Thursday, November 12, 2009

Through a Glass Darkly

"Let's get one thing straight," announced the seventeen-year-old, chubby redhead Karin Visagie pugnaciously, "I'm not hurting anyone."

Father David Raskolnik, a handsome priest no older than thirty-five who often made the other girls blush during Mass, stared at Karin's file on his desk before giving her a look of mild contempt. "Is that so, my child? What about your parents, this school? What about God?"

"They can mind their own business," Karin said, sitting across from Father David with arms crossed, staring at her shoes.

"Sister Agnes saw you last weekend," David confirmed, "kissing a girl from your neighbourhood in a manner she described as 'burning with lust'. That's why you've been sent to me."

Karin sat in silence, her eyes still cast downwards.

"The Saint Genevieve School for Girls has been one of the top schools in Johannesburg since 1957. We've never lost a single girl to this... Affliction."

"Affliction," Karin retorted, "you're saying I'm sick? I'm not sick. I'm in love with Lily, and even if I could change how I feel I wouldn't want to."

"I know exactly how you think you feel, child. You see, before becoming a priest I lived in sin with another man. I thought I was fulfilled, but I only brought shame upon my family. My father even told me that I was dead to him. It's so horrible to see your own confusion and understand it. One day I tried to drive off of a cliff outside Cape Town, but a faulty transmission prevented me. This was divine intervention. I gave up my sinful ways and devoted myself to God, and He cured me. I finished my degree and entered the seminary so that I may help others like me. Like you. So that you may one day enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

Karin shuffled uncomfortably in the cushioned chair. "Father David, how do you even know there is a place like that? And if there is, maybe it's not all that great. What if there are only spiders there, or something like that?"

"Faith, my child."

The next day after school Karin made her way to Father David's office, as ordered. She found him standing outside the door smoking a cigarette and wearing jeans and a polo shirt instead of his cassock.

"Hi, Father David. Didn't know you smoked."

"Karin," he greeted with a forced smile, "there's something we need to discuss. Come, I'll walk you to the bus stop." After walking in thought along the gravelly pavement for a minute, he continued, "I'll get right to it; yesterday evening I learned that I've been excommunicated and, pending an investigation by the archdiocese, I'll probably be defrocked."

"What does that mean?"

"It means," David paused momentarily, "it means I'm not a priest anymore, Karin."

"Maybe God cured you," Karin cruelly replied, unable to resist.

David clenched his teeth for a moment before sighing, "Maybe He did."

"What happened? Did you do something bad?" Karin asked, the concern now returned to her face.

"It's a personal matter," he conceded, "but you have a right to know. The Church found out about a relationship I've been having with another man."

Karin's reply surprised David, "Do you love him?"

"I do," he admitted as they reached the bus stop, "Love is, after all, what brings us closest to God."

"Father David... I don't think I believe in God."

"But you believe in love, my dear," he replied, walking away, "and love is proof of God's existence."

She frowned. "Maybe love and God are the same thing?"

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