes confidence, the confidence of a trickster, who knows that he’s got you right where he wants you, and somehow, somehow, you don’t mind being there at all. His hair is remarkably soft and she runs her fingers quickly through it when he bends to kiss her on the cheek: a touch of vanity perhaps, that care and attention to self, expensive conditioner she’s sure of it, well Sarah wouldn’t be surprised, that’s the way men are these days, more careful, they like to look pristine, whatever the sordid business.
Drake takes out his cigarette case and offers her one, she takes it to her lips and he lights it for her, his big hands sheltering the flame from the wind. He notices the lipstick that so quickly stains the butt, tarnished already.
“You’re a star. This is turning into a nice little earner. What? Ten minutes work. Fifty Euros.”
She smiles, enjoying his thick North Dublin accent, laps up his praise.
“Where was the cum-point today?”
“Pussy. It’s always pussy.”
“I thought last week it was Minnie Mouse.”
“Yeah, well, whatever, it was over pretty fast as usual.”
“You’re such a tease.”
“I’m such a professional.”
He smiles at her, believes her, would believe anything she says. He has a soft spot for these country girls in their boring country towns. They’re so bored they’ll do anything, anything for the damn dour days to pass faster.
“Right, well, I’m outa here. Now don’t you think I deserve a little something. Can’t hang about.”
Drake reaches into his pocket and pulls out a little packet of white powder.
“Candy for my girl.”
“Ooh, you are so good to me. I’m glad we’ve forged such a good partnership.”
Sarah knows there isn’t much in it for her. She works for him, hands over the cash, gets a tiny bit of blow for her efforts. But what choice has she? Drake has his famous knife inside that jacket too. And he’s cut up girls in the past. In whatever town he happens to be working in. Wouldn’t think twice about taking another slice. She fears him. He terrifies her. And for some odd reason, for some reason that she still can’t fathom after all these weeks of this “work”, she’d fuck him just as quick.
“You’re a star. All three of you.”
“Yeah, you, Minnie Mouse, and your pussy. Aren’t those the three leading players.”
“Don’t forget the fictional Johnny Murty.”
“Indeed, hell of a man. Body of an Olympian, face of a matinee idol, dick of a porn star.”
“Yeah, and my Johnny is copyrighted. You can’t go stealing any more from me,” she laughs.
Drake takes a good look at her fit body, grins. He’ll take it one day for sure. But not yet. He’ll let it mature a little more first, few months perhaps, then fuck it with such ferocity that she’ll never smile and chatter with him again, only tremble when she sees him coming towards her, either his long cock or his bowie in his hand.
Sarah waves herself away, plugs her earphones back in and moves to her soundtrack. She has places to be. People to see. She’s a torpedo, goes only one way, a crazed rush forward, she’s all youth, and despite her walk on the shady side is innocence yet.
The two old church men exit through the main door and pass him, their prayers done for at least another few hours. Maybe they are making some deal with their maker, knowing how close they are to the end of it all, maybe they’re preparing their way, ensuring the ride there is less bumpy. They pass Drake and mutter, mumbles that could be mistaken for reprehension, or general disaffection at the state of things, maybe they know what goes on every week, hearing the sobbing pathetic priest sitting in his dark box, a once-fine institution only digging bigger holes for itself these days, maybe it should call that hole a grave, jump in and just stay there; whatever, Drake can dismiss their rheumy sputters, doesn’t want to think of old-age and the inevitable slide towards infirmity, can do without all that for another while. Right now he’s got to make it to St. Christopher’s, because that little peach Melinda is on her way to confess to Fr. Brendan. He closes his cigarette case after lighting and dragging deeply on another: click. Saturday’s are always busy.