Revelations

It is so hot in the confessional, the collar around my throat is tight, and I find my breathing is more laboured. I detest this little tomb, full of the sins of the people who would seek to be excused.

They say forgiveness is divine and that forgiving yourself is most difficult of all. In my experience, few who seek forgiveness rarely seek it for themselves; but rather for a selfish desire to feel justified in their actions.

My evening is spent here in this stuffy, claustrophobic closet. It smells like sweat and vaguely of incense from the censer. It is far too hot. The white hot collar; I have a great urge to rip it off and throw it to the floor. Locked away from view, a screen separates me from the flock. Who would know, aside from me? I pass hours in this tomb, I scratch at my dry throat, trying to loosen the noose around my neck.

I hear her slide into the empty vessel next to mine. I recognise the scent of her; a cross between expensive perfume and alcohol. I know who this is, before she speaks a word. I can picture her clearly in my mind. She sniffles and speaks in a shaky voice.

“Bless me Father for I have sinned…it has been three days…”

I realise now she is crying; sobbing I imagine, into the greying-white handkerchief she carries with her. She must be holding it to her face, her sobs are muffled. I know her story well yet I sit in silence; I wait for her to speak. I cannot leave this stuffy coffin of a confessional until she seeks forgiveness.

“I have sinned. I betrayed my husband you see? Well you would see. You must see everything. It is an old story isn’t it?” I heard her sigh. “I imagine God hears that a lot but I have a chance to make things right.”

She pauses this time and makes no sound. I wonder if she will continue. The words are difficult…her thoughts aren’t going in one direction, they are jumping. The tight feeling in my throat continues. A glass of water, anything would help. I will her to finish so I can leave.

“I don’t know why I went to him. I don’t remember. I don’t suppose it matters now. My husband isn’t the romantic type…he is fond of the drink too you know. But it’s my fault he gets angry. I really shouldn’t push him.” Another sniffle. “Dear Lord, help me!” she moans in a low voice, the chair creaks as she leans back against it.

I know too well the love she has for the drink; this woman was a wanton creature. Young and Junoesque, she took advantage of many men, the clergy were well aware of her and her husband. Without them we would scarcely have confession.

“If I’d known my husband would find out…if I’d known what he would do…I would never, ever, have let it go that far. But it is my fault you see? I begged him to. I wanted him even though I knew I shouldn’t, so it really was my fault.”

I nodded mutely, knowing full well she cannot see. It wouldn’t matter. If she didn’t hurry, I was certain I would pass out from the heat in this place. The woman rushed on.

“My husband was furious! I’d never seen him in such a rage; my neighbours gave me looks for days. I couldn’t hide the bruises on my face at all. My eye…it shone, like in the cartoons?” She giggled and it caught in her throat turning quickly into a sob. This poor creature, she really had no control. “My fault though. He told me so. And he killed that poor man with his bare hands! My husband actually took the breath out of him”.

I sat rigidly. This was a confession to murder? I know full well I can do nothing, this is meant to be sacred; I was only the channel for them to receive God’s Grace. Whatever this woman said was between her and God. I could see her silhouette through the screen, rocking back and forth. She repeated her words like a mantra that would save her soul. “My fault! He told me it was my fault; he killed that man for touching me”. She suddenly stopped, her hands flew up to the screen that separated us, desperately hoping to cling to something, anything.

“But you see; I can undo the betrayal. He told me I can undo it all if I protect him. All I have to do is protect him. I don’t tell anyone you see? If I keep his secret, then I’m safe. You must see that?” Her hands slid down and she took a deep breath.

I sit rooted to my chair, my legs cannot move. Still so hot; she has to hurry. This collar had to come off…it’s starting to chafe my skin; I can feel it like a burning brand on my flesh. Please…please finish. Ask for your penance and I can take my leave.

