You are Puerto Rican. You are Catholic. You are a child. You go to church and Sunday school, every Sunday, every Sunday, every Sunday because you know that getting the sacraments done and over with is your only ticket into heaven. You read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret and start praying like Margaret. If you'd just been Italian and lucky you'd go to CCD on Wednesdays and get to leave school before last period.
You learn from an uptight pseudo-nun named Ms. Rose about how you should pray to God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and a patron saint of your own choosing. There's a fly motherfucker who ain't never ever EVER gonna love your ugly ass? Pray on it with Santa Rita. Going on a long trip back in time to the nether regions of Brooklyn to visit your auntsunclesgrandmothersetc who always ask heavy questions like: "M'ija, cuando te vas a casar?" but don't yet know how gay you really are? Pray on it with Saint Christopher. Pray to Jesus and ask him:
1) To give you bigger breasts (it's only fair, Christ, since I come from the biggest family of tetonas, like, EVER. Ooh, or maybe this is my test? Fuck it, gimme the tits).
2) To win the lottery.
3) To get rid of the cockroaches for ever and ever.
You sit in Sunday school one day and learn that there is only one God and you must not take His name in vain and you must not worship any God but Him (and you must Always Capitalize His Name and Pronoun). This troubles you deeply — you just prayed to Saint Thomas of Aquinas to give you a snow day tomorrow. You raise your hand to ask Ms. Rose if it's okay to pray to saints and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She says yes. You ask if this means you are worshiping false idols. She says no. But, you say, why would I be praying to someone if they weren't as powerful as God, and if they were as powerful as God why shouldn't I be worshiping them instead of God, or why does God have to take all the glory when it's really Jesus who did all the dirty work, or Paul, who got his head cut off for being Christian; why can't he get some burn? She tells you to leave and call your mother. You walk out of the classroom with the buzzing fluorescent lights and dingy linoleum tiles. Your head is hung low and she leads the class in a prayer for your soul. You feel the prayer, but in a cold and uncomfortable way, like a UTI.
You have your First Communion. You have been thirsty for your entire eight little years for the only alcohol you are allowed to taste. You wonder if you are really doing a bad thing, like when your uncle Junior let you take sips from his beer when your mom wasn't looking. You wonder, but then your little eight-year-old lips meet that golden chalice and the cheap, watered-down wine hits your lips and somewhere in the white, glowing nooks and crannies of your chaste little soul you know a deep and impenetrable bond has been formed between you and — no, not Jesus, not God, not even the Holy fucking Spirit — but alcohol, because you start to feel a miraculous warmth in your white cotton Hanes panties. You convince yourself that that feeling is Jesus and so you return to your pew and you pray. Hard and long until your mother taps your shoulder because it's time to stand now and sing some hymns. You blink many times, because you have lost yourself in your orgasmic prayer session. Everyone is proud because it looks as if you are pious, but really, you may have just had your first sexual experience without you or anyone else knowing. You are introduced to the patron feeling of all Catholics: guilt. You blush. You go to your grandmother's house and you eat cake in the shape of a Bible to celebrate. It is good. It is sweet. You wash it down with some Coke.
You are now thirteen. You get confirmed. You don't really know what that means. You're supposed to pick a saint, so you pick Joan of Arc because she was fierce and she carried a sword and she dressed up like a dude so she could kill other dudes. You don't care why she killed those other dudes. You only think about the fact that she got to wear armor and ride horses and stab motherfuckers with a big-ass sword. She had to have been strong because swords are heavy. You wish you had a sword to slit the throats of the men who holler at your thirteen-year-old ass as you walk to school in the morning. Clearly Joan of Arc was a big gay, and you think that's hot, but you don't say anything. You discover masturbation, but you don't say anything. Your father pounds on the door when you are taking a shower and yells at you to get out so he can get ready for work, but you're too busy getting off to really care.
You learn that condoms are bad, that abortions are as evil as Saddam Hussein, and that you mustn't under any wetpussypleasekeeptouchingme circumstances have sex before marriage…
You start fucking every boy in your Sunday school classes. At night you watch soft porn on Cinemax. You feel guilty. Especially when your mom catches you one night and asks, "What are you doing?" knowing full well what the fuck you're doing and you wish she would have just asked you, "Why are you masturbating on the living room floor?" But she's Catholic too and guilt directs every move she makes and every question she asks, so she would never ask that question anyway.
At night you watch soft porn on Cinemax. You feel guilty. Especially when your mom catches you.
You say, "Nothing," and you feel the guilt so hot inside it threatens to burn off your goddamn skin. You turn off the TV, skulk off to bed, and finish the job there. And it is goooooooooooooood.
Now, you have a few options. You either:
1) Continue having unprotected sex with motherfuckers you couldn't care less about and never get pregnant because somehow God has chosen YOU to be the patron saint of pulling out.
2) Continue having unprotected sex with motherfuckers you think you care a lot about and then one of them gets you pregnant and you decide to have the baby, because Saint Catherine has taught us that abortions are badbadbad and even worse than premarital sex. And because you feel as if you are responsible enough to put your child through the same Catholic bullshit nightmare that you yourself had to endure.
3) Have straight sex, gay sex, queer sex, and self sex and never get pregnant because God doesn't want you to introduce the fucking antichrist into the world, because He knows Damien will definitely come from your wayward-ass vagina. Step into a Catholic church only a few times after your confirmation — only because of familial obligations — and each time, get scared that you will turn into a pillar of salt, a pile of ashes, a three-headed anteater or some shit like that because you now know, in the depths of your dark, atheist soul — you know, like in the pit of your stomach, that part that compels you to smoke lots of weed and have sex in public libraries — that you hate Catholicism and you LOVE being pro-choice.
Regardless of the path you choose, you take the Lord's name in vain all the goddamn time and each time you do it, you wonder if you will be struck by lightning. Additionally, you wonder how you can know so little about something that was such a huge part of your life as a youth. And finally, you feel blessed that you didn't grow up a Jehovah's Witness or a Mormon, because then you would have to stand in the subways and try to convince motherfuckers of the end of days or wear some kind of ridiculous underwear that somehow serves to remind you of your faith in God without chafing your special parts. n°
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR:|
|Raquel Maldonado has been a history teacher, a sex-ed teacher, and a baker. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she now lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico. To read more of her thoughts, check out her blog.|