I remember myself as a stillborn, but recent history relays the news differently. There would be documented records of screaming and blood and tears, as all-good births put forth on a Sunday in mid-winter. Apparently, the sun was not shining at 8AM that morning, and all was red dolor and stink.
The Lord had me enter this world tied to a malcontent Catholic nun who, on the stench of my afterbirth, elegantly wept all of her sins out at once, like the sudden heat-exposed wither of chrysanthemums, and then she died. So I suppose I just remember it wrongly, and it was she who tricked Death with an ol' switcheroo... her life for mine; clever for a sister, my mother.
Orphaned and at the hands of young compassionate novitiates, I was taken to the cells over by the worn garden gates. There they made me well, those lovers of God, who had been chosen for their aptitude in patience and quietude. They had not a clue, of course, as to the needs of a newborn, a sinner's boy, but assumed their duties thankfully, as gifts are wont to be received.
We all grew.
I remember now (slowly it is coming back to me more clearly) the first footings up into the rowan that shaded our habitude. She was a grand tree with fine layers of dust on her leaves and the scent of promises and laughter. I was often chided for running about barefooted and ill clothed, “You will catch a death by his tail and will not let go!” They would yell, not serious and knowing that I would soon be far out of range from their worries and fears. That tree was a mother to me, they all were, the nuns and the trees of St. Mary's of Kinn.
Oaks so tall that I even fell over once, in a trance from looking up too long at the canopy of the middle one down the lane. It grew sideways like an arbutus, as if the wind had made it pray all day long, since acorns. Oaks can sing, you know, right into your heart. When their choir was harmonizing within my own heart, I could see forever and a breath, as if I knew what forever was, and I did somehow, breathing with the next step up and then the next.
So you see how easily I have confused the memories, some synesthetic, some fable. All tragically beautiful, though, especially on some Sundays at sunrise.
A young nun sits outside the cloister gathering sweet yams for the evening meal. In a moment of rest she sees me sitting alone under the rowan at the far corner of the courtyard, especially glum for such a fine day. I didn't know it at the time but she would become my lighthouse, for when my ship would crash back to the convent after each failed foster environment. I was a rotten soul, you see, never meaning to do harm but always managing to, criminally so. Humans are not designed to be boomerangs; I ended up hurting myself more deeply than I had started out.
I ran away from that sister, even though she was the only kind face I knew; it was too difficult to disappoint her time and again.
Barely attached to a scurvied body, they brought my dead, drug-addled brain back to the nunnery for burial. Young Sister Alice prepared my body for eternal peace with the same light she had used to greet me on all my other returns. She doused my winding sheet in lavender and ruta, crossing herself nearly a thousand times before I was laid to rest that Sunday at sunset. Alice didn't shine quite so brightly thereafter.