After mass, I drove to the doctor. It was time for my yearly check-up. I already have taken tests and so forth so the doctor just had to give me the results. I knew he would say. I was no longer young. I did not expect him to give me such a negative result. He told me that I smoked too much. I was severely overweight and I did not get enough exercise. He told me that I was destroying my body. My heart could not deal with more punishment he said. I needed to take care of myself.
The doctor also mentioned that I drank too much alcohol. He asked me did I consider myself an alcoholic. I got mad at him and told him that I enjoyed a glass of wine for my dinner. The doctor asked me to ask myself if I drank too much. He reminded me that my body could only take so much. At the rate I was going, I would not live long enough to enjoy my old age.
I was mad when I left the doctor and for some reason, I had some anxiety. It was hard to deny that I was grossly overweight. I just had to be careful of what I ate. I disagreed that I was an alcoholic or smoked too much. I could control how much I drank and smoked. I realized that after the doctors, that I was drinking a can of beer with a cigarette in my mouth. This was to calm my anxiety and I had to visit a grumpy old man.
His name was Mr Sheehan. He was an old man that lived by himself. His wife died a few years ago so he had no one to visit him. Not even his children visited him. I think this was because he was a grumpy old man waiting to die. His small house even smelled of death. I asked him polite questions about how he was doing and if he was taking care of himself. I tried to tell him that he had a lot to live for. Maybe if he found some happiness, he would get a visit from his children.
Mr Sheehan laughed at me and told me that because I wore a collar, it did not mean that I should preach. He told me that I smelled like a pub and it was obvious that I have been drinking. The old man poured a glass of whiskey for him and me and suggested that we stop playing as if we care. I stopped talking and we both drank a few glasses of whiskey in silence. I wondered if Father Andrew ever has experiences like this.
After the visit with Mr Sheehan. I just sat in the car. I did not start it or anything. I just lit another cigarette and drank a can of beer. I felt as if I failed Mr Sheehan. He needed a priest to show him God still loved him and his life was not over yet. He got a priest that agreed to drink a few glasses of whiskey in return for not speaking. I felt as if I failed this old man. I doubt that Mr Sheehan would ever see me as someone who cared or wanted to spend time with him. The sad thing was that this was true. I hated visiting old people. I hated the idea of death and the fact that we would all get old.
As I sat in the car, a voice said that he hoped I would not drive home. I looked at the seat next to me, and the boy was suddenly sitting there. How did he get in the car? Why did I first notice him now? I stuttered as I told the boy that I was fully capable of driving. He was just a child, what would he know about it.
“Why do you drink so much,” he asked, ” Maybe you are not happy? Are you happy”
I looked out the window and thought about how I should respond to this. The obvious thing was not to respond. He was just a child. What right did he have to even ask me a question like that? No one could be happy all the time. We all had bad days. Today was a bad day. The boy would never understand that. As a child, you did not have the stress and worries of an adult. You were happy a lot.
When I turned back to give the boy a piece of my mind, he was gone. This made me think that he was a figment of my imagination. I was just seeing things that were not there. The boy could be my conscience telling me something I did not want to hear. It was something deep inside of me telling me not to drive, as I did drink a lot. I was not drunk but I had quite a bit of alcohol that was flowing through my veins.
I decided to walk home.
When I arrived at the house, Mrs Brien had lunch ready. Father Andrew was even there. So we ate while Father Andrew told us how his day was going. He smiled and said it was a privilege to be a priest and be an extended hand of Jesus for others. We did not smile at this. I nodded my head and the two older priests did not even do this. They continued to eat.
As the priests finished their lunch, I told them that I was asked an interesting question. I was asked if I was happy. That got me thinking if those that I live with consider them happy. Andrew was quick to say how happy he was, as so should anyone that served the Lord was bound to be happy. He continued praising God for some time and this made me interrupt and asked were we all happy? The two old priests said nothing and it looked as if they were annoyed by the question. After some thought, they just grumbled and said that I should not think so much and ask such foolish questions.
I had nothing to do that afternoon besides working on the sermon. I decided to go to the pub. For the next few hours, I knew that I would spend a few hours with a glass of beer to keep me company. I could not help thinking that the old priests could not answer such an easy question. I had to conclude that they were not happy.
Another thing I noticed was that I was alone. I looked around in the pub and it seemed that everyone had someone to be with. They were smiling and laughing. I could hear them joking and telling stories. I could hear them talk about their lives and the strange and funny things they experienced. I could hear them plan to attend a football game or something like that.
Then it struck me. I was alone in this world and had no friends. The boy was right. I was unhappy.
When I came back home, I just managed to get to my chair. The superior asked if I was drunk. Of course, I was! I told him a white lie and said that I may have had one glass too many. I explained that I visited an old man and he gave me some whiskey. I tried to make it sound as if the old man was very lonely and had no one to drink with. The superior grunted as if he did not know if he should believe me or not.
The boy appeared again and told me I should admit that I was drunk. Then he asked me when was the last time I was happy? Could I remember it? Was it that long ago?
I told the boy to go away and leave me in peace. The other priests looked at me in a confused matter and wondered who I was speaking with. I asked them if they could not see the boy? The supervisor just sighed and said it was a side effect of being drunk. Alcohol has its ways of screwing with someone’s head. I did not answer as I knew that this boy was not a hallucination. He was there and was as real as the two old priests were. It was hard for me to understand that the other two priests could not see him. I never did believe in ghosts or things like that. I am sure that there was some logical explanation.
The boy’s question was bothering me when I tried to sleep. Maybe he had a point that I was not happy. My life seemed very dull and I was a failure as a priest. I was alone and had no one that wanted to be with me. The boy’s question of when I was last happy was impossible to remember. I am sure that I was happy at one stage. The question was when I last smiled? What made me smile?
The next day, I felt like a bus ran over me. I knew it was a hangover and solved it the way I have always done. I drank a can of beer before breakfast.
Andrew was in a great mood as we ate breakfast. He told us that he was visiting a homeless shelter. He asked if any of us wanted to go with him. We all looked down and muttered that we had other things to do. This did not discourage Andrew. He just smiled and told us some other time.
The boy was suddenly standing beside me again. He was smiling and saying that it was a huge breakfast. It could feed all the homeless that I could not be bothered to visit. I was thinking of an answer, but the boy was not finished. He told me if I noticed that Andrew was so happy. Maybe that was he still had the spirit. I was about to answer, but the boy disappeared.
Maybe I could have gone to the homeless people. Would that make me happy seeing people that had so much bad luck, that they did were homeless and needed help to survive?
Besides that, I had a mass. Once again I was reciting and mumbling the words. Not many were at mass, and they were responding in low mumbles. Andrew came in a few minutes late and his responses were so clear and sounded like he was praying.
The boy suddenly stood next to me and asked me why I was mumbling. He asked did I believe in what I was saying or was it just words that had no meaning. The boy sighed and said it was a long time since I prayed with my heart. I was about to tell him to leave me alone, but he was gone.
After mass, I went to a fast food place and ordered their extra-large menu. I love burgers and chips. I would have enjoyed this one if the boy did not appear again and ask me if this food was good for my health. He reminded me that I was fat and overeating was a short term way to get happiness. He sighed and said, “You had so much potential and so much promise. Look at what you have become”. Then he disappeared.
I went back to the church. Luckily it was empty as I let out a scream. Who was this boy? What was this boy? Was I going crazy?
To be continued