While Oliver paints
I’ve been sleeping with the vicar since November four years ago. The reason I went there in the first place, the church, was to get out of the rain. Years had passed since ever I’d set foot in one, though I used to go often as a girl. Later I’d go annually, just, to confess mishaps and misdemeanours, though there was never anything on my conscience that would jeopardise any kind of heaven, I think.
I was sure it was a Catholic — the bell, the stained glass — and I was looking left and right for the box when up comes the vicar, me thinking him a priest, and not a bad-looking one. So I asked, and he smiles and nods and tells me that my indiscretions are between myself and the Almighty, and quotes something from the Book of Timothy. “Thanks anyway,” I said, “and sorry,” though I don’t know for what. I was on the point of turning, could feel my weight shifting right to left, when he said, “Join me in the sacristy for a cup of tea and a fig-roll. I’ll be happy to listen to anything you have on your mind.” Fig-roll indeed. One moment he was holding my hand, then stroking it, patting it, telling me to go on, to not stop, next I was flung across the table and he was inside me, thrashing like he was trying to take out a wall.
He used to sob after, the vicar, used to ask me what Oliver would think or say or do, and go on and on. “Don’t worry your head,” I’d say, and try to console the poor sod. It’s funny how roles reverse. Oliver, for the record, wouldn’t bat an eyelid; what we have doesn’t enter that kind of territory. Oliver paints, is all.
These days, I arrive and the tea’s already poured and I’ll unbutton my coat and anything that lies below — unclip, loosen, remove — and, well, it’s the way things are, the way things have become between me and the vicar. The quiet after is soft but if it goes on too long the scratching starts in my head, Oliver scratching the canvas with his pinsel, and there are moments it becomes so loud that I think it will rip the world in two, that a wave will take us all, and I’ll tell the vicar to fold his arms around me, to hold me awhile, till the afternoon turns dark.