Only two things come out of being catholic: border-line alcoholism and the inevitable pit of doom that the devil will one day possess your soul. Gawk if you must, but this is an uncontrollable fear instilled in most, if not all, Catholics.
They start it young; the nuns converge at night, taking pleasure in inventing new sins, that our god-fearing or, rather, devil-fearing souls will lap up in pure terror the next morning in class. Catholic school is literally just a seven-hour lecture of what you absolutely can never, ever, do unless you want an exorcism performed on your pre-adolescent body.
“Wait, are we not allowed to ever think a single bad thought?”
“God always knows what you’re thinking; and so does the devil.”
“And I always have to pray every night?”
“Unless you want the devil to eat your soul, then by all means, don’t pray. Ever.”
At the mere age of five I was told to love God more than my parents and you know what? I did. Sorry mom and pops but can you stop the devil from eating my soul? Um, no.
Actually, my mother seemed to revel in this fear, taking advantage of any moment my prepubescent soul was exposed to the truth of demon possession.
Even the soap operas my mother watched religiously, knew. Joey, the handsome young man in a coma wasn’t actually Joey, but Joey’s evil twin and according to this episode, the devil knew.
“Mom? What are those two red dots glowing over that guy?”
She paused to answer; slowly reeling her head toward my stricken face, revealing viciously green eyes staring into the depths of my innocent soul.
“Well young child. Those are the eyes of the devil!”
Two hours later my father found me in the corner of my parent’s room, rocking in the fetal position and watching Barbie’s disco workout tape. So I was fat and scared of the devil, whatever, I had tons of friends…
But scarring her daughter just once, was never good enough for my mom. She wanted me to think that the devil was already in me.
“You know. You have piercing green eyes. Just like the devil.”
“Just like the devil.”
I was seven.
“Dad? Am I the devil?”
“Has your mother been talking to you again?”
I had to eat all my vegetables. If not, he would come. I could never lie. If I did, he would come. And worst of all I could never hit my brother in the “no, no” spot. If I did, he would come, and he would be pissed.
“Natalie! Did you hit your brother in the balls again!”
“Lying and kicking…the devil is sure to come tonight.”
“Can I sleep in your room?”
“Nope. Sleep tight.”
I was nine.
Praying soon became a necessary step in survival. If I didn’t, the devil would come. It became OCD-like. Five Hail Mary’s for every important person in my life every night before I went to bed. It took two hours every night. I finally weened myself of this habit last month. I don’t sleep well anymore.
Of course this fear has never subsided. And why would it? Years and years of pivotally scarring devil moments in a child’s life don’t just disappear into thin air. To be frank, they hide in one’s mind until someone accidently trips on crazy weed that they were not told was crazy weed.
Next thing that poor innocent girl hears in an empty apartment is a devilish voice screaming.
“You are being possessed by the devil!”
Well, thank you, Sister Lisa. Tripping on drugs should have been a fun experience. My mom saw cows walking on two feet when she tripped. What do I get? The devil. Awesome. That’s one way to stop someone from doing hard drugs.
Any talk of the devil in my apartment always ends with me and my bestie, Kerry, another Shi’ite Catholic, sleeping out in the common room, because obviously it’s way harder for the devil to possess two souls than just the one.
We catholics picture el diablo differently; from red horns to an evilishly charming and suave young man. I like to keep it old fashioned, however. My man is all red.
“How do you picture the devil?”
“I picture a red monster that’s kind of hot, but eats my face.”
“Really? Because I picture Al Pacino.”
“Well if it makes you feel better I picture God as either Morgan Freedman or Coolio.”
“So who’s going to get your soul? Coolio or Al?”
“Um hello, ‘Gansta’s Paradise’ was the shit.”
I still curse. Still lie. Still steal the occasional candy bar. I still do drugs. I don’t hit my brother in the “no no” spot, but that’s just out of common decency. Catholics don’t follow the rules; we just drink away the fear of exorcisms when needed. Which, honestly, is often.
With the rosary in one hand and holy water in the other, we Catholics know the truth; good behavior doesn’t stop anything. He’s