So, as a writer and a person who seems to run into endless upsetting encounters with people and situations that seem flat-out ridiculous, I'm writing a book.
It's politically incorrect, and sure to offend people of most sensibilities, which to me is what makes it worth reading. But few people are willing to sit down and read excerpts that paint pictures so embarrassing of things in my life (religion, part-time employment, various aspects of my heritage, irrational fears of pregnancy, underage drinking) in front of me. Which is okay, but not helpful.
So as I finish chunks of this ill-conceived masterpiece, I'll submit them here, for public approval or berating, whichever one seems more appropriate at the time.
Episode One: The Nun Incident
Like any good Catholic girl, I went to Religious Education classes every Sunday after mass and sat in my straight-backed chair in the cold classroom of the building adjoining the Church while I tried to keep from falling asleep during the lectures about the Ten Commandments, one of which I was sure had something to do with Paying Attention to your Religious Ed Teacher unless you want your immortal soul to burn in hell for all eternity.
It was then that I met The Nun.
If you google "nun", you come up with mostly pornographic and drug-abusing nuns. This nun was not such. She was old, squat, and severe, like most nuns. I was seven the first time we crossed paths and deep in the throes of religious paranoia. My normal Religious Ed teacher was absent, and the Nun took over for the day.
“How many times do you think you have to go to mass in a week for God to let you into Heaven?” she quizzed, pacing back and forth before the room.
Every child was frozen to their seat in terror as she began the long and heinously disturbing process of explaining that even those of us that attended mass for the requisite one hour per week were damned, as were any of us that were ever intending to have children, as the devil apparently follows pregnant women and waits to strike them down.
It took me days to digest this information fully, and no matter how much my mother counseled me, I couldn’t let it go. My seven-year-old psyche was permanently and irreversibly damaged.
I was subsequently removed from Religious Education classes at Our Lady of the Rosary on the grounds that they were making me so paranoid and distraught that I could barely take two steps without becoming convinced that Satan was on my tail.
When I arrived four years later to my sixth grade confirmation class and found that Mr. Nunno (an ironic name for a religious teacher, and appropriate—he brought us pizza and made the Beatitudes into a game show) was gone and the Nun was his replacement, I began experiencing what I now understand is a panic attack.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” I stammered, unable to breathe. My knees were weak and my heart was pounding. Nausea overcame me. I could feel cold sweat beginning to drip down my neck and bead up on my forehead. Full-body, all-consuming, abject terror, the likes of which I have rarely felt before or since.
If I didn’t get out, I was going to die. That I knew for certain.
The Nun sized me up and let me go, with a warning that I should be back in two minutes or she would come to find me. I tried to walk calmly to the door-less room at the end of the hall but I was nearing hysteria, so afraid was I of this she-beast. I felt the feelings that I can only imagine one must feel when kidnapped: the panic, the fear, the adrenaline, the desperate, rabid need to escape. I knew I had only precious seconds before the Nun would come to retrieve me.
I must act quickly.
The “bathroom” was in fact a storage room, with two bathroom stalls and a sink placed in one corner and a jumble of books, religious statues and other paraphernalia in the other. I picked past a small sculpture of a holy figure—the Virgin, perhaps? One can only hope; I needed her at this time!—and found my own personal Savior: a telephone.
I picked up the receiver and punched in my home phone number, only to hear scratchy air on the other end of the line. Hung up, tried again. Tears were in my eyes by this point; I was nearly paralyzed with fear. The only thing that kept me from collapsing inside the makeshift stall was the knowledge that she would find me. Escape was my only hope. I could not give up now.
Then I heard the footsteps. Slowly, like each footfall was suspended in time. I could see her shadow coming before she got there. Finally, mercifully, the phone connected.
“Hello?” my dad answered, but she was too close; if I raised my voice to full volume she would hear me. So I whispered, panicked, crying: “It’sTeresapleasecomegetmethenun’shereandi’mscaredandiwanttocomehome!”
“Who is this?” My father demanded loudly into the receiver. I tried again “Teresa! Come get me! The nun!”, but it was hopeless. My voice was far too soft and far too muddled with panic to be recognizable. “Who?” he asked again.
And then I heard the voice of the Nun, coming clearly down the hall. “I know you’re in here,” she said, and I slammed the phone down just as she appeared, glowering, in the doorway. “You come with me,” she said.
And I had no choice but to follow.