KW 5: Torments 1:6
Before I forget, the prayer Mister McElroy gave me over the phone.
“My God, I have sinned against you. I chose to do wrong and failed to do good. I have sinned against you. And for this I have been Damned. I will go forth and do as you bid me, to be an example of what it means to be Damned. I have sinned against you, O God. I Am Damned.”
They locked me in my room like I had asked, which is good, because to leave I’d have to damage her door or ruin the window, compromising both her trust and my haven, both of which are unacceptable.
I look like something uncovered by a careless bulldozer in Egypt, a husk of something curled up like a dry root and leaking sand on an examination table, something researchers pick and peel and brush at with extreme care, muttering to themselves about how well-preserved I am with my garb and bracelet—that thing! I’m still wearing it?—and checking my teeth to guess at my diet and my age.
The fact that this fast is so challenging, so punishing to me, that it lays bare my almost crippling weakness towards gluttony and sloth, proves that it is the right thing to do. It is the proper penance. I have my small consolations: the Ecclesiastic calendar she let me borrow, my language, which is stumping me at the moment and has proven an excellent distraction for a couple of hours, the Testament itself…
Tonight I managed to recite it all aloud from memory, twice. On the third time, I stumbled and lost my place when I got to the beginning of Torments, and got caught up in the following lines:
T2:1 Each night I awaken and hunger digs its claws into my belly. 2:3 I walk through the streets of the city like a beggar and a thief, shaking with hunger. I cannot find sustenance. 6:7 I am too lowly a servant for this task. 7:4 The wilderness and fields are no place for a being such as I. 7:9 In the dark and hungry nights, I doubt. 8:1-2 My world shrinks to three things: hunger and doubt and the knowledge that I must succeed.
Another consolation, the talk with Mister McElroy’s. Calling him was invaluable. His prayer, his advice. His willingness to hear my confession of despicable weakness, his simple questions which struck at the core of the issue, and gave me no shelter. Hearing him, I heard my own voice talking to Jessica, drawing her out and giving her no shelter from the reality of the wilderness she finds herself in and her destructive sin. I heard my own voice coaxing her towards action, towards sacrifice, towards atonement. I can’t know for certain if she had the ears to hear.
But I heard Mister McElroy. Regarding the fasting, and my sin, but also regarding what I must do when Josephine brings me my break-fast.
“Be a true wolf, then.”
He condones what I feared I must do. But what does It condone? From It, I have no consolation. I listen to my heart but the silence is unbroken. I look into my heart but the darkness is undiminished. I reach out with my heart but I feel no guiding pressure.
T1:6 All is death and darkness, and hunger walks through them.
O, God. I call to you and your face is turned away.
What must I do?
Why don’t you answer?