“You see I called him, I asked him to meet me. He was meant to meet me here, this is such a lovely place, and it was safe. What’s safer than a church? I did it for my marriage you see.” Another pause. “Yes. My Marriage.  Divorce can’t be forgiven can it? Oh I suppose murder can’t either but that blood is on my husband’s hands you see? He did the killing, my hands are clean, my only sin was the adultery and I paid my penance already. Yes, much better this way. Now my marriage is safe.”

She adjusted herself in the chair again; I heard the rubbing of fabric and the wood creaking. “Yes, that is how it is I’m afraid. I don’t need forgiveness. I know he’ll understand, I told him my husband would always come first. I committed a sin of the flesh with him and nothing more”.

It sounds like she has finished. But she doesn’t want forgiveness…I don’t understand. She needs to be forgiven or I cannot leave…

“Silly though isn’t it?” she said quietly “Confessing to an empty box?”

The door to the sinner’s freedom opened. She stepped out from the confessional. The church is empty; it’s late outside though. She must have crossed the police tape to get in there. The police line blocks my own exit in a large coloured cross – fitting for a priest I suppose. I watch through the slats in my door, I see her shape move away. I remember her curves and her flesh burning under my hands. I remember her calling me, begging to meet me here. Now I burn in my pyre.

She was not the only one who had committed sin.

Too hot…the collar is choking me like his hands were choking me, pushing my collar into my throat until my breath has gone.

But I can’t leave until she asks for forgiveness.

Reflections

It began as any other day, sitting myself at the kitchen table in quiet contemplation over a cup of tea. I was staring at the cup, wholly disappointed in its lack of character. A plain, white cup with no decoration, no cracks and no saucer. No character at all. This irritated me.

I knew of course, that it was an irrational feeling.  I was frustrated at the mundane day to day existence my husband and I had become accustomed to in recent months. He had returned to education; I had just given birth and was still on maternity leave. Adjusting with a new baby was more difficult than I thought it would be…

In recent weeks, my husband and I sat in the evenings. He worked on course material and I would sit emailing my extended family dotted around the world.  My husband and I rarely seemed to speak. I knew it was boredom. I knew it was tiredness. I knew it was stress. Lack of intimacy has made us snippy with one another.

I also knew that it was partly me – I hadn’t felt particularly beautiful since giving birth. The idea of my husband seeing me at any stage of disrobe filled me with such terror that I refused to change in front of him. If I were to ever be in the room with him and needed to undress, I’d turn the light out. It didn’t matter that he thought I was beautiful, that our daughter was beautiful and that he said he loved me twenty times a day, I didn’t believe it any more than I believed in Santa Claus.

This particular morning, he had left for University giving me a kiss, I dealt with our child, and she was now napping. For some reason, the irritation spilled over and I felt very, irrationally angry at the teacup. In a burst of frustration I stood, almost knocking the dining chair over.

What was the point of this boring teacup? Why did I ever think this was a nice look? It had to change. I stormed to the sink and threw the cup, and its contents in. It crashed into the stainless steel, splintering into several shards of white porcelain that brought me some sense of satisfaction. The semi-violent act made me feel better, so I continued, smashing the other white cups from the cupboard until there was a pile of broken pieces swimming in white dust and miniscule fragments in my sink.

I returned to the cabinet, and pulled out the Royal Albert hiding behind all the everyday use items. Lovely, dainty cups, thin china with matching saucers and decorated with poinsettias. There were tiny little cracks in the glaze; the gold rim was faded and slightly blotchy in places. The matching serving plates and side plates were in similar worn condition but were still elegant looking. Yes, they were much better.

I took out two settings and sat them on my heavy wooden kitchen table. I moved the flowers from the windowsill over.
I sat two placemats. Followed by two wine glasses. I made a grand fuss over this dinner set, making it look as appealing as I could.

My mind was working faster than was necessary. It was only 9.30am, no need to prepare for dinner. But I could put that pork in the oven. He did enjoy the slow cooked pulled pork I made. I could make roast potatoes to go with it. He wouldn’t be home until five…I had time.

