Forgive me father, for I have sinned. The window on the other end of the confessional grating slides open, the sound of wood slowly grinding against wood causing me to raise my head to the source. My last confession was This is actually my first time confessing. What brings you to me today, my son? What ails you? What sins have you come to absolve? The voice that responds to me sounds raspy, a victim to time and decades of cigarettes.
Somehow the voice still sounds welcoming. I I uh sorry. Is all that rattles out of my mouth. Take your time, my son. Its okay. The Heavenly Father is accepting of all his flock. Father, I killed someone. I killed people. I killed people I didnt mean to kill mostly There is silence for several moments, but to me it felt like years. I felt like I could feel myself age as I waited for a reply from the other side.
Something. Anything. Then finally I hear it Tell me more, my son. God and I are listening. At this point Im not sure if I actually need to confess anything to anyone or if I just want someone to listen to me for once. I decide to tell this priest my story, so he can understand why I did what I felt like I had to.
They didnt want me when I was born, at least mostly. My mother loved me, sure. But my father, he just saw me as nothing more than dead weight.
Another mouth to feed. They already had my brother and raising him was hard enough on them. My father was a real piece of shit. My mom would spend plenty of nights trying to cry herself to sleep while she was cradling me in her arms. She spent those nights looking for god, or anyone really, to save her, to help her. Instead, all she got was my father: a man with a long overdue and perpetually rising gambling debt, a permanent look in his eye that would make even the devil himself turn away out of fear, and loyalty to no one except his longtime friend Jack. He was the kind of man that would raise his hand to my mother while she was praying and say, No one can hear you except for me. I tell myself that hes the one that made her pick up the needle. It was her only way of coping, of escaping. My youth seemed to be longer than it actually was. Mostly because of him. There would be days when my mom would be come home later than usual, not too late, but just late enough for him to be sitting in his chair with his glass emptied several times over. Shed come through the door and hed stumble out of that chair screaming You bitch! So who were you fucking today? Are you on something? Where were you? and before she could even reply, a hand that was as stiff as the fire he was swallowing would make contact with her face. This was life. This was the routine.
I spent a lot of time trying to prove myself, especially to my brother. He was my fathers favorite. The son that could do no wrong. He was everything I wanted to be. Wed spend our time crossing through town, making our way through, past the docks, until we got to the old railyard. This is where hed decided I would prove I was a man. Aint nobody thats gonna love you if you cant prove youre a man! hed say. I was always more than happy to oblige, having spent years living in his shadow. I couldnt let him be right. I couldnt let him win. Whoever chickens out first is a loser and a coward! After a few moments of waiting we would begin to feel it. The rumbling that I would become so familiar with. The rails would shake, and we would hear the whistle in the distance getting closer and closer. You better not chicken out on me now little shit! Id close my eyes and let the sound take over. The rumble grew louder. The whistling grew unbearable. Before I knew it, Id lost my footing and when I opened my eyes all I could see was the overcast sky. You fuckin baby! hed say as he took off back home to tell our father dearest of his latest triumph over me. The train kept on going. As did life. It was the routine.
The day it happened; I woke up to those old familiar sounds. Screaming, and the sounds of the back of a hand hitting something soft. I had decided that enough was enough and made my way downstairs. My brother was waiting for me and shook his head no as he tried to stop me. I pushed through and rushed to my mother. I was soon face to face with the screaming. All our fucking money is gone! How are we supposed to live?! All she cares about is getting that needle in her arm! Who was he to judge? She never did shit to him. Just tried her hardest to raise us on her own while he was too busy with the bottle. He wasnt the one getting beat on a damn near daily basis. Its not like she couldve walked right up to Kennedy himself and said make everything better. Thats what I told my father. At least thats what I tell myself that I told him. His response was to take a wild shot at me. I was lucky that he was too drunk to connect. A fire suddenly filled my body, a fire not unlike my fathers but still somehow different. I had never thought of killing a man before today, but I have never wanted to kill someone more or since. A lifetime of pent up anger finally reached its boiling point as we swung wildly at each other, one drunk from the liquid in his belly and the other drunk with rage. When he caught a lucky hit to his gut and fell, I reached for the only friend that he had. The only thing that had been loyal to him. It was the last thing he saw as the bottle struck his head over and over again. He would finally succumb to his vice. One way or another. No! my mother screamed. Frozen in shock, I turned to my brother. The favorite. My fathers son. Ill never let you get away with this. I dont forgive. I dont forget. Youll get yours. I dont know when, I dont know where. But you will. I took one long, agonizing look at my mother, shot a quick glance to my brother, and took off into the night to find somewhere to clean up and decided to move on. As did life.
I wouldnt see my brother again for a few years. Im not sure what drew me back to that town, maybe it was nostalgia, maybe it was guilt. But there I was, standing at the pier I ran past so many times as a child. Im not sure how long I stood there soaking it all in, reflecting on my youth. My reminiscing was cut short when I heard it. Well look at what we have here, the prodigal son has returned. I turn myself around to see where the voice had come from. Ive been waiting for you yknow? Just waiting. You selfish motherfucker. You know what happened after you left? We had nothing. We still have nothing. I had to live with what you did to this family every fucking day. Mom is fucking dead. You drove her back to that needle. My brother then pulled a pistol You got a debt, boy. Its time you paid up. We walked to the old railyard, barrel of the gun digging into my spine. Before I knew it, I was pinned down, head on the tracks, barrel of the gun pressing into my temple. It wasnt long before I felt that all too familiar rumble. The shaking causing my head to hit the tracks once or twice, enough times to make me bleed. He wanted me to hurt. Then I heard the whistle. It grew louder and louder. Im not sure why it happened. He must have been distracted for just a moment, because I felt the weight of his knees on my body lift for just a moment. Just enough time for me to turn things around. I wrestled him to the ground and held him to the tracks with tears in my eyes. I utter the Im sorry Ive been thinking of saying for years as the whistle turns to screams. Then there was silence. The train kept on going. As did I. As did life.
And now here I am father. Thats my story. Thats what Ive got. Im met once again with the silence from the dark end of the confessional. The priest tells me to say my Hail Marys and Our Fathers and to reflect on my time here. He tells me Today my son you find your forgiveness. However, its only from me. The wood grinds against wood once more, and I suddenly hear nothing from the other side. I kneel before the altar, open my mouth to pray, but no words come out.