Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Notebook: Confessional Booth

Confessional Booth
By Blake Tan

“Speak, mi hijo, confess your sins
so the Savior can forgive you,”
says the padre behind the screen.
Amado squirms in the rickety room,
the confessional booth creaking.
His mama had yanked him off the fence
where he liked to sit and admire the schoolgirls
as they marched to the Santa Maria preparatoria atop the hill,
their blue plaid skirts hiked up to their knees,
where the dirt road muddied their brown-flecked black socks.

Even the church’s plaster-white pueblo portico wilted before
his madre’s scowling wail, even the nuns in their severe habits
quavered at the sight of the chicana mother berating her twelve-year-old
with whipping words and flailing fists. Amado had run, hands held over his head,
chased, chastened to the chagrined priest, Father Federico.
He felt guilty, burdened by both his sin and that he had been caught.
“Mi hijo,” the padre consoled him, “if every boy who looked at a girl
went to Hell, your father, my father, yes, even I, would be damned.”
They went into the confessional, Amado repenting, recounted
the names of the girls he spied on: slender Sancha, raven-haired Rita,
and most of all, buxom Beatriz, who put even the ecstasy of Saint Teresa to shame.

With each sin confessed, Amado feels heavier, not lighter,
not like how his mama said he’d feel. The padre prescribes him
seven Our Father’s and seven Hail Mary’s, and sends him along.
Outside, mama is gone – probably to scold the little children for laughing –
so Amado takes his chance and jumps the fence along the path
and takes to the field like a wild horse freed from captivity.
This is forgiveness, he thinks, this is salvation, not the confines of confession,
not the empty words of the padre, not even the drumbeat of smacks upon his brow
could convince him otherwise.
He crows victoriously, waving his shirt over his head, seeing the distant hill
where the Santa Maria girls climbed and, cheering, waved back.

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