Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
The six o’clock mass just ended, old ladies were greeting each other good morning while I dipped my finger into the cold, blessed water beside the small door. It has been a habit for me, attending mass before I go to class, since I go to school early and I would feel pretty bad when I hear the mass going on inside the school chapel while I stare in space, waiting for the daily flag ceremony.
I was about to go out of the chapel when I noticed that the door of the confession box just opened. Leslie, a girl from the other class, emerged from that small booth. She looked pale. I was wondering why on earth was she inside. She picked up her school bag, walked in front of the altar without even bowing or showing any signs of courtesy, and went out of the small church. I rubbed my temples and convinced myself that there are weird people out there and took my own steps out to meet my classmates.
A few weeks after that incident, rumors slowly spread about Leslie and her unusual habit. She is always seen inside the chapel, talking to herself. She skips class, only to stay inside the confession box. I cannot confirm other things myself because I have no time to go to the chapel except in the mornings. Whenever I try to look for her after the morning mass, she was not there — something that I didn’t expect since I saw her before. Her classmates said that she hardly pays attention in class. The teachers seem to know what is happening to her, but they keep their mouth shut. People say she’s insane, I think there’s a conspiracy happening. Conspiracy about what? I do not know.
It was Thursday. I was about to go to the boy’s washroom when I noticed something behind the slits of the walls of the chapel. Curious, I crept behind the wooden walls and peeked. I hid under the extra church chairs so that the roaming security will not see me.
I saw Leslie, talking to the priest. I cannot see her expression because she’s facing the old man. The priest, the school’s vice-principal, possessed a stern face. Is he scolding her? I went closer. Then I saw him leading Leslie to the confession box. To my surprise, the bulb on the top of the confession box did not light up as what it’s supposed to. I decided to go back to my class and totally forgot about going to the washroom.
Afternoon, the same day. Instead of going home after class, I decided to investigate the ‘issue’ myself. No one’s around when I arrived at the chapel, so I went to the confession box where I saw Leslie a couple of weeks ago — the same place where I saw her being led by the priest. I opened the door, and the bulb lit up. I saw Leslie sleeping, her skirt wrinkled, her hair falling out of place. I looked around the small, humid, dark booth and realized that the place smelled of blood and antiseptic. I noticed that her chest was peeking through her unbuttoned white blouse. Shocked, I closed the door and made a sign of the cross. Am I seeing things?
I sat at the farther edge of the pew and looked at the altar. There was the image of Christ, bleeding, hurting. I tucked my legs and knees and cradled myself. Am I seeing things? I closed my eyes. Think. Think Jerome, think. A few moments of contemplating and once more, I opened the confession box, buttoned her blouse with my trembling fingers, and woke her up. She seemed surprise when she saw me, she did not move at first, and then tears slowly flowed from her eyes. I helped her fix herself and led her out of the campus. I did not say a word.
Another school year came by, and we just heard that Leslie went to a different school. I still attend the six o’clock mass, still see the old ladies’ smiles. Sometimes I stay inside the chapel ’til the school bell rings. I just stare at the wooden, holy box, waiting for someone to appear. At times I wish that Leslie would step right out of that place so that I can ask her things. Different things. Was she confessing that time? I cannot tell. All I remember is her tears, her ruffled hair and her pale skin.
I never told anyone, not even a single soul, about this story.
Not until now.
Written by Handyfemme, edited by mananalaysay and first appeared on www.peyups.com on 25th June 2005.