The Catholic Philopatrian Literay Society
The last thing I did before I returned to OTS was attend a benefit to raise money for limbs for children at St. Kevin’s home for children at the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Society off Rittenhouse Square. It was to be the beginning to the end of my involvement with the Church Glorious and Victorious, although I didn’t know it at the time, because it was at this function that I was to meet her: Colleen O’Donnell.
While I was collecting money at the door she came in.
She was dressed in a green silk blouse, a gold sash, and black pants. There was something very special about her, but I didn’t know what at that moment. What I did know is that she
looked beautiful and sophisticated and interesting and that she might have been the answer to the prayer I’d put to the angels on the way over to send me a good woman.
While most people laid out the ten dollar charge, she asked for a pen to write out a check. As she leaned over to fill it out I saw that her handwriting was as elegant and strong as she appeared to be. I was in love. Now was the problem of how to talk to her.
I’d arrived with a date, but we went back years and I thought of this ax a function to which we both accompanied each other. When I spent the entire night talking to Colleen I was to hear differently when I drove Peggy home to drop her off to join Colleen at another party.
At about ten I approached Patrick O’Donnell, not realizing that he was Colleen’s brother. We’d worked on a brochure together detailing the history of Philo, and I’d grown to admire him immensely. He’d gone to Cornell and was actively pro-life there, not an easy position to maintain at an Ivy League school. The guy had guts.
“Hey Pat, anybody here worth checking out?”
“Lots. Look around. She’s pretty nice.” He pointed to Colleen.
“Yeah. I’ve been eying her all night but I don’t know how to approach her.”
“Why not say ’Hi!” to her.”
“I’m basically silly when I like somebody.”
“Dance with her at midnight, and then she can’t refuse you.”
For the next two hours we exchanged glances and stares.
I didn’t know if she was attracted to me, but I knew that I was to her. If I’d been drinking then, I would have been talking to her by now, but that was against the teachings.
So I bid my time until midnight dancing with Peggy and some other girls I knew.
At midnight the place went wild. The band played the famous Philadelphia song “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers” and everyone began cakewalking in a Mummers Strut. The ballroom exploded with poppers of confetti, and everyone was kissing and hugging everyone else.
After locking arms with several women and spinning around I found myself with Colleen. I stayed with her until the next dance until the next dance became two hours long.
Peggy was in the corner fuming the whole time or dancing with other guys. When I finally came over to ask if she was ready to leave, she unloaded.
“I have never been so insulted in my entire life. The least you could have done is check every hour or so to see if I was enjoying myself. One guy offered to give me a ride home he saw that you were so enamored of her. Who is she, anyway?”
“Her name is Colleen O’Donnell.”
“What’s so special about her?”
“I don’t know but there is Peggy. Do you want to go or hang around and bitch?”
As we were about to leave, Colleen came over with the address of a party that was going on after Philo.
“Here’s the address and phone number. It would be nice if you can make it, but I’ll understand if you can’t. You leave to go back to OTS tomorrow: right?”
“Yeah, but I can sleep on the plane. I’ll try to make it.” I looked to see that we were standing in the ‘Hall of Mirrors’ which reflected everyone’s mood real clearly; my happiness, Colleen’s expectancy, Peggy’s anger.
The ride to Peggy’s was extremely uncomfortable. She was right in reminding me how inconsiderate I’d been and I didn’t have a leg to stand on, except one.
“Peggy, this is the old argument we seem to have every time I talk to another girl and I’m with you. We’re friends and that’s all. If either one of us wants to talk to someone else, that’s fine. We went there tonight as friends.”
“Friends don’t treat each other like you treated me tonight. What’s special about her, anyway?‴
“She worked with sexually abused children in New York City for a few years for one. It takes someone real special to do that. She’s the first person I’ve met since who excites me for another.” And she wants to be a lawyer for pro-life as well. She’s also not bad looking.”
“What did you two have to talk about for over two hours?″
“Whatever came up.”
“You could have at least checked up on me once in a while. Just to see if I was still alive.”
“We’ve been through this a hundred times, Peggy. I went as friends do and you went as dates do. We’ll never resolve it so let’s just drop it.”
I dropped her off at her house and quickly sped back to City Line Avenue and the party where Colleen said she would be. A four hundred pound farmer type answered the door.
