The lady was nervous. She had not been to see him before, he was sure, because he knew all his parishioners down to the last detail. Though he could not see her face, he would have known her by her breath, or by her hesitation. Those he knew learned not to hesitate.
When eventually she spoke, she spoke in ritual.
“Bless me, father, for I have sinned.”
He had no idea what a sin was anymore. Were it not for this impersonal furniture, he would reach out to her and squeeze the guilt right out. She talked of impure thoughts and impure deeds, of addiction and lust, but nothing she mentioned sounded bad to him. A lot of it sounded fun. She knew what she’d enjoy; her problem was she didn’t know how to enjoy it.
“Do not worry, my child.” He reached in his pocket and pressed a slip of pink paper through the divide. She studied it carefully. He had drawn on the paper a feather rubbing gently against his ceremonial robes. “You tickle my fancy,” read the caption.
He stepped out from his curtain. He pulled hers back and stepped in. They sat in the darkness together and he assured her, “It’s all right. You’re safe with me.”
She let him touch her. God was love, in his way, and to be touched by a man of God was love, too. He wrapped her thigh in his fingers, and she was forgiven. She touched him back under his robes, and was baptized with a million tiny ablutions, all over her face.