I mixed the ingredients for the sauce and left it to rest over a low heat on the hob then flew to our bedroom, careful not to wake the baby. I threw open the wardrobe, the mirror on the inside of the door showing the reflection of a young woman, still wrapped in her robe after showering, her cheeks flushed from her frenzy in the kitchen. Taking a breath, I stripped down. I stared at my changed body and the little dimples that weren’t there before .The stretch marks on my belly were still angry and red, and parts wobbled that hadn’t wobbled previously. But that was okay with me today.  After all, cracks and wear showed character.

I put on a pair of jeans that I hadn’t worn in months, surprised to find that they fastened. So did the denim blouse I hadn’t worn in almost a year.  I giggled at myself in “double denim” before I heard the baby begin to stir.
I checked the time again. 10am…I had time to go to the supermarket; I had time to ask my sister to babysit tonight. She had offered enough times, desperate to get hold of her niece for an evening. I could be out to the shop, get all I needed, drop the baby off, get back home and ready for him coming in.

We could really make a nice evening of it.

I was woken up by my husband at around 5pm.I was wearing the red dress he liked, the food was almost ready, the baby was gone and I had fallen asleep on the sofa after my frantic attempt at making the perfect evening.  He had seen everything sitting in the kitchen waiting and he came into the living room with a drink. I woke up purring happily as he rubbed the soles of my feet.

After a while just chatting and catching up on days that we seemed to have missed, we sat at the table, drinking from the fancy glasses and the fancy mugs, eating from polished forks. He squeezed my hand and I smiled.

The food really didn’t taste any different from the dressed-up crockery. Maybe if I’d thought of that sooner I wouldn’t have put this off for so long.

The Berlin Trilogy

Low…

David Bowie died January 10th 2016.

This was two days after he had turned 69, and two days after I had turned 31. It was a rather sad birthday as I had attended a funeral that same day and was exhausted. I remember thinking that I hadn’t watched any Elvis documentaries or listened to Bowie or watched Labyrinth to mark the occasion as I usually do. They were my heroes but there was no cause to celebrate anything on that particular January 8th. I fell exhausted into bed then and forgot all about it…until two days later.

I cried all that day. And still occasionally cry. I often chastise myself, grieving so much when I could barely cry at my Aunts funeral the week before. It seems idiotic to grieve someone, whom I had never met, as much as I do.

Lodger…

But this fine gentleman was the soundtrack to my life. He lived in my bedroom – in my T.V., on my radio, on my CD player. He was a permanent resident.

In 2002 I first listened to Space Oddity. It spoke to me as I felt a bit like an oddity myself.

After Space Oddity, I browsed his back catalogue, discovering the sexy basslines from his funk and soul period, his kind of pop sounding music, the electronica stuff he played with in the 90’s and beyond. The sexual thrill of listening to I’m Afraid Of Americans, the collaboration with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, left me reeling.

Going back in time further, I recorded and re-watched the 1996 Brit Awards where he received his outstanding achievement award, stunned by his perfect performance and impressed by his presence from his vocals to the slick cut of his suit.

I laughed out loud at his contributions to Comic Relief. I respected him for his sincere gesture on stage at Freddie Mercury’s tribute concert, kneeling down and reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

That man seemed a far cry from the the Goblin King that I had frightful dreams about as a child yet grew to love in adolescence.

He filled me with fear looking at the cover of his Diamond Dogs album. He was lycanthropic. He was disturbing. He was incredible.

Heroes…

For each stage of my lifetime there was David Bowie. There was always a record, a film, a CD, a live performance. There was something there, not in my face, but forever lingering at the edges of my own world like an unseen alien.

The 30 year old woman in 2015 watching the premiere of his video for Blackstar (and waiting, wishing for a world tour so I could FINALLY fulfil a lifelong dream of seeing him) lost a piece of her own glittering stardust when his brilliant light was snuffed out in 2016.

