16. The church

the church

Translated by Angela Telles-Vaz

    It shouldn't have been very large or very rich. But necessarily there must have been some gold, some flower, some lit candle or lamp hanging from a long wire, some stained glass because it would look nice. I feel that there was a row of small paintings, depicting the Way of the Cross, what wonderful paintings! Today, they would be a vulgar repetition of David academic style, perhaps not so.
    However, what impressed me the most was the statue of that woman. With bright eyes, watery, real hair and with a dagger stuck in her chest. The flesh of her breast, the small amount of breast to be seen, an opened wound like two virginal lips, a stain of blood and the huge dagger. It was Our Lady of Sorrows. Nobody explained me that it was a symbolic dagger, I took it as real and perhaps I had already related that to deflowering.
    That image haunted me, the impression of having it before my eyes is too vivid and you can evaluate the horror that it brought me. This happened in 1949 and 1950. In 1961, eleven years later, I dreamed of that statue. Naked from the waist up, having the dead Christ on her lap, somewhat in the same position as the Pieta by Michelangelo. There was no dagger, but the two breasts were cut horizontally. In 1973, the dream changed. The woman has a child on her lap, like a Madonna by Raphael. Naked as the previous one, but in this dream it's a painting. A very beautiful statue of an Egyptian priest holding a dagger stands next to the painting. The statue goes towards the painting and I attempt to stop it but decide to let myself watch to see what is going to happen. It pierces the heart of the figure in the picture and a blood fillet runs.
    That church, like all the others, inspired me, for a while, more terror than any other emotion. The saints dressed in red had real hair, looked at me like resurrected corpses, still green, still motionless. But the most terrible were those real, bright and piercing eyes, looking at a point in front of them, standing inflexible and at the same time eternally alive and eternally dead.
    We all would sit on a long bench, swinging our dirty feet. I kept watching the environment imitating the standing up, the kneeling down and the sitting down movements. I kept watching.
    I don't think we went to church much; fortunately because of my dreams. I have but two memories of these heavy visits. Very bitter memories, two vultures come and go forever inside of me. They stop, look at me for a while, shudder and continue with the comings and goings. Could these two events have happened during the same Sunday? Whatever. At this point in time, it doesn't matter.
    We went to regular Mass but none was especially prayed for the students. We sat more or less piled up on some benches and the city occupied the rest.
    It was He who officiated.
    What difference does it make?, if there are also Black Masses.
    I found out that the little boy in front of me ate a coconut candy. He was with his father, a man that left a hat next to him on the bench. There are therefore, imprisoned inside me, in a prison cell of the memory, a father who has a hat and a boy who eats coconut candy. He ate slowly, bit by bit, and the delay was agonizing. Everything disappeared around and the only thing that existed in the universe was a piece of candy that kept going up and down, disappearing and reappearing. White, irregular and crumbled. If he had swallowed the whole thing, cleaning his hands on his pants perhaps the coconut candy would be gone from my mind, even with more reason, he and his father too. But it wasn't what happened. He, unwittingly, went on with the torture, he didn't know about the excessive salivation. He didn't know about the panting, He didn't know about the close surveillance.
    He wore shoes and his clothes were clean.
    Here my fantasy eludes me, blurs the consummation of the episode. Sometimes I see the boy leaving with his dad, leaving on the bench, a piece of the candy that I eat. Sometimes, at the exit I see, the man approaching me with a candy in his hand, offering it to me.
    Which one of the two? There shouldn't have been any of this. When He released us, we all stood up, I had to leave in the middle of the turmoil and my vision was gone.
    But my fantasy insists and also shows me some crumbs of coconut scattered on the bench, forgotten.

    The other memory is of the day of confession. We were wonderfully prepared. The teachers had told us that people that didn't confess all of their sins the consecrated bread would bleed or would be vomited with an unbearable stench. The strangest one was about the little girl,
    innocent like him
    who wanted to receive communion and wasn't allowed because she was too small and at the time of the communion, the consecrated bread fell off the priest's fingers, flew through the temple and landed on the little angel's head. Like a holy spirit.
    We were wonderfully prepared. I would prefer that the ground opened up and I disappeared. I hated to think that I could forget some sin, those sins, they were so complicated...
    mortal sins are so many
    deadly sins are so many
    venial sins are so many
    and there was that silent eumenide stuck in my soul, that was called the original sin.
    I was wonderfully prepared.
    My turn came up and I stumbled until I got there. I stammered the first words and, at a glance, listed my horrors:
    to behead the crickets
    to fight with my friends
    to do evil.
    What evil?
    I hit a crippled boy.
    That's all?
    I tore his cards, was angry with him and cursed him.
    What else?
    That voice imprisoned me. I remember that voice. It was soft, kind of hoarse, had no owner. It was a demonic voice coming out of the confessional grid, I talked with a grid.
    I was silent and he asked me again what else. What else did he want? Some mortal sin? That I had dishonoured father and mother? That I had coveted the Neighbor's wife?, that unknown guy that had such a funny name!
    I beat him, damage his toys.  
    The grid was silent, but didn't release me. I started to sweat cold. The silence was demanding that I continue for I needed more sins!
    I killed birds! (I had never killed birds!)
    I cursed the teacher!
    He remained silent.
    And after that...
    What kind of ugly things do you think?
    I would ask him today, what kind of ugly things a seven-eight year old child thinks. Son of a bitch! Terrorist! Son of a bitch!
    Terrorist son of a bitch!

    Ancient people liked allegories. They painted the Innocence, the Anger... Botticelli has a Calumny. Durer has a very expressive Melancholy. Someone would have painted or sculpted the Sancta Mater Church? Would that allegory have been similar to that woman of sorrows, with the hymen-breast, in the most sadomasochist form, pierced by the phallic dagger?
    I wonder the allegory that would exist in the mind of a seven-eight year old boy, due to his experience in an orphanage run by a priest. I remember the movie Roma by Fellini. In the mid of the mist is a whore. It's a huge woman dressed in black. She displays huge breasts that could be the redemption of all the hungry babies in the world. Before that she disappears from the scene, she cleans the gums with her tongue in a grimace... No, a poor whore? Just think of the treasures of the Vatican.
    There's another one more at the end of the movie. This one is in a luxurious brothel… No, it's better to abandon these images, one, very beautiful face and the other, so human…
    I would like to imagine a witch with a pierced breast. Here she embodies the Great Harlot of the Book of Revelations, who sits on waters. With whom the kings of the earth committed fornication. The Church.

    to be continued on next sunday.