this is a rewrite of this
“Via con Dios, mijos.”
The priest dismissed the congregation with a wave of his tiny hands. The diminutive man kept his lips pursed as his flock filed out, a chatter of mixed English and Spanish fading out at the last of the mainly Hispanic Roman Catholics left the run down factory that had recently been turned into a house of God. Before he headed back into his office he took one last look at the massive figure hanging above his head; a larger than life replication of the Son. The lightly tanned paint was flaking off around the wound left by Longinus; the blood a powder pink from years spent in the sun. The Holy Spirit was still present in the figures face, lips snarled in pain, and blue eyes pointed up, searching for an answer that he already knew. The longer the mortal stared at his savior, the more he longed to stand beside Him, to feel His hand on his shoulder and to know that he was justified in his life’s work. An eternity passed since his last life, and the only thing that remained was the scar on his face. A single, black teardrop just below his left eye served as a reminder of his past transgressions. When he brought his head down and genuflected before leaving, he was once again filled with hope that not all was lost, and that there was more to hope for in the ever-after.
His office was located at the end of the main hallway in a windowless room that used to be used for backroom dealings and, at one time, a prostitution ring. The building on the lower west side was deceptively long, and his footsteps echoed off the brick walls on his protracted walk. Every step seemed to resonate with ethereal whispers, his own voice from twelve years old, eighteen, twenty two, all fighting with his own thirty year old narration inside of his head. Stories of his checkered past tried out screaming his reminders that he was always a man of God in most respects. He took his vows young, and while he had struggled with demons on more than one occasion, he knew that God had forgiven him, and the only man’s forgiveness he still needed was his own. The thoughts racing through his head all stopped at once when he saw The Virgin at his door. The flawless beauty sat in a splintering wooden armchair outside his office, and as he approached her, he felt his heart explode inside his chest. She was proof of God.
For years she wandered the night searching for adventure. She would find herself at the bottom of a bottle, night after night, trapped like a cry for help floating in an endless sea of despondency and regret. Those were her best nights though, when only her own vices held her. Frequently she found that she was bound by men who by day were draped in the cloth and spat Leviticus, but by night craved to drink her blood wine and feast upon her flesh. She was thirteen years old the first time she saw a white thrown hastily on the floor, the rest of a black uniform enveloping her underdeveloped body. Fourteen years later she could still feel the sharp pain of accepting Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, a savior she would call to on a nightly basis. After becoming disillusioned at an early age, holy words washing over her as she prayed silently in her head, she was desperate for an escape. In the alleys of the night she found a new passion, a fire for her veins, and control over her sanity. She could be stuck, and it was by her own hand, instead of a spineless patsy fronting as a link to heaven.
She never stopped going to church. All of the years of torment didn’t stop her from sitting in the pews that would later trap her with an older dark skinned man, his vile, poison breath wet and hot against her little ears, each huff spilling wrath, vanity, greed, and more onto her skin for her pores to soak up. She would sit further and further towards the back of the house, and as soon as the rest of the rest of the neighborhood would stand to leave, she would be half a block ahead of them. Today, however, she was ensnared by what the new young priest was saying. As he worked his puny jaw, his beautiful Spanish punctuated with informal forms and street slang, he seemed to sing about forgiveness. She knew that after the rapture she would need more than just a pretty face and a knowledge of how to please men. And while she held a hatred for all the men that wronged her, she started to let it pass. The priest let a last verse fly, and as Matthew 6:14 left his lips, it found its way into hear chest.
“Porque si perdonáis a los hombres sus ofensas, vuestro Padre celestial también os perdonará a vosotros”
As her hatred for the holy men as a whole melted away, first as a raging waterfall, then a slow trickle, she felt a deep sense of gratitude towards the new young man. She saw his tear drop and felt a connection to him, as if their pasts were intertwined and they were closer than simply priest and biblical eavesdropper. She wanted to scream from the rooftops that she forgave those who hurt her; that she wanted to find salvation not at the bottom of a glass or needle, but in the words of the Almighty. She was standing at his office door when the endorphins started to wear off. She suddenly couldn’t remember those Sunday afternoons wrapped up in sin, a tryst that was never meant to be. She couldn’t remember if it was really all of those grey haired men’s fault that she found herself consuming them. Could it have been her wish that they defile the house of the Lord? She sat in a chair by the door, not sure if she should run to avoid making another mistake before God, or if she should stay and confront her demons, and what ever happened was simply part of her destiny. Just then she heard the footsteps.
When the young priest laid his eyes on the beauty that was set before him, he flashed back to years before he cut from the cloth. As a younger man he sat on street corners, drinking during the day and roaming the streets at night with a ragtag group of other Latino young men. Yellow bandanas were wrapped around their heads, and their oversized work shirts hid the nine millimeter pistols in their waistbands. The night he knew he was headed down the wrong path was the night his compatriots were looking for a woman to get some release with. When a young African American woman was walking the streets, looking for a bus to get her home from work, the group leapt into action. He wanted no part in the destruction of the woman’s soul, and pleaded for them to stop. Their last words, before he pulled his piece and left them lying on the streets, freeing an innocent, still echoed in his head.
“¡Vete la chingada, maricón!”
With a blink of his eyes the past faded back where it belonged. But his mind was still not prepared for speaking to the vision of perfection before him. The purity he prayed for at night when he struggled to not let the sheets tempt him into sin was starting to wane. He saw her, her hips full and flawless, her breasts small but inviting, and her luscious lips wet and begging to be touched. He felt himself stiffen, in his spine and within his trousers. His eyes burned with visions of them in his office, bent over his desk. He longed to trace the curve of her pale, white, spine with his tongue, the same tongue that preached about the virtue of abstinence, the one that took a vow to stay free of women. He could feel every tiny hair on her stomach already, and as his minds hand worked its way south across her border into her sacred valley, he started to feel a cool sweat on the back of his neck. He needed to work his way across her, from the curly black sea on top of her head, to the thin, delicate arches of her feet. He was sure that his life’s work would be undone by visiting her eternal wound, but would die happily anyway. He came up to her and stood silently for a moment.
Their eyes never met. Any words they wanted to say to the other got balled up midway up the throat and came out only as a sigh. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, and she played with the hem of her skirt. She looked up and finally met his eyes. They were kinder than she had imagined they would be up close. But then again, she assumed they would be filled with hellfire and damnation, as all the others had been. Instead she was met with a soft stare, his eye lids barely propped open, an internal war waging behind the dark green circles. As he looked back, he picked out all of her imperfections. The breadth of her nose, the shape of her eyes, the healing sores around her mouth; they all made him wince with how stupid he had been to think that he could deny God and destroy his hopes of salvation. What she hoped would be a long discussion on the greatness of God and his capacity to forgive turned into one sentence. It was enough for him to know that he had found his calling. The words were enough for her to realize that she wasn’t out to find trouble, but it found her. She was comforted. The hallway carried the echoes back into the main room and as the giant figure of Jesus Christ stood steadfast, the walls bounced back:
“Gracias, para todos.”