Believe: naively, intensely, absolutely

After a while, my mom ran into a woman who was sure she had seen me serving at Mass. That’s impossible, my mother replied. But then someone else told her the same thing, and she asked me about it again. I told her the person was wrong, but that I had also seen someone who looked surprisingly like me acting as altar boy. I just have a very common face, I told her.

When I finally did go to confession with Father Limonta, it didn’t even occur to me to tell him that I had already taken Communion, or about my erotic experience with Mauricio. Later I received my First Communion at school which by then was my thirtieth or fortieth and I could finally take Communion legitimately at Mass. My parents were there and they gave me presents, and I think that was when I first felt the true weight of my double life. I went on serving at Mater Purissima without my parents knowledge until maybe the winter of 1985, when, after a tense and sloppy Mass, the priest criticized us harshly: he told us we distracted him, that we were too shrill, that we had no rhythm. His comments hit me hard, maybe because I was precariously coming to understand that the priest was acting, that it wasn’t all enlightenment or whatever you call that sacred calling, that spiritual dimension. I decided to quit and, at that very moment, I stopped being Catholic. I suppose that’s also when my religious feeling began to be quashed. I never had, in any case, those rational meditations on the existence of God, maybe because that was when I started to believe, naively, intensely, absolutely, in literature.

Alejandro Zambra, My Documents, McSweeney’s, 2015

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