Fuck me, I love Lana del Rey. A certain Soul – one I pushed away once upon a time – introduced me to this mistress of music and poetry. Despite my antics for metal and hard rock shenanigans (with a healthy dose of folk thrown in for good measure), I find this woman to speak to me. Her words – fuck – her words are brilliant, that brilliance that can only stem from the tortured agony of introspective self-awareness. Her escape from the Cave was wrought with dangerous Shadows and feckless Chains, yet her words proved her liberation. Perhaps that’s why, comrades, this pop star speaks to my Soul. That tattered Soul of gray, frayed at the edges, worn to the interior, yet pulsating with a light that refuses to yield. Cover it with a bushel basket and you place it atop a hill: it cannot be hidden.
This light had a resurgence today.
Today (at the time of this writing) a student of mine received his confirmation, officially joining the Pope Francis I Fan Club (colloquially known as the Catholic Church) and he had asked me – me, fucking me – of all people to be his spiritual sponsor. Me? A padrino? A godfather? An advisor of all things religious, Catholic, and spiritual? Oy vey, what has the world come to when I, the candidate for Worst Catholic, am selected as a spiritual mentor?
I suppose it isn’t without precedent. I serve as godfather to my nephew. Three years old and I’m fairly certain the heavier concepts of Big Bearded Man in the Sky with a Naughty-or-Nice List escapes him for the most part. But hey! Doughnuts and play time every Sunday; what’s not to enjoy?
But precedent notwithstanding, I was immediately plagued with self-doubt at his choice. Surely, I thought, there’s someone else who can fit the bill. So we trundled on for the past few months, doing my best to avoid serious topical discussions by being the asshat I’m prone to be. Yet he stuck to me, the little runt, because I taught him “so much last year.” Classroom antics aside, they aren’t really the same thing as coming to grips with mortality and eternity. And today, comrades, we sealed the deal with blessed oil and a two-hour service.
Catholics, I swear.
We stood in front of the altar; the bishop wore a silly hat. Dozens of my students – past and current – sat in the audience. A hundred pairs of eyes bored down upon us as the unction was marked upon his head. I felt but a single pair.
Christ Himself, that fellow I seem to only call when I really need help, pierced me with His gaze from His cross. As we sat back down, leaving the altar as quickly as we had entered, I tried to pray.
I’m no saint. In fact, comrades, I’m a right proper bastard. I’m rude. Opinionated. Obnoxious. Immature. Unreliable. Difficult to be around. Taxing to the extreme. My mood swings can depend upon a single instance of stupidity or good fortune. And I’m abusive and a bully. Probably a pervert (but good girls don’t kiss and tell). Definitely a nutcase. Hell, I’ve got a war in my mind that ceases to function: soon as one side (for good or ill) makes a gain, the riposte sends forth an armored column to ensure no peace is e’er established. Trying to pray in such a warzone drives me madder.
We sat there, in those rather comfortable pews, for the rest of the youth to receive their special marking and acceptance into the club. In the scene of tranquility, I was murdering thoughts with a cudgel. What am I good for, I screamed internally. And how I tried to pray, to reaffirm to the Almighty that I indeed had a purpose and that, on no accounts, would I be second-guessing myself for every hiccup and misstep. Pinky swear this time, Jesus. Believe me. Just send me a sign – any sign – to remind me my calling. Just remind me that I’m not an unworthy piece of shit who shouldn’t be remembered.
I wrung my hands for the rest of the service.
But it wasn’t until I was sitting at the local watering hole an hour later, drowning my self-doubt sorrows and self-pity patheticisms in shitty beer, that my much asked for sign was sent from the unlikeliest of places.
“Three musketeers,” she said.
She never spoke that first month, maybe two, in class. Sat there like a statue – did her work, mind – but never piped up. Group work was painful, I recall that much, because she was an introvert.
And these days, comrades, I can’t get her to shut up. Co-DM’s for D&D, always comes in for Chess Club, badgers me about this and that for her current classes. Ne’er a moment’s silence.
Fuck; I’m glad.
We chatted for a bit – I, over my adult beverage of choice – about the service and the implications. We discussed who would be which Musketeer, why Dumas needs to be studied, and why I’m in the right place.
You see, comrades, despite my happy-go-lucky exterior and my penchant for satire and nonsense, I oft second guess myself about what exactly it is I’m accomplishing by being a high school teacher. In moments of drunken frustration, or mind-numbingly dull class presentations, I wonder aloud and awry what I’m doing in a classroom. As I stated, I’m nuts. I’m not teacher material. Not by a long shot.
Then these two little assholes come along and ruin all my self-loathing with their observations.
“You’re the smartest man I know,” she said.
- That’s nonsense – you just need to get out more.
- That feeds my insatiable ego – but you still need to get out more.
She went on to regale me with her conversion story (if you will) about how I positively influenced her as an instructor and as a friend. Apparently my antics of having my students “question everything” and voicing their opinions about this and that serves as a breeding ground for unorthodox thought.
I’ll take that as a win.
My boy, my new godson, has discussed such things with me afore, but hearing it from a different person, who perceives us as Athos, Porthos, and Aramis – those legendary literary figures – made me realize my prayers were fulfilled. I had received the sign of my calling in the guise of this student and her photo.
Sometimes, comrades, the wars in our minds can be silenced with a healthy dose of perspective, those heavy guns falling silent as such comments give us the clarity we so desperately cry out for in our thoughts and prayers. I may be an incorrigible wanker, certainly, but moments like these – surrounded by those positive influences – serve as reminders.
Sure, I’m a bastard. But I’m a force for Good.
Certainly, I’m not a saint. But I’m following my calling.
Agreed, I’m an iffy role model. But I’m fucking free.
To my kids reading this (which you very well shouldn’t), know that I do love you little fuckers. Good days, bad days, days where I insult your intelligence, and days where I praise your initiative, I’d be nothing without you. It took a former student to remind me that I’m on the right path with you goombas.
If it weren’t for you, I would have committed Richard Cory years ago.