Sad-Eyed Jesus

I take one final gulp, then dump the rest of the bottle of vodka into the sink, watching the liquid circle slowly down the plug hole. At AA, we talk a lot about each day being a chance for a new beginning.

But, Father Leopold taught me that there can be no beginning without an end. He said it whenever we conjugated Latin verbs in class, using a long handled switch to make his point . His sermons reminded us how Christ was the Alpha and the Omega. He yelled at us to finish strong during the Homecoming football game. After we lost in overtime, he made us pick up trash from the bleachers. It was December, and snow was whipping in hard, driven straight down from the lake.

I remember when it began. How can I forget? Others had talked about it, of course. We all knew. But everyone hoped he wouldn’t choose them. The morning of my tenth birthday, he took me to the closet in the vestry. It smelt of silver polish from the communion cups and a sad-eyed Jesus, in a crown of thorns, watched from a wooden crucifix on the wall. I remember how Father Leopold’s breath smelled of communion wine as it came out in desperate, shallow pants.

Although it was a lifetime ago, it’s still inside of me. Sometimes it’s a small, hard seed. Other times, the seed grows tangled roots that choke me. My therapist describes reaching closure; put what happened behind me. The diocese does the same. I watch Archbishop Lowe on Channel 9, standing on the cathedral steps, robes blowing in the wind like raven’s wings. He talks about forgiveness. But, I know I’m too broken for that.

The house is quiet. My wife is at work, the kids in school. I take the bottle of pills and empty it into my hand, until they spill over onto the counter top. The wind chime on the back porch sings, and I choose the rocker overlooking the yard.  Because Father Leopold was right. There can be no new beginning without an end.