A friend calls, unexpectedly. We once lived together, first in Indiana, then in San Francisco. Now she resides in Boston, a student at the Harvard Divinity School. Because she is Catholic, the degree she's pursuing will not allow her to be a priest. Still, she tells me, there are many other ministries available to a young woman.
It's Spring of 2002, and she's in the center of what is being called the "Boston Priest Scandal," or sometimes, "The Crises in the Church."
We don't again have the conversation about whether it's better to stay in a power structure you disagree with, and try to change it, or better to leave altogether—such a decision is already implied.
I hang up the phone, and in my mind I'm back in Colorado, showing a man how to build a course of steps out of rocks. He is an instructor at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
"How can a woman like you be Catholic?" he says to me.
And I say, "I guess the same way women can be in the Air Force."
Put that rock there, I say to him. We are building a foundation for the steps, below the level of the trail. After we've set a course of rocks on top of it, we cover the first row of stones with dirt, and tamp it down.
A ring of thunder.
He looks up. Don't worry
I say. It's far-off yet.
All day we've been cleaning, white thickness of Ajax and bleach, Windex for the windows, hot burning rubber smell of an old vacuum cleaner. In this old carriage house, converted to a tiny one-man fort, we're so near the ocean that the top can be glimpsed behind the hills, a blue skirt that rises in the wind.
We've gone shopping, too: for cans of vegetable soup, black bean chili, rye bread, oranges and strawberries, dark organic dates, vanilla ice cream. I've made rows of samosas, floured and stacked in the freezer, cornbread, molasses cookies. We've done other things to prepare for the onset of the illness: bought new blinds for the windows to keep the bedroom dark during the day, paid taxes, called all the necessary people, gone for second opinions, third opinions, told jokes, eaten dinner out.
Prepare for the onset of illness? We don't even know how. We are playing house, playing at cancer. This is a trial run, and already we are behind, late for the hospital, late for being sick, and the motorcycle is still in the front yard, the engine dead, Aden he won't be able to ride it after the operation, and I don't know how.
Just go, I say, it's time. He insists on driving himself there, me in tech passenger seat, the blue ceiling fabric of the car loose and draping over our heads. At the driveway's second curve, he stops, points to the bridge he's built over the ravine, to the dead branch on the Bay tree that arcs over the top. "How would you cut it out?" he asks me. "In sections, or all at once?"
All night, I feed him water
and crackers, under fluorescent lights.
In sections, I say, finally,
peeling masking tape
from the green bathroom door.
|Katie Redding has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of California Davis. She has published with a variety of small presses, and her translation of Victor Manuel Mendiola's long poem Vuelo 294 was published by Swan Scythe Press in November 2003. Prior to attending graduate school, she worked on trail crews throughout the Western United States.