The Loneliness Cold

St. Joseph Catholic Church; 1981

As I stared blankly out the living room window that afternoon in 1981, I had no idea what I was going to do.  

“What am I supposed to say?” I thought to myself accusingly.

I was on my third glass of water as I nervously tried to hydrate my body one gulp at a time.  The anticipation and waiting of the evening’s event kept me obsessing about the same question all day.  

My concentration was broken when dad shouted, “Let’s go!”  

I swallowed my last thoughts of anxiety and ran out the door.

***

“Everyone line up outside the hallway – single file.“

As we entered the side corridor. thin wisps of frigid air circled around me and found its way among the families in the pews.  It was the same cold I always felt throughout the building. The dark orange carpet below did nothing to warm up the experience waiting at the other end of the altar.  

I shared a brief history with the newly renovated church.  It was the place of my baptism and for the first eight years of life — like home.  Which is why it should have felt different…instead it felt very lonely.

While the first group of kids lined up along the wall I was still obsessing, “what am I going to say?” As a distraction, I looked up and saw the deeply recessed stained glass windows that blocked out the sun.  The dark paneled walls that held them up created ample space between me and the outside world.

As we were called to line up, I felt the iciness of the air even more…my body’s warmth no match for the cold around me.  It was a mild Spring day but inside I felt the quiet, isolating fear of winter.

“When it’s your turn, your row will get up and make its way to the right side of the church.”

With only one person in line ahead of me, I noticed the effects of all the water I nervously drank before my first confession.  The release waiting for me at the edge of my bladder. “You’re next,” whispered the lady with sandy blond hair and pare shaped body.  “After her, you’ll walk to the end of the hallway and enter the confessional…father will be waiting.”

I could feel the edge of my bladder becoming weaker and weaker after each word.  

“Once you’re inside, you can either kneel behind the curtain or sit face to face…it’s up to you.”

Then with a sudden break, I could feel the first trickles of heat covering the right side of my hip.  The warmth I had searched for when entering the church — the warmth I so desperately wanted but couldn’t find – had found me as it was leaving my body.

I looked helplessly at the lady in front of me.  While she emitted the last bit of direction, I released all the built-up anxiety and nerves from the last few hours.  

I wanted to run across the altar.  Across all the waiting families and into the room reserved for crying babies.  Once there I’d find the restroom, the one place — at the time — I felt I belonged.  But instead, I stood there. I stood there trying to stop the flow that cascaded down to my knees and spread throughout the floor around me.  Although my insides had warmed the outside of my body, I stood there frozen in sheer panic.

With a sudden jerk to my shoulder, the lady with sandy blonde hair and pare shaped body directed me towards the confessional.  

“Did she know?” I whispered to myself.  “Could she smell it?”

“Father’s going to know I peed my pants…he’s going to smell it.”  

As I walked through the small hallway, I could feel the sponginess of my saturated tube socks press up against the soles of my shoes.  

Squish – squish, squish – squish.   

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