Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mothers & Sons, VII

Claudia led Servi through a winding alley which ended in a high courtyard. A line of clothes hung above them; shirts and pants rustled stiffly in the warm breeze. Servi felt yet another shiver at the confluence of memory and experience: he had, as a boy, escaped from nearly every institution designed to provide him with care. Most of the time, he knew his way home, but once, during afternoon religious instruction at his local Roman Catholic Church, he was following his class down a hallway when he saw a door. Doors are for exiting, so Servi found himself on the street. He was not familiar with the neighborhood around Saint Jude’s Church, so after wandering around for a half hour, he began to cry. After another half hour, he was in front of the rectory. An old nun saw him and accompanied him back to his class.

Servi was suspended in some form of half-life, some purgatory designed not to expunge his soul of sin, but to keep him from choosing between either or or. He wanted to be home but despised it; he fled his mother only to return. He corroded the valves of his heart with emotions as conflicting as identical poles of two magnets, forced together again and again without natural compliance or complicity.

And now he was here, at twenty-three, being led by a mother to a son, an escapee who had so ritualized the routine that it had become as mundane as a neighborhood football game.

Claudia entered a rectory and on a broad, wide oak table sat her son in front of a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. An old priest with wide, round glasses like an owl’s eyes and a head shaved to a gray stubble, was quietly speaking with the boy in the soft accents of the Roman dialect which are employed domestically, over a supper table or in a bedroom.

“Ahh, Senora Sacredotte,” the priest rose up from his chair. “You are here for Paulo, no?”

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