He was the Starman, Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane, David Bowie. The man who sung The Laughing Gnome, on the cusp of success, on a journey of self-discovery that was, as he promised, never boring.

But before all the otherworldly appearances and the ethereal sounds, before his androgyny thrilled and aroused boys and girls of the 70’s. Long before he discovered his voice, before he laid a character down to music, before Bowie just was…he was David Jones.

A rare, talented human being tucked away in little Brixton.

And the music was still to come.

And the music was still to come.

RIP Ali

In the world of celebrity it’s often hard to see one who is as human and as humbled as the ‘common’ man. Yet maybe once in a lifetime, there is one. One person who is truly good, who truly has a calling and a purpose and whose celebrity is overshadowed by their integrity and decency.

In 2016, we have lost many celebrities whom many perceived as larger than life. David Bowie in January shocked and stunned the world. This otherworldly man who seemed immortal, now no longer existed. He was followed quickly by Alan Rickman, an established and celebrated actor with a career that encompassed stage and screen. Prince – sometimes there are no words to convey the waste of a life when opiates are held responsible for an early death.

But June brought us the death of Muhammad Ali, the undisputed champion. The self-titled greatest, the man who when he started at A, you had no idea how he was going to get to Z but it was going to be a hell of a journey.

Born Cassius Clay, in Louisville Kentucky on January 17th 1942, the young man began boxing at age 12 after his bike was stolen. By age 22, he was an Olympic Gold Medallist having won all but one of his boxing matches, and became the World Boxing Champion after defeating reigning champ Sonny Liston. He converted to Islam after winning the championship, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Everyone knows the basics.

I was born 43 years after this legend, but all of this information was drilled into me from a young age. We knew who he was, WHY he changed his name, WHO he fought and beat. Rumble in the Jungle was used daily in my home to warn anyone of my older brothers’ play fighting with each other in the front room. Every victory and every loss, the catchphrases and the poems were common knowledge in my childhood home and I loved this larger than life character.

But as I grew up, I saw the human being he was. The things he stood up for, the people he helped. This one man, this human being performed acts of kindness and decency at a time in America when black people received prewxisely none in return. The strength of his convictions kept him on his path of compassion and understanding.

Ali talked a man off of a ledge, saved him from suicide with the words “I am your brother, let me help you”. He secured the release of American civilians from Saddam Hussein immediately before the Gulf War. His confidence and self-assured nature rubbed off on his children who have also displayed extraordinary kindness to others, confidence and a similar awareness of the importance of loving your fellow man.

Millions of us watched this saintly man from afar and with each miraculous exercise we were more in awe of him. I for one was inspired by him and I can only hope that, when faced with insurmountable odds, or faced with situations where kindness is required to bring a peaceful resolution, that I too can be as dignified and as composed as he was.

The reality of watching a phenomenal sportsman succumb to Parkinson’s is heart wrenching. To reach the heights he reached; to die with dignity with his wife and children around him, willing him to take his freedom from pain and suffering and to go gracefully into the arms of God…surely that is as great an end as any of us can expect?

Welcome To My World!

HEY! I MADE A BLOG THING!

Welcome to me I guess! My name is Caroline (Cass to those who know me very well), I am a 30 year old mother of two, married and have some unfinished writing business that I want to finish.

So on May 25th 2015, almost six months after New Year and my to do list I get round to starting up this blog. It’s purpose isn’t really for entertainment, but a way to motivate me to write a little, or a lot.

Historically, I have written for as long as I can remember and started seriously writing when I was 17. But life got in the way. That’s mummy code for I had an arsehole BF who wasn’t supportive and I let it slip by the wayside. I never finished what I started.

In April 2015 I enrolled in a creative writing class which was very encouraging. The blog idea came a little later.I hope that everyone – if anyone – who reads this, will enjoy what I put up here.

In the meantime, trying to get back into a decent habit now that my son is older and I am continuing to write, observe and enter competitions and submit to magazines to see how far I can get.

Happy reading folks!