Lost Causes

Fuck….

Fuck fuck fuck…FUCK FUCK GODDAMN FUCK YOU IDIOT COWARD FUCK!

I knew this was coming but…

fuck…
St. Stephen of Hungary (Wikipedia as it is now)

Closed down for good on 23-Aug-2015. Five days before my birthday.

I missed my chance…to see it one more time from the inside.

I’m so fucking good at blowing up my chances at things…I am a walking, talking, living, breathing jinx…

What I remember…or…what I am desperately trying to remember, no matter how hard it hurts and may be skewed because of bias…and trust…

It will hurt.

Also, rulers with metal edges may be involved. and many a thrown eraser or bit of chalk…

First Grade, with Mrs. Francis…

I was one of the smallest in my class. I Think Mary-Ann was the only one smaller than me. I was good at reading. Lousy with numbers. And penmanship. And she’d catch me doodling on a piece of paper and I’d get the ruler…open palm, two exact slaps on both…
…that stung like a bee stings and sat me down bowed…

That was the year I understood numbers mattered. At least on a piece of paper…that mattered…

And Mrs. Vargas, mother of (one of the couple of) Peter (‘s) in my class…speaking in a tongue to others that I recognized but never understood…but loved….because it…twisted and turned and made consonants into these slithering, slippery, zitthery growly boundlessly delightful things that I could only grasp at and not understand….like when I’d hear my Grandmother whispering her prayers to the Spire from her chair…

Peter, by the way, was fucked, mostly. Until about 6th or 7th Grade when his mom didn’t work there any more.

Sister Paula. Second Grade. Fairly even keeled until you pissed her off.

That was the year I learned to hide under the bed that my mother shared with my Grandmother…when I got the piece of paper to take home…and wouldn’t answer until I heard my mother’s voice calling me when she got home from work…and…Taffy hung out with me under there too…mostly. Confused…but…there.

And somehow, because I could read and had a Voice…when we made First Communion…I was chosen to read…I don’t remember what reading…probably the first, from the Old Testament…because I was…a precocious little fucker…with a huge set of lungs…

And Father Pat (Patrick)…this tall man with the classic U bald spot and horn-rimmed glasses and the Birkenstocks before we, the Lesbians, took them over…with his brown Franciscan robes, hands hidden in the sleeves…and the kindest eyes I’d ever seen…beyond…beyond my Aunt Joan…

He was one of the most gentle, happy souls I’d ever met. He was wasn’t like Father Emerick, who looked like a crab had crawled inside his skull and caused both his face and demeanor to scrunch up…eyes darting…constant frown…

Although…when he laughed? Truly laughed? It was like the sun through stormclouds. That happened maybe once every year.

But…fuck no…no one wanted to be stuck in confession with him. “100 Our Fathers and 100 Hail Mary’s”, no matter what the “sins” you were confessing to were.

“I sneezed and scared my cat.”

“100 Our Fathers and 100 Hail Mary’s.”

“I stole a crayon from Rita’s crayon box.”

“100 Our Fathers and 100 Hail Mary’s.”

“I killed three people and ate a baby on the way to school.”

“100 Our Fathers and 100 Hail Mary’s.”

At least Father Pat made you think about what’d you were “confessing” to. Least…he made me think…

And Father Emerick would watch until all of us were done praying. So…there’s that.

You didn’t want to piss off Father Pat either. When he got his Irish up? No…nonnononnononononono.

Sr. Merdarda was in there some where…maybe third grade? (That’s not a typo. It was Merdarda.) She’d been around since the fall of the Roman Empire and could wield a yardstick like a fucking Samurai Warrior. Black Habit (but with the modern veil/coif thingus that most nuns wore at that time. Think Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music” before she fucked whatshisface), white robe, looked a bit like a shar pei…. Her aim was dead on though, despite the glasses. I remember my mom looking at my black vest and asking “Why is there chalk on this…and so much?”

Got erasered from the front of the room. Mind. My last “name” begins with a K. So I’d be anywhere from the middle to the back depending on the alphabet of the grade. Bitch nailed me. Probably because I was trying to “whisper” to someone…

Ended badly. Per usual. Also, grounded.

Fourth Grade….don’t remember much except I understood basic geometry, and got the highest grade in math I’d ever gotten once on that bloody fucking piece of paper…rulers across the knuckles were also probably involved. But…

I remember we were asked to draw what  we wanted to be when we grew up in kind of a heraldic fashion. All I remember…is that I know there was a test tube crossed with a cooking whisk like the bones in a Skull and Crossbones on mine. the rest…not so much.

Fifth Grade…I remember three full days of the entire class standing by our desks. We weren’t taught anything. We were allowed lunch at our desks in silence (no recess). No idea what’d we’d done. But we had to stand, in silence, doing nothing from 8:30 to 2:30. But…

But…Ms. Carol… I remember her coming in to take over from someone…and the face…her expression…I think…she knew it was wrong…but couldn’t do anything about it…

That was also the year I decided to follow my idiot “friends” and ride my bike off the (then closed) 63rd street off-ramp off the 59th street Bridge.

