The Short Age is a new-writing magazine in Berlin. The editor Pete Littlewood asked me to contribute something but I was all out of ideas. He suggested I write a suicide note for the not yet dead. I did one for the Pope.
It started with Ana and she wasn’t even nearly pretty. Her legs didn’t sit right for a start. They fell beneath her belly like TV cables and caused her to drag her feet to the point where the inside of her shoes rubbed right down to the sock. But she started something, and in spite of those pins, and armpits that smelled like grilled onions, I have to admit she turned me on to women.
I was all of eight years of age and I was in love. I shouted it from the corners until the day that Ana became Claudia. So I shouted Claudia for a time before eventually Claudia transformed into Rebecca who lasted until Sarah, Steffi and Salome, one after the other, became keepers of my young and wandering heart.
You know, even now, sat here years along the track, locked away behind walls, moats and Swiss Guards, I can still make out their faces in the ashtray’s reflection. But I haven’t smoked in thirty years. I haven’t let my fingers free along the cool nape of a lady in sixty years, and I haven’t as much as smelled an erection in half a century.
Back in the seminary in the early, I’d still get them. Little movements beneath the habit. I’d let my hand run through the cloth and hold it. I’d get two minutes – three tops – of proper wood before it’d crumple like cheap Eucharist beneath a weight of guilt.
One Easter, not so long ago, mid-mass, somewhere between the intercession and the supplication I felt something hard as a bullet and thought, ‘God, you old rogue, is this an act of temptation or a gift for all the lost years dedicated to your word?’ It wasn’t anything but my first stroke.
If you don’t use your talents you lose them, and I lost mine as sure as pride comes before a fall. I’m a mess. The only sensation I get from below is when my piles bite in the middle of the night. I call the house physician. He wears a dangling crucifix that climbs along my scrote when he examines me. I’d spend eternity reciting Hail Marys with my feet on hot coals for that crucifix to be a woman’s hand, and another eternity for me to be able to do something about it.
For one week now I’ve dreamt of Bavaria. I’m on a grassy slope. It’s summer. I’m young again, and so is the girl beside me. We roll into each other and kiss and the sex is so good the smell burns my nostrils. And then I wake up, alone, surrounded by my blessed statues, and cry. It’s got me so down I can barely read the Book anymore.
I fear that the only way to hold on to this dream is to stop waking. By the time you read this, it’ll be morning and there’ll be one less infallible at the breakfast table. And while the press lay siege to the Vatican and the faithful offer up prayers to the departed, I’ll be tangled up in Ana or Claudia, or maybe even Rebecca, with my white arse winking up at the sun.
Go in Peace.
Pope Benedict XVI