December 31, 2011 was the only New Year’s Eve of my grown-up life that I stayed stone-cold sober.
For I had made a New Year’s resolution. And it was one to beat all resolutions. At seven in the morning of January 1, 2012 I was going to get up out of my warm bed, go down the stairs, switch on my computer and write my confession. While most of the population in my hometown of Derry were swaddled in deep alcoholic slumber (the fools!) I would be baring my soul to millions of readers. Or maybe that should be thousands. OK, hundreds. Anyway, one way or another this was going to turn out to be something big.
Now the Catholic Church (for that is the Church I was baptised into) teaches that true confession requires three things:
-contrition (deep sorrow for sins committed) -disclosure of the sins (the 'confession') -satisfaction (the 'penance', i.e. doing something to make amends for the sins)
But my confession was going to be rather different. You see, I had no sins to confess. I swear to God. I had never committed a single sin. Of the flesh, that is. Loads of others but none of the flesh. For I had always been taught that sins of the flesh were the ones that sent you to hell and so I had avoided them like the plague. In fact my behaviour had been so monastic that I wasn’t even aware of a certain phenomenon that had happened in San Francisco in 1967. A hippie told me about the whole amazing thing in 1992. That’s right. 1992. A full quarter of a century after all those Flower People were going at it hammer and tongs out in Frisco.
I’ll try to be brief about my encounter with this hippie because I’ve got other things to tell you. See, I was organizing a whist drive in our local parish hall when somebody let in this wasted-looking individual with hippie hair and he ended up partnering me. I can’t remember exactly how it came about but that’s what happened.
Anyway, when the whist drive was over we got talking or I should say he got talking because I hardly opened my mouth and he spent a lot of the time getting all sentimental about Sixty-Seven in San Francisco, what he called the Summer of Love. Summer of Love? Yeah, you know, a bit like the stuff that happened two or three years ago. What? Where? San Francisco? England, he said, Scotland too, whole fucking British Isles man. Raves and all, sex unlimited. It was going on here in Derry too I heard, about four miles down the road, but I missed it, I was working over in Edinburgh at the time, still able to pull, it was great man, they didn’t even look at your face. He told me I looked about thirty which I took as a big compliment at first seeing I was forty-five. I put that down to a virtuous life, he said, looking at me with genuine pity in his bloodshot eyes, you’ve obviously led a very virtuous life. Then he asked me to try and guess his age. I’m not sure what I said but it turned out he was forty-three even though he looked about eighty, he’d cracked skin like you’d see in one of these crypts on the boys laid out for six hundred years or whatever.
So then, back to my true confession. Remember the three requirements:
a) deep sorrow for sins committed b) the confession itself c) satisfaction
Dealing with a) first. Slight alteration here. This should now read: deep sorrow for having omitted to commit sins of the flesh.
Next, to b) – my confession. Like the Israelites of old, I had been in bondage for what seemed like about four hundred years. I had then wandered in a desert of deprivation for what I could nearly swear was at least another forty years. And now, sat rigid in front of my PC, I was about to confess all.
And finally c) – satisfaction. Because this is where the writer’s fevered imagination comes in. I was going to rewrite history. As the fabricator writing The Fabricator I would tell about The Promised Land that I’d never once visited. And, who knows, maybe even a new kind of bondage.
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