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She left me another message: Coffee? I
hadn’t yet told her my superior banned me from leaving Ciszek Hall past
9pm after the last time we went out for drinks and I came home drunk,
smiling, and not wearing my collar. It was the feast of the Immaculate
Conception, and my only job – picking the flowers for the altar – was
left undone, the Virgin unadorned. Some of the older Jesuits who were
there complained to Joe who called me into his office after mass was
over and the crowd had dispersed.
“It seems you are being challenged in living
out a vow or two, John – do you have anything you’d like to tell me?”
Obedient and helpless, I told him how we’d stayed out too late, that I
should have declined her request. But it burned on my face, the lie – I
had no intention of leaving her to grieve alone. She needed me. I was
attracted to her needing.
Coffee? I looked out my window. On the street
a Mexican family was putting lids on coolers full of ice and tamarind
juice and horchata; a truck full of watermelons was parked right beside
them. On the opposite sidewalk, a man held three bullish pit-bulls
tight, walking upright and alert with his free hand in his pocket. A
couple behind him on their porch kissed briefly, and the woman turned
to leave through the iron gate. I looked back at my phone. Yes. Coffee
would be fine. “What time?”
She responded immediately and within twenty
minutes we were sitting across from each other.
She lit a cigarette.
“I’ve been thinking about what we are.”
My stomach tightened. She couldn’t have known
about Joe and the flowers.
“We probably shouldn’t spend so much time
I stirred my cup.
“You know, Katherine, I have thought about
what love means.” The words I heard myself say were true, “and I do
love you, but not without pain. I think—”
didn’t love without pain.”
I stopped. The collar around my neck turned
into a noose. She should be the one I obey.
Kaitlin Campbell lives in New York
City. She is Commonweal magazine's
Marketing Coordinator. She attended Fordham University, where she
studied theology among other things. She lives with nuns in Greenwich
Village. Her poems appeared in Fordham's literary journal The Ampersand.
front page image is copyright ©
by Tony Kitterick, 2012