On Saturday morning, I was up first and grabbed the bathroom before the other dancers soiled it. After my hair had dried, I got dressed and threw my winter gear on to walk to confession. The other day when I went uptown to the Immigration Office, I saw a Catholic Church about five or six blocks from Hanrahan's strip club, and I marched off in that direction.
I believe it was St. Ann's. Confession hours began at seven in the morning and went on until two in the afternoon. Even in the frigid cold, my palms were sweating as I pushed open the front door, thinking the roof might cave in on me before I got to the confessional. All Catholic Churches smelled the same, wood polish mixed with an aroma of beeswax and sandalwood. It reminded me of nuns dressed like penguins and rulers smacking my knuckles.
I dipped my freezing fingers into the holy water font, and my forehead didn't sizzle when I made the sign of the cross. So, that was good. I slid quietly into a pew a few rows up from the confessional. There weren't many of us sinners there this morning. I thought they'd have more customers if they opened later to accommodate those with hangovers. I tried to pray, but instead was working up the courage to confess my worst sin so far.
Funny, how some things you never forget. They are burned into your memory, no matter how seldom you use them. When it was my turn to enter the confessional, the words came out of my mouth automatically, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned (boy, have I), it's been three years since my last confession."
"Go on," the disembodied voice from beyond the mesh whispered.
"Um… I don't know how to start, or where to start, and I don't want to take up too much of your time," I whispered back, hoping for direction.
"This is God's time, young lady, and He wants you to unburden yourself, no matter how long it takes," he replied patiently.
Okay, so I was at Band Camp one year…just kidding.
"I'm just going to tell you the worst thing I've ever done first, I guess. Oh, boy." I took a deep breath and tried not to chicken out. "I'm, uh, I'm seeing a married man. Um, I don't know how to stop."
Silence. What the heck? Did the Priest pass out? Did I kill him?
"May I ask you how old you are?" he continued.
Thank God, I didn't kill him with my sin. "I'm twenty‐two," I told him.
"And, how old is this man?" he asked.
"He's thirty‐five," I mumbled.
"How is this relationship making you feel?" he asked, like a psychiatrist, instead of condemning me to a fiery spot next to Hell's furnace, as I expected.
"Mostly sad, angry, lonely. Then sometimes I just feel guilty. I'm one of those home wreckers now," I confessed tearfully.
"I've counseled many married couples, and one thing I can tell you truthfully is there is no such thing as a woman who is a homewrecker. A man who has vowed to be faithful to one woman for the rest of his life has to open the door and invite another woman in," he counseled.
"But I knew he was married, and I knew it was wrong," I protested.
"Yes, sex outside of marriage is a sin," he explained, "and for that, you will have to atone. But you are not the cause of a married man deciding to look elsewhere for companionship. That man has broken his vows and he will have to answer to God and to his wife for that. Not you."
"How can I walk away from this? I feel like I'm going to die when he's not with me. I don't know if I can do it," I lamented, tears and snot dripping down my face.
There was a rustling at the curtain of my cubicle. The Priest was passing me a box of Kleenex.
"Thank you," I said, blowing my nose and wiping my hands until the skin puckered up.
"I'm concerned the age difference has made you a target for this man," he warned. "I'm not saying he doesn't have feelings for you. But if he was truly a man, he would understand what this relationship is doing to you, listen to his better angels, and walk away."
"I want to stop seeing him. I do. It's so hard though. I love him." I was full‐on crying my eyes out at that point.
"You know I cannot give you absolution unless you are going to turn your back on this sin. But I will give you some Godly advice with love. Pray for the strength to walk away before any more harm comes to you. Then, pray for forgiveness. Bless you, my child. Go with God."
So, I guessed that was it. I left the claustrophobic little booth and sat in a quiet corner of the church, away from the people with little sins, and prayed as I'd never prayed before until my tissues were sopping wet and shredded.
My head knew what I had to do. My heart was much more stubborn though, and I worried all the way back to Hanrahan's that following through on the priest's kind advice would be impossible. Certainly, everything the man had said rang true to me. I was relieved of some guilt by the priest pointing out that I was not the one who had broken vows. I wasn't out of the woods for my complicity, but I had not said, “I do”, then didn't.
That's probably what confession was for, to take some burdens off our troubled souls, so we don't lose ourselves in grief over our shortcomings and failures.
When I got back to the hotel, everyone else was up and around, scurrying to get ready for our noon shows. Mandy, one of my fellow strippers, saw me coming down the hall with a red face and swollen eyes.
"Tina, what's wrong? Are you all right?" she asked.
"I'm trying to be. I just got back from confession. It was rough," I admitted.
"Confession? I haven't been in a couple years. Do you do that all the time?" she wanted to know.
"No. It was for something special. I guess I needed it," I said, as I opened my door and slipped inside the room, replaying the conversation with the priest in my mind. I knew that I had to walk away from Jake. Now, for the courage to do that in real life.
About the Creator
G-Is for String is now available in Ebook, paperback and audiobook by Audible!
G-Is for String: Oh, Canada! and Save One Bullet are also available on Amazon in Ebook and Paperback.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!