Friday, January 14, 2011

Chapter Thirty: Facing the Gallows, the Nun Shouts Her Diary Out Loud!

NOTE: The Sister Renata tale is called Castenata, and my healing story is Sister Mysteries; the two on-line books are thoroughly linked and several chapters, like this one, converge. The easiest way to read this "blogga saga" is to start with Chapter One of Sister Mysteries and follow the links!

Old Vallejo Jail
DEAR GOD What Day is It?

Teresa I'm losing track of time. Maybe it's because I cannot eat a bite of food, or because of this heat wave,
driving up from hell itself. All I know is that the dust blows endlessly through the bars of the window and I'm coated and crusted in fine yellow powder!

I don't know what day it is anymore. I wake up in such confusion wondering if I am even alive. I run my hands around my face and up and down my arms to remind myself that I have skin and that I am in it!

I keep the diary in my hands when I sleep and in the morning in my confusion I begin reading.
I keep going back to the opening page, and over and over, I read my own words -- "And now, how to begin. And why, why am I about to pour myself onto paper? Pure and simply, I wrote now because I don't trust my cousin anymore. I need a record of events..."

My eyes pass over these words and I know I wrote them and I know I wrote them when I still had hope, I still thought life made sense, I went to chapel each day, I cooked Friday lunch in the convent, standing at the sink, I washed Father Ruby's sheets, I still thought life made sense.

I still thought. I still felt I still was in the world. That's it. I still was in the world and not in this cage with nothing but the gallows outside my window.

I have thoughts now but how can I write them they are so frightening sometimes when I cannot stay focused, when I cannot pray, when God and Mary have slipped away then...;

When that happens Teresa I pick up the journal, that treasure you gave me, surely you knew somehow what was in store for me? Surely you spent half your little life savings on me, on this chiseled beauty.

What I do? I scream my own words right out out loud, yes I do that Teresa, I have begun screaming for hours at a time, I read the diary entries, back from the beginning, over and over again, like a chant. Because I can't keep track of time without them. Because I can't keep track of me, Sister Renata, because without the words I wrote without these words I hear I am not me, anymore.

The jailer threatens me he even took off his belt and held it up to the bars, but I laughed, I laughed I said to myself, let him beat me if he must but I am going to read, to shout until I have no voice anymore!

I know full well that I am shouting to a world that for certain isn't listening. I am this thing that is Sister Renata, reduced to a puddle of crud and crusted yellow sweat and hair that is chopped straw.

But that doesn't matter. I won't let anyone take my dignity away. My dignity, like my words, are here in my mind, mine.

And like you say, Teresa, I am determined to clear my name and tell the world I am innocent of any crime. I did not murder Antonie, and some day the world will see it!

I am reading now Teresa, and my hands are trembling, my hands are trembling I cannot write anymore, SO I AM SHOUTING now here here is a passage I AM SHOWERING IN THAT BLESSEDLY SILLY SHOWER YOU HAMMERED TOGETHER out of a pail, a washtub and a pail, I am reading from my diary, August 7, 1883, CAN YOU HEAR ME TERESA?

"I hold my face in this fine mist of water falling from the holes in the bottom of the pail, and let the water run over my lips and onto my tongue. The water and the sunlight cleanse me and silently I mouth a prayer of thanks to Sister Teresa for this purifying gift and silently too I thank the Lord for sending this good woman to us, but particularly, to me. Holding the washrag in my clasped hands, I bow my head, allow the water to thoroughly soak my short ruff of hair while I stand there giving thanks and prayer, thinking He knew, yes, He knew, how does He do that? How does the Good Lord always know exactly what we need?

Lifting my face, I gently pass the washrag across my brow. How good this feels. No, how heavenly. That’s the word Teresa used. How good it is to be back from San Francisco, too, every cell in my body is grateful. How hateful that was, how long and miserable the stay, and maybe because of that, I feel like I could stand here, water raining down, drowning out a host of thoughts that I would rather go away. Again I pray, I say a Hail Mary, two, most of all I ask Him how He knew to send Teresa here? How He knew that she would come and that she would be my only ally, she would give me some bit of advice to begin and end each day, and our friendship would grow and grow, and more than that, she would give me now the clearest water to cleanse the heat and dust and dirt and sins away.

She brings this gift to me at the very moment I am most in need of cleansing – my body and no less my spirit. I arrived back here from San Francisco -- where I had to go with Antonie because he forced me -- in such a dreadful condition, I hate to think what I looked like, my clothes crusted, my soul in the worst state it’s ever been. I hid in my room that first morning after Señora pulled up to the convent with the wagon, Antonie lying in the back beneath a heap of blankets. The mercury treatment for the syphilis, it sank him into a horrifying condition!

Señora kissed me once on the forehead and I climbed off the wagon without even a word of goodbye.

Weary is not the word for what I was. Too tired to eat. To sleep.

And that very next day, dearest Teresa completed the project that shower that has now come to my rescue...."

To continue reading about the shower that Teresa built out of a pail and a washtub, go to RENATA'S August 7th 1883 diary, part of "Castenata."

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