by Jeff GoodeSerial Nun by Jeff Goode (copyright © 2003)
(A NUN is calmly, meticulously cleaning the blood off a string of rosary beads.)
I only did it for the girls.
I grew up in a bad neighborhood. Not bad as in sinful. Bad as in rough.
A tough neighborhood. But it was sinful, too, I suppose.
I became a nun because I wanted to be a role model for the young girls I knew.
For young guys, too, I suppose, but let's face it, any boy who wants to grow up and join a convent has got bigger problems than lack of strong female role models.
And besides, boys already have plenty of role models: Sports heroes and war heroes and movie stars. And serial killers and priests.
But if you're a girl, it's your mother. Or me.
At least, that's the way I looked at it.
I believed that if I led a chaste and virtuous life,
It might set an example for some of them.
That they could lead a chaste and virtuous life, too.
Instead of the lives I saw so many of my girls slipping into.
Getting involved with gangs and drugs. Abusive boyfriends.
Getting pregnant, and raising their daughters to do the same thing all over again.
I thought I could inspire them. Show them a way out.
If I could have done that on the football field, I would have.
But nobody cares if you're the top pass rusher at your convent.
Or captain of the kickboxing team.
So after graduation, I moved back to my old neighborhood.
I probably could have taken a teaching position at the school. At St. Mary's. But I wanted to work at the Mission. There's a women's shelter there. It's where I thought I could do the most good.
My very first day on the job, I saved a stripper.
I had never met a woman with such low self-esteem.
She had dropped out of middle school at a very young age.
Something about one of the teachers.
She got into exotic dancing because she didn't think she could do anything else.
But I showed her how she could take those same skills and apply them as a waitress.
I found her a job at a local diner.
And I helped her look for a smaller apartment. One that she could afford on tips.
I even helped her move into it when the time came.
I showed her how to live with dignity.
I felt very good about that.
I think she lives in her car now.
(She goes back to cleaning the beads.)
But the first time I ever had second thoughts was Chelsea.
She came to me right after the accident.
At least that's the way I like to remember it.
But to be honest, it was probably the other way around.
She was in great pain. Suffering.
Her leg was broken in three place.
And both of her parents were dead.
It was a Sunday and they had been hit by a drunk driver on his way home from a Super Bowl party.
At the time, Chelsea was still very angry.
She was only 16. She felt so helpless.
I thought I could empower her, if I showed her how to take control of the situation.
So she wouldn't feel like such a victim.
I encouraged her to pray. To pray for her parents, and for John - that was the man's name - and see if she could find it in her heart to forgive him. And she did.
She actually met him in person, at one point.
We even went to the courthouse and sat in on his trial every day. For support.
I was very proud of Chelsea. She was strong throughout all of it.
The public defender told me later that it was probably our presence in the courtroom that helped him get a reduced sentence.
John kept in touch with me while he was in prison.
I kept in touch with Chelsea, too.
She seemed to be doing well.
But on the day he was released, she committed suicide.
(She finishes cleaning the beads and sets them aside.)
And then there was Candy Behrman.
(She takes out a large knife and cleans the blood off it, as well.)
I met her at the shelter, after her husband had beaten her up and thrown her out of the house. She seemed distraught. She kept saying that she deserved it. I explained to her that this was not her fault. And she explained to me that the baby she was carrying was not her husband's.
She was thinking about getting an abortion.
Naturally, I advised her against it.
But she wouldn't even listen to me.
She told me I could never understand what it was like to be a woman in her situation.
I told her she was probably right about that.
But the Blessed Virgin could understand.
She knew what it was like to hear people whispering about her behind her back.
Watching her and judging her and wondering who the real father was.
It took a lot of courage to do what she did. Especially in those days.
Candy said, "Yeah, but did Joseph ever get in a jealous rage and beat on the Virgin for having someone else's child?"
So I told her, yes.
Which is not strictly true, but I didn't think the Virgin Mary would mind being a role model for staying in a tough marriage. Especially if it was for the sake of a child.
(She finishes cleaning the knife and sets it aside as well.)
About a month ago,
I saw Candy Behrman's daughter at day care.
She must be about five now.
She had a bruise over her eye.
When I asked her about it, she told me she deserved it.
I wanted to cry.
She sounds so much like her mother.
(She takes out a bottle of sacramental wine and starts mixing some powders into it.)
Role models are so important for young girls.
I don't belittle the work the other sisters do.
But why can't some of them be sports heroes? And war heroes. And serial killers.
Because, you know, sometimes, that's what they really need.
The next time Candy Behrman's husband came in for confession, I followed him into the confessional. His last words were "Bless me father for I have shit! Oh shit, oh fuck!"
Poor Father Mondrian was so confused. I don't think he's ever heard a man being strangled with his own rosary before. He just sat there saying "Yes, my son?" Until I was long gone.
The next day, I visited John at his halfway house. I asked if he'd like to pray with me. While he was on his knees with his eyes closed, I slit his throat.
You know, I was the last person to see him alive, but no one even thought to question me.
So the irony is, if I wanted to, I could probably get away with this.
I'm a lot smarter and better prepared than most of the men who do it.
Of course, I know I'll be caught eventually. I have to be.
That's what being a role model is.
People have to know what you've done.
I suppose I'll turn myself in, when it's over.
But for now there's a middle school teacher who needs communion.
(She caps the sacramental wine and shakes it up real good.)