Sacrament of Reconciliation
Ciaràn Dempsey fixed cars. Specifically, he fixed my mum’s BMW. Often. The repairs were obviously exhilarating and exhausting. I deciphered this from the way Mum sat, flushed, on the burgundy velour sofa when I came home from my school, which was also a convent, on repair days.
Mum’s body curved back into the low-slung middle chair of the sectional. It was the same one we’d had before we moved to Ireland, only then it had been creamy leather. My cat had clawed it relentlessly so it got recovered for its new life. So, apparently, had my mum.
“Ciaràn,” she’d breathe, as though he was still there. “Fixed it.”
Most days, I came in through the kitchen and tried to glide, unnoticed, down the small hall that led to my room. On Ciaràn days, Mum seemed always able to catch me.
“We went for a test drive. Got up to 90 miles an hour.” She’d sip her Scotch. “It’s definitely working now.”
But a week or so later, some wee noise would start. “Germans,” she’d mutter. She’d follow with something about the war, something about how you couldn’t trust them. Ciaràn was different: young, Irish, trustworthy. Not a warrior, not at all.
In school, Sister Mary Francis had been preparing me for confession. I was behind, owing to the fact that my Scottish family wasn’t Catholic. In her cramped office behind our classroom, Sister Mary Francis taught me about sins, the venial and the mortal. I’d begun to think about what to confess; I feared I may have committed
more than venial sins. Hadn’t I envied Siobhan her new shoes, the ones with little heels? Snuck extra bites of mashed potatoes at Easter dinner? Been proud of my ability to keep my best friend’s secrets? I had committed nearly half of the mortal sins. What would happen if I confessed? And what of my mother, if she couldn’t confess her own mortal sin? As I prepared, I imagined Mum’s confession.
Bless me Father for I have sinned. And then the list:
I have let Ciaràn Dempsey repair my car. A lot.
I have let him drive my car, fast, down curvy roads and across humpy bumpy terrain and over hills, peaks, into valleys and nooks and crannies.
Ciaràn has tested the brakes in some of those nooks and crannies. He has idled there. He has revved the engine and then zoom, zoom, zoomed down that straight bit of road between the village and the city of Cork, along the River Bandon.
Bless me Father for Ciaràn and I have braked and idled and zoomed all over County Cork, once even stopping at the shrine of Our Lady between Kinsale and Summer Cove.
I imagined myself kneeling in the confessional, holding my lips close to the grate, whispering the words on her behalf – a venial sin, perhaps, but worth it if I could say a few extra Hail Marys and absolve us both.
This story was first published in the Six Minute Magazine