Friday, June 12, 2009
“Forgive me Father for I have sinned,” Little Harvey Walburg sniffled. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand.
"Please use the tissues by the door," the priest said taping on the screen seperating them.
"Forgive me Father for I have sinned," Harvey whispered while reaching for a tissue.
“Louder child.” the priest spoke from behind the partition. It was his tenth confession of the afternoon. It would be improper of him to glance at his watch but he succumbed to the temptation. His time was nearly up. He was grateful. His stomach was grateful as well.
“Forgive me Father for I have sinned,” Harvey spoke louder as he shuffled closer to the side of the priest’s head facing him. Harvey recognized the smell of Old Spice. It was Father Mack. Only Father Mack and his dad wore Old Spice. He liked Father Mack. He was the youngest priest at St. Bartholomew’s. He was funny.
“Go on,” Father Mack spoke quietly. Harvey could hear him, just barely.
“It has been one week since my last confession,”
Harvey’s heart beat loudly in his chest and ears. This would be his hardest confession yet. He was a good boy but even good boys can get into trouble. He hesitated to speak. His studied the laces on his Converse All Stars. He cleared his throat and readdressed his runny nose with another tissue.
“Hands,” Father Mack admonished. Harvey resumed the correct posture for a prayerful sinner, hands clasped and face forward. “Go on.” the priest urged.
“Father. Something strange happened to me this week. I don’t understand. It scares me because I don’t want to go to Hell. Sister Eugenia says that boys like me are damned and I don’t want to be damned. Father.........” Harvey sniffled. His voice grew softer, almost afraid that if he spoke louder someone outside the confessional would hear and tell everyone about the horrible Walburg boy. “Father...... I’ve seen the monsters that live in Hell from them windows in the chapel. I’m afraid.”
“Harvey, the devil doesn’t want a pint of a boy like you. Look at you. What kind of a meal would you make for one of those demons. You let me decide if you’re going to Hell or not. Isn’t that my job?”
“Yes, and that’s why I’m here instead of playing,” Harvey found a spot of dried ketchup on the front of his shirt. He picked at it but it wouldn’t go away. He remembered where it came from. He dropped one of his tater tots when he saw Luellen Lacy walk into the cafeteria during lunch. She was a half day late because of a dentist appointment. Something inside him stirred when she walked into the room. Something he had never felt before.
“Father, I saw something today.”
“What was it child?”
“Harvey I don’t think it proper to refer to Luellen as something. She’s a young Christian girl.”
“Father,” Harvey continued. “I saw..........,”
“What did you see?” Father Mack’s impatience revealed itself in the pitch of his voice.
“I saw ........ I think I saw......... well I’m pretty sure I saw........ Father I’m going to Hell. I know I am.”
“Harvey, calm down. Take a deep breath.” They both inhaled and exhaled at the same time. “Harvey, you saw something. Now what was it?”
“I ..... saw........ color,”
“Color?” Father Mack spoke in a questioning tone. “Harvey, what exactly did you see?”
“It had to be color Father. It was bright and shiny. I was scared. It was beautiful Father and I had this feeling like I wanted to be near it. I wanted to put my tater tots down and walk right over to Luellen and look at her. She was beautiful, not like the other girls. They are all gray and black and white and ........ and. Father I saw color.”
“Harvey, the world isn’t the same anymore is it?”
“No Father. When she is in the same room I see colors. Lots of colors .”
“You’re confused aren’t you?”
“Yes Father. Boys don't like girls and girls don't like boys. Isn't that the way its suppose to be?" Harvey asked.
"Well Harvey, not really. At your age it may seem that way but as you get older. Well, in your case - maybe right now - you'll see it differently."
"Sister Eugenia says boys should stay away from girls and never ever look at them. Me and my friends stay away from the girls. We never looked at them. Well, they never look at them but ........ Luellen shines with color and when she smiles I see more color. I see the sky. Father, did you know the sky isn’t gray?
“I’ve heard that,” Father Mack replied.
“”Father. The devil makes you see color. Isn’t that right?”
“Harvey. Listen to me closely. Life for you has always been black, white with a bit of gray. Everything has been exactly right or wrong. There is nothing in the middle. Its been a simple life, very innocent - as it should be. But, you’re different now. You’re growing up and, well, you see what many people see. You see there is more than black and more than white”
“Father, do all grown ups see color? And if so, why don’t they tell us?”
“Well Harvey, you kind of learn it on your own. Color just comes to you one day. Like it did you. Now there are some grown ups that saw color once but..... forgot. They keep those memories deep inside. It hurts to think about them, or share them."
“Harvey. Seeing color can make life all topsy turvey and confusing. Give yourself more time. You'll understand."
“Do you see color?”
“Yes Harvey, I see color. I see beautiful colors everywhere I walk on God’s good Earth.”
“So, if you see color then I’m not going to Hell, am I ?”
“No Harvey. You’re not going to Hell.”
“What should I do then about Luellen?”
“Harvey, it is OK to look at Luellen. Just don't stare. Staring is rude. Its even OK to talk to Luellen. Don't be upset if she doesn't want to talk to you though. She may not see color the way you do. It is OK to think she is beautiful but remember, there is still sin so be careful of your thoughts. Let your mind control your heart because that is where the color comes from. Don’t let your heart control your mind. Remember, you’re a good Catholic boy and God expects you to follow the commandments.”
“I always try Father.”
“Good boy Harvey.”
“Should I tell my parents what I’ve seen?”
“Sure. They will have very good advice. I’m sure of it. Now you run along.”
“Shouldn’t I say some Hail Mary's?”
“Harvey, there is no commandment that says ‘Thou Shalt Not See Color’”
Harvey laughed. He jumped up and opened the confessional door.
“Bye Father. Thanks.”
“Good bye Harvey. Be a good boy.”
“I will Father.”
Father Mack heard the door close. He was finished. The sins in his parish were absolved. He rested his head against the back of the compartment. The memory of his first color came back from long ago. A blue dress worn by a beautiful young girl in his confirmation class. Her name was Laura.