Ended badly. Shattered limousine windshield (it was parked).  Flashes of memory…a man in blues asking me if I knew what year it was in a white moving box…terror…..my mom and my pediatrician (also around since the fall of the Empire) looking at me…terror…flat on my back, couldn’t move my head…being told to not fidget… a fucking bright white halo moving closer and closer as the thing I was flat on my back on headed towards it (MRI, pretty certain, in its earlier days). Next things…Crinkly mattress, not my pajamas, blinding fucking headache and a lump on the left side of my head the size of a baseball. and…oh…mom’s face…

Loss of peripheral vision in my left eye* that I couldn’t say anything about because I was already in so much deep, deep trouble…and…bone grinding deep fear…Some sort of brain scan I had to take the next morning with a thousand electrodes with sticky shit attached to my skull…and I had to breathe through my mouth and not swallow…drooled fucking everywhere…

…and the fear…

To this day I hate Jell-o. And Apple Juice. And doctors and hospitals.

Mild concussion was the verdict. Apparently, my skull is way thicker than my skin.

Needless to say – severely grounded. And my “friends” came to visit and stole a bunch of the toys I really fucking liked. So, that was fun.

Sixth Grade.

Heh.

Sixth Grade was when Sr. John-Marie came to the school. (Maybe it was fifth? Memories…are hazy.)

How to explain Sister John-Marie…

She…was the first a) African-American nun I’d ever met; b) Did not need to throw anything. Ever. She’d

fall very silent, and go very still. And then would pull her glasses slightly down, and then the Look would freeze air; c) Was also the first sarcastic nun I’d ever met. Or been taught by. She had a way of turning a phrase that would stop you in your track and make you actually THINK; d) And…this…this is most important to me…little precocious one with the reading skills and the Voice…she did her goddamnned level best to keep a straight face after I’d  been reading a passage in our religion book and pronounced St. Francis Xavier “St. Francis Caviar”.

The class, of course, lost their shit immediately. And I was darting my eyes around thinking ‘What? What the hell did I do wrong? Someone tell me PLEASE!’ and caving in on myself…I was mortified. Fucking. Mortified. I’d fucked up. Again. And the second she caught the look on my face…

..She did the glasses thing. With a very quiet “Enough”.

Class shut up real quick.

And then she looked at me, and gently said, “The X sounds like a Z. So…Zavier. Not Caviar.” The snicker from somewhere got a no-bones-about-it look of “I’ma take your ass out you don’t shut up.”

“Xa…Xavier.”

“Yep.”

She had the best grin.

I joined choir that year. She lead it.

Seventh Grade. Nothing really to report other than my uniform changed from a white short sleeved shirt, tartan jumper, and black vest to a mint green long sleeved shirt, tartan skirt, and green vest. Oh, and that Judy Blume was a major controversy.

Eighth Grade. Ms. Carol was our homeroom and English teacher that year. More on that in a bit.

Eighth Grade. Ugh. Bits of me started…how shall we say…busting out. I still wasn’t one of the cool kids. Still sucked at math. Still good at English. And getting better at History and Religion. Still had the Voice. I was chosen to read the first chapter of St. John in the Christmas pageant..

“In the beginning was the Word…”

And we made our “Confirmation”. Which basically means we get, as good little Catholics, to choose a name of our own based on a Saint (that can be confirmed as such).

I chose Catherine. But…being…precocious…spelled it Kathryn.

I found out my Aunt Joan spelled it that way too when she was confirmed. I’d already wanted her as my sponsor…but that…that…was…so awesome to still third from the last in the line little me…

We were made to write a story for a final. Don’t remember if it was end of the first semester or second. Thinking second. Anything we wanted to write, so long as we used words we’d learned that year and proper sentence structure…And…

I got a 100% and some comments that I don’t remember but had exclamation points after them.

I remember….I remember walking up to the desk after school…paper in my hand but held down…And Ms. Carol marking some piece of paper up on her desk…a slight smile on her face…looking up…and saying

“It wasn’t a mistake.”

I don’t do well when I’m caught flatfooted.

She too tried not to grin as I moved my mouth and no words came out…my hand slightly raising and lowering the paper like one of those old time banks that when you put a coin on the pressure plate would spring into motion.

I think I may have gotten out a “Guh-hunh?”

When words fail me, it’s truly an Epic Fail.

“You have an amazing imagination. You’re smart. You’re reading and writing at an 11th grade level. You can bring words to life. You earned that grade.”

Fuck knows what I said, or what the hell I did the rest of that day. I don’t remember.

But….later on at some-point in that time frame…me being me…was hanging out on my block with my “friends” goofing around…slipped off the curb, ankle crunkled…

Aaaaaand….mom was pissed when she saw me gimping around…I hadn’t said anything because I knew I’d get in touble…and then she questioned me…and I said I’d slipped…it was an accident…and then she looked at my ankle…

And then got really pissed.

Only upside to this is that the Emergency Room to Lenox Hill was literally right across the street.

Because it was a week and a half away from Graduation, and I was stumping around with crutches with a  cast and a “hairline fracture”.

I….Think that was when I said “Stuff it all. Hold the pain. Just hold it and ignore it. It’ll go away eventually.”

Walked down the center aisle of St. Stephen’s with no crutches for graduation…

IMG_6404.jpg

I loved that stained glass…

And now…it’s gone.

What bothers me the most though…is that its official name was “St. Stephen’s of Hungary – The Shrine of St. Jude”.

St. Jude being the patron saint of Lost Causes. And one both my grandmother and my mother prayed to. And what with my history…

Heh.

Kinda figures…

But… but…to my surprise…
The school still exists.

With better uniforms too. Little fuckers…

The Church was a lost cause…but the School wasn’t.

Maybe….maybe….heh.

 

*It did come back, eventually. But…when…my anger truly flashes…it goes…so…I try not to let that happen…

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