Saturday, November 12, 2005

Goodbye to All That

On the morning of that doubly momentous day, I woke at my habitual time of seven o'clock to the usual sound of Fr. Finbar's headboard banging rhythmically against the other side of the wall to an accompaniment of bestial grunting and muffled gasping. I sat up and looked about me and was struck immediately by the notion that something was seriously wrong, that everything was in fact completely askew and that the world had altered in some fundamental way while I'd been sleeping. I looked about the room at the familiar objects: the uncarpeted floor, the table and the chair, the sparse collection of books, the plain wooden cross upon the wall, the jug and bowl I used for washing. It all looked much the same as it had the previous day, and yet it wasn't.

I reasoned that since objects don't simply mutate spontaneously during the hours of darkness, it must be that I was seeing them differently and as I began to apply my mind to the task of finding a solution to this early morning conundrum, I became aware all at once of the preposterous nature of my spartan accommodation. The bareness of it seemed suddenly quite ridiculous; the asceticism that once had denoted piety and humility and seriousness of purpose now appeared merely obsessive, fetishistic and, well, frankly mad. And that absurd cross on the wall; what did it signify? Crucifixion? The pain of Jesus? What? And then it hit me.

Like the man who wakes one day to the realisation that what he'd considered to be a deep and abiding love is in reality nothing but a blind and stupid infatuation, I felt the profound humiliation of one who has made a complete fool of himself. God, what an idiot I'd been! And then I laughed long and loud enough to cause a brief cessation of activity in the adjoining room. There isn't a god any more than there are fairies at the bottom of my garden and to believe in the existence of one is just another symptom of insanity. Religion: a dish served by charlatans for the consumption of the feeble minded.

"If God can do anything, Father," an eight-year-old once asked me, "why doesn't He make my hamster better?" And the answer, once so circuitous and artful, was now so simple and honest: because, Mary, there is no god and Barney is going to die a slow and painful death.

I showered and let my thoughts wander freely around these new circumstances as the warm soapy water cascaded over me, cleansing me, purging me of all that rubbish. I wondered, did anyone really believe? Fr. Finbar? Surely not. Pope Whatsname? Rather doubtful. Bishop O'Herlihy? Categorically no. Was it just the sheep in the congregation then? The flock. Who could say? And who cared? What mattered now was how to turn this situation to my advantage, what to do immediately, and the answer was simple: carry on for now as normal, go through the motions just like all those pederasts under diocesan protection, another seemingly devout priest going about his parochial duties with a fallacious air of goodhearted ingenuousness.

And then, by one of those curious twists of fate which are too bizarre to have been invented, on the very day that I lost Him, I found Her. She who would change everything and who would in time prove to be the unwitting architect of my catastrophic downfall culminating in the abominable degradation of becoming an ambulanceman. But hers is another story.