“Hi. I was at another party and a girl named Colleen O’Donnell invited me back to this party.”
“Come in. Come in. I’ll find her. Where’d you get the fancy uniform?”
I was in my dress blues. He’d noticed.
“I’m in the Air Force. This is our formal dress.”
“Pretty fancy. My tax dollars pay for that?”
“No. It came out of my pocket.”
“Great. I’ll find her. Grab a beer if you want.”
“Brian...you made it!”
She looked lovelier than she had at Philo. Her eyes were a steel grey blue and very wide. She was as svelte as a palm tree and as nice and gentle as a breeze in May. I had a flight out in five hours and here I was with Colleen. Something was up.
“Colleen. Is that Italian?”
“Sorry ... I’m an IC. A little German but no Italian. A lot of people think that because I’m dark I’m Italian. I’m black Irish from the Spanish Armada. Is O’Brien Irish?”
“As Irish as Kevin’s Castle in Wicklow. As Irish as laughter and tragedy. As Irish as Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said when John F. Kennedy was shot, “I guess it’s no use being Irish unless you realize they’re going to break your heart in two in the end.”
“Are you going to do that to me someday?”
“No. Why would I do that? I can’t stand it. A tall, good looking Irishman who writes poetry. You did say you wrote poetry at Philo, didn’t you.”
“Yeah. I haven’t had too much inspiration lately.”
“No women in my life to speak of.”
“Good. I was going to get around to that question eventually. No men in mine. A lot of Milqutoasts, but no men.”
“Maybe we were meant to meet, eh? Do you believe in miracles?”
“Every day. You gotta have faith, right?”
We spoke from three a.m. until six a.m. We spoke of every subject under the sun except for the Church Glorious and Victorious.
If she was from the kind of Catholic family I thought she was from it would be best to introduce her to the Teachings slowly. She was the first women in over a year who even caught my interest. I even wanted to kiss her, something I’d not really thought about since I’d entered the Teachings.
“Colleen ... do you mind if I kiss you goodnight?”
“So there I was in the middle of Central Park about to be mugged and one of them turns out to be from halfway house where I worked and he talks the other two to leave me alone, because “She be alright...”
“Colleen...did you hear what I just said?’”
“You asked to kiss me good-night.”
“I don’t think that’s really appropriate in someone’s house. Did you say earlier that you can drive me home?”
“Let’s go, then.”
We walked into the kitchen in her house and I was want for the time to end. Three more hours and I had a flight out to Texas. I knew I had to get going and yet I just couldn’t tear myself away from her when Patrick walked his six foot eight frame through the doorway.
“Hi, Brian. You’re still awake, too, huh?”
“Barely ... Wait a minute ... if you live here too that makes you two ... brother and sister?”
“Good work Sherlock. This is my little Patrick.”
She leaned over and hugged him.
“OK Colleen. I’m dog tired. Let me get upstairs. Good luck finishing up at OTS, Brian.”
“Well ... I’ really should be on my way. Do I get a handshake good-night?‴
I extended my hand to her.
“How about a kiss?”
“Fine.” I leaned over like a teenager on his first date. I was trembling and she sensed it. I gave her a peck and turned away embarrassed.
“I told you. No PDA. You never know whose watching.”
“That’s silly. Will you write?”
“Yeah. Give me your address.”
She wrote it down and stuffed it in my coat pocket.
“Promise me you’ll write.”
“I’ll write. I promise.”
“Good. And maybe I can find time in my busy schedule to bake you some chocolate chip cookies. All those war movies show guys going bonkers over homemade cookies.”
“It’s true. I better be on my way before the SPs arrive.”
It was cold, dead cold winter went I went outside. It didn’t bother me, though. It had been so long, so long, since I’d felt like this. She’d reawakened things that had lain dormant for years--ever since my breakup with 
I headed home, crashed on the living room couch for an hour, dressed and said good-bye to my mother.
“Meet anybody nice at the New Year’s party last night?”
“Yes. As a matter of fact, I did. You would have loved her. A good Catholic girl from a large Irish family.”
“Did you get her telephone number?”
“I don’t know. Let me see.”
I looked at the slip of paper.
“Yeah. She included that, too.”
“Sounds like a smart girl. Are you going to call her?”
“No. I’m broke. I’ll write, though.”
“Maybe she can get you away from that cult.”
“Just maybe.” I answered.