I have been drinking since Friday. The bottle of Guinness in front of me is the umpteenth today, but I still can write this.
On Friday I went to the Carnivore. Yesterday, Captain Fr. Kamau invited me to the barracks. In the barracks booze is cheap. Long after mid-night I was still sober enough to drive myself to the parish. I told the barman of the 7th Battalion the Kenya Rifle’s officers’ mess to put one crate of Guinness in my car. Fr. Kamau vouched for me and promised that the crate would be returned by Wednesday next week.
At the parish no one knows where I am (they have gotten used to my disappearing acts), so I was not to celebrate mass today. Nobody has come knocking on my door thus I have locked myself the whole day. I don’t have appetite, and the cubicle that’s my room is self-contained.
The reason I am drinking myself to a stupor is because last week the moment that I had been dreading came. Shiri called and told me to meet her at the Norfolk Hotel. If there was anything I wanted right then was to make peace with Shiri.
She wanted to know where this relationship was heading, the future of the relationship. Well, it’s a long shot for me, impossible to give hope or a promise of a future, but I still wanted in. God, I loved Shiri. I mean, L-O-V-E.
Even in the darkest, dark holes of my tart-jaded heart I knew that she was real, the best thing to have happened to me in my life, but I am a priest unless I join other defectors like Bishop Emanuel Milingo and Father Shiundu I have no life in the Catholic Church.
But there’s this question that needed to be answered, “Would Shiri be there for me, with me, through it all, like Bishop Milingo’s Maria Sung?”
By 5:00 o’clock last week Saturday evening I was at the Norfolk’s VIP lounge’s reserved table. Perfect privacy. I stood up the moment I saw her entering to pull the chair for her. Chivalry still courses in my bloodstream. But the look on her stopped me.
“Hey Shiri,” I said instead. She said nothing. She pulled her own seat and sat down everything about her saying ‘I am a big girl, I can take care of myself.’ The aura and the ambience yelled indifference and nonchalance.
“I was thinking, Frank… about when you were going to see that there’s no more lies,” Shiri said when she was settled.
I looked at her wondering what kind of a way to start a conversation was that. “What do you mean?” I asked. Her gaze was on me, unblinking, unfaltering.
“When I met you a while ago you swept me off my feet with the proverbial broom. I was so happy. We were happy. I liked you, and even fallen for you.”
I tried to say that me too I felt that way for her, but I held my horses.
“You are filthy, Frank. Pathetic. A pathological liar. Too selfish. How could you, Frank? How could you? How many have you lied to? All that false pretence. Why do you have to do such a dirty thing? Immoral at all senses of the word!”
Now, that was it. She already knew.
“Does the Cardinal even know? Does your fellow priests even know about you?” she shook her head. “But why do I ask. It’s you people who are paedophiles. Your Pope’s infallibility has made the church a nest of nincompoops and hypocrites. People come to you for confession…”
“You may say what you want, Shiri, but I can’t make you understand,” I interrupted her. There’s no way I was going to sit there and be lectured to.
“Yes, you can’t. And no one can. The people look up to you.”
“Yes, they do. It’s just that this has come the wrong time. As I said, I can’t make you understand.”
We sat there frozen in silence, for a few moments. I could see that she knew more than I thought. Well, I forced a smile, “How did you find out?” I asked.
“What does it matter? I was going to find out eventually.” I looked at Shiri, squinted actually, and then everything fit in – she had been spying on me, digging my past to know me. Well, she had every right to want to know, but digging into my life that much was not a nice idea. She had been spying on me. I had to play my cards otherwise. Confrontation was not going to help.
“Shiri, you are the best thing to have happened to me in my life.”
“Best thing? What do you take me for? That I am so cheap to be bought by offertory? Please.”
“It’s not that, Shiri,” I said. I took a deep breath, and then let it out. “At least have the time to listen to me.”
I told Shiri everything about me. Everything, the edited version. I also asked her to stand by me, to help me. She could save me.
“Oh, how could you, Frank. At least the church gave you a life. Why not live it?” Shiri said when I was done.
“I know I should have stood up then, but I had no choice.”
She closed her eyes, then opened them again. “You have a relationship with a nun from Mombasa, Fr. Frank. Two choir girls, at least those who were brave enough, have sworn that they have slept with you. And, oh, that married woman you ruined her marriage! You thought no one knows about you, Casanova? And above all, you are a murder suspect. You took advantage of me being a foreigner, didn’t you?”
That was it. She had done more than her homework. But she had no moral authority to. It’s my life. A feeling, like a tic, of resentment almost debilitated me. I almost showed it, but I was trained to control my emotions. I couldn’t defend myself. You don’t argue about the obvious.
“I know you have already judged and sentenced me. I am guilty as charged,” I told Shiri. “But I have decided to change. I want to change, Shiri. That’s why I need you. Believe me, I really do love you.”
Shiri said nothing for a moment, probably considering what I had said. “I want you to go. Go to wherever you’ve been, to your filthy life. You’ve wasted my time, and taken me for a fool. I have no idea what the real you is, or how much is in your dark life, but trust me, I don’t want to know.”
Everything in me went slack. This was unexpected.
“I want you out,” she said, as though to hammer the point home. “Right now. Go, Frank. Go!”
I sat there, staring at her. Her mind was made up, there was nothing I could do. I stood up, “Shiri, I…” She stopped me with her hand. I had to go.
I made for the door, turned to say something I did not know, but she was not giving me the chance.
“Good-bye, Frank,” Shiri said even before I could form the words.
©Vincent de Paul, 2015.
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