The Moment Home Readings Buy the Book About The Moments

The Hereafter

My seventh grade catechism teacher, Miss Godswrath*, knew what evil was. For forty minutes each day she impressed upon us the evilness of every song, movie, and magazine created since the Bible. She fortified us with stories of saints (virgins like Maria Goretti) who, rather than surrender their virginities, were burned, stoned, or stabbed to death. That was virtue. Evil, she assured us, lurked under every desk: in the hemlines of the girls who wore their skirts above their knees—transforming themselves into occasions to sin; and in the boys who looked with prurient eyes, allowing themselves to become aroused. We were a sordid lot. Satan, she assured us, wasn’t far behind and Death swooped down for the souls of even the healthiest Catholics.
I made the mistake once of raising my hand to ask, “Is French kissing a sin?”
“It can be,” she replied, her left eye a-twitch.
The girls gaped at me, (though they all wondered the same thing.) The boys studied their laps—except for Jay, a boyfriend of mine—who leered at me.
“When is it a sin?” I asked. My soul depended on her answer.
“Are you asking for yourself,” she demanded, her starched collar pinching her carotid. “Are you asking for someone your age? Someone young and not married?”
“Yes.”
“At your age it is a sin if it lasts more than a few seconds—or if it’s too passionate.”
I pondered her answer. That should have been the end of it, but I needed more information.
“How do you know if it’s too passionate?”
I wasn’t baiting her. I was the most dedicated student she had. Possibly the only one who might be saved by her teachings. My skirts flowed below my knees. I eschewed nail polish, slouch socks, dangling earrings, and anything else that might mark me as Satan’s pet. I fasted twice a week before receiving communion and on all fasting holidays. I slept on the floor without a pillow as a penance for past and future sins. I wore a rope tied tightly around my waist under my clothes as a mortification, in imitation of Saint Augustine. I confessed my sins every Saturday—unless I committed one before then, in which case I buttonholed any priest I saw and requested the necessary sacrament. I was close to God. I was going to heaven.
But I did kiss boys.
My question afflicted Miss Godswrath. Her large blue eyes tripled in diameter. Her ears bloomed Irish pink. She opened her mouth twice to speak before any sound emerged. On the third try she managed, “The hands should be visible to anyone watching and the clothes should not move from the body.”
That was it. I was going to hell.

*All names have been changed.

Comments

No comments yet, why not leave one of your own?



Leave a Comment or Share Your Story

Please Sign In. Only community members can comment.

The Moment Book

Moments from the SMITH Community

Tomorrowland "Daisy, F3," my son Archer says as we pull into our parking spot. Disneyland’s about to open and we've arrived, just the two of us, our last hoorah before school starts. *** The alarm goes off and I pull the pillow tightly over my head. My husband, Hal, offers to wake the kids so I roll over, fall back asleep until Archer's voice wakes me, this time for good. "Hi, Mommy. It's …
Line Break
With Both Hands Whenever I think of my mother, my mind flips to this story. Not to the whole story, but right to the middle of it, the worst moments of it. For me, that's where the story always starts. My mother was beating the hell out of me. The first few blows seemed to come from every direction as I grabbed my nightgown and pulled it over my head, not …
Line Break
Reasons to be Thankful By Robert Israel They scraped me off the street, my bicycle in a heap nearby, and ever so gingerly placed me on the gurney. A crowd of curious onlookers watched intently, thankful they were not being loaded onto the ambulance. The nurses at the hospital were calming as nurses are wont to be, and administered an intravenous tube of morphine, and soon everything around me became fuzzy and numb, and the …
Line Break
Read More Community Moments →
 
SMITH Magazine

SMITH Magazine is a home for storytelling.
We believe everyone has a story, and everyone
should have a place to tell it.
We're the creators and home of the
Six-Word Memoir® project.