Lonely for her own life …
“One day when I was walking back from the library, I passed a church. So I went in. The sun was coming through the stained glass windows. It was so beautiful. I started to cry. Once I started I couldn’t stop. I felt like I was lonely for my own life.
“Then a priest came over to me. He asked if I was all right and we started to talk. And that’s when it began. I used to go to church when I was a little girl. Before my father left us. After that my mother never took us anywhere. She was either working or cooking or cleaning or taking care of babies. I had to help her with the little ones.”
“That’s just like me,” Alva broke in. “And you see, I’m still doing just that. My little sister’s the one with the gallbladder.”
“Is she better now?” Kitty had not thought to ask before. But she was beginning to feel that Alva was an old friend. As if they had shared many confidences before this.
“She’s doing passable. If it wasn’t for that no-good husband of hers. But he do love her. Even I can see that. Why do the men have so little brains is what I want to know.” It was more of a comment than a question.
“I couldn’t answer that. My husband was smart. But there was no feeling inside him. Except anger. Everything made him angry. At least everything he couldn’t control. The priest told me that my marriage was not normal. That it was not what God intended. He’s the one who got me thinking about becoming a nun,” Kitty explained.
“Was it the priest who got you into the convent?”
“I haven’t been accepted yet. It takes a long time. You don’t just become a nun. But he did agree to handle the divorce for me. You have to petition the church and give your grounds. And then they write to the spouse. The spouse has to agree. But if he doesn’t ever say anything, then the church goes ahead without his agreement – if you have cause. The church agreed that I had cause. My husband will get the letter. I’ll be in the convent when he does. But he’ll never agree. I don’t care anymore. He can’t keep me tied to him any longer. No matter what. I think the day I walked into that church was the day I became a free person.”
“You think being in a convent is being free?”
“I think it depends on the convent and the order you join. And I think it depends on what’s in your mind and your heart.”
“That makes good sense,” Alva nodded. “But tell me this. When you was in that church and crying, was you crying for yourself or for what you didn’t have all them years?”
Kitty didn’t know what to say. Alva laid her head against the seat back and closed her eyes. She began humming softly and soon her head lolled toward the aisle. She slept for many miles, over the Delaware Bridge onto the New Jersey Turnpike, past the Atlantic City exits and north to where oil refinery stacks stood like smoking trees against a bleak industrial landscape.