The Confession Booth
by George Pringle
In the cathedral, I suddenly realised it was Sunday. God. What the hell was God about? How had I found myself standing around like a journalist on a porn set? I had to admit it was stunning. How had I never been here? The Marble was quite fantastic. All murky greens and blues and was there anything more beautiful than the solid sound of a pound, hitting the collection box?
The hushed whisperings and massive reverberations of the priest, like a Dalek, calmly recounting across the PA his messages, which were swallowed somewhere significant, in the air…up in the cold stone.
My God was the first toke of a cigarette…a nice, free feeling in my temples…My god was wine in my veins, the feeling of resignation. That’s what God was to me.
The best way to be blue was in a swimming pool. That was my kind of church. Swimming in the absolution of Mary’s cape…Bronzing on a sunlounger, thinking out into the sky like a kind of vacuous philosopher. Travel was the place I could think about who I was or who I’d be. That person I’d curated, in my suitcase:
Consumer objects were my relics:
Sunglasses (Francoise Hardy)
Swimsuit (Jean Seberg)
Shift Dress…(Anna Karina)
“ Hey world! That’s who I was, on that holiday.”
Here I am, feeling small (and self involved), as though a cloud could nudge me the wrong way..
I’d hit the ground full of thoughts like…”I’m gonna make it work now I’m here. I’m gonna get married and have children. I’m gonna be a good person. I’m gonna shut up, stop my raging. Stop my hating on everyone and everything, specifically, myself…”
This cosmic bargaining left we nowhere but even more lost to my own indulgence. Even more soft and vulnerable to ills.
I found the quietest bay of worship. One with a saint and some angels in mosaic on the gorgeous, golden ceiling. I looked at all the serious people sitting there in serious thoughts and I instantly thought, they’re all here because someone is ill or if they don’t come here someone will get ill and they’ve got bills and people who don’t love them. Or people they want to keep loving but they can’t you know because there’s flesh. Fucking flesh.
I looked up and cried a little to myself and thought about St.Augustine’s in South Kensington as a child, where I had stared at the pictures of Jesus all pallid and carried and green around the jowls.
I was a Shepherd in the Nativity there.
I wet myself on the church floor during the rehearsal because I was too scared to ask where the toilet was.
When I went out I passed the Confession Booth:
A handsome man but not my type comes in and splays on the counter. His ringed fingers drum in agitation. I watch him until his head pulls up.
We introduce ourselves.
(I think it began with an F…)
He wants his bag, he wants to go…
He is in an agony about some people he came with. A guy and a girl. The girl is cute. He has a long-distance girlfriend, though. The two were getting together.
He’s the third wheel.
“They’re all over each other like mwhahahahaha” he says…
“You know what?”
“I just wanna go home and eat!”
“I just wanna eat-eat-eat!”
“Ok.” I say
“What do you cook for yourself in the middle of the night?”
“Well, I’m from Atlanta Georgia but when I cook, I’m vegan you see…Oh, I just can’t wait to go home and eat! Know what I mean?”
“I do…I think I’d quite like to do that right now”
He smiles at me suddenly, like a kid who found the one person in the playground who speaks his language.
Then two people he mentioned come into my booth.
The guy is huge, he’s drunk. The girl is cute.
I remember he had wanted me to charge his phone but he couldn’t find it.
He reaches behind the counter and hoists a phone, like a crab on a line.
“Hey-hey-hey, that’s not your phone!” I say.
He stops for a second and then looks at me with an affronted brow.
“I thought I gave you my phone…No-no-no baby girl, you can’t have lost my phone. My sister’s in labour. I’m in the shit if you’ve lost it. Oh my days, I can’t believe this! You have not lost my phone!”
He flicks his head, dismissively.
I start sweating. I get my torch and swing its beam across the elastic bands and crumpled tickets.
There is no phone.
The guy turns to my manager and starts talking about the phone.
After some patting of his suit, his waistcoat, his pockets…his trousers, his jacket, he concedes it is after all somewhere in there.
I look at Frankie’s sad face.
I must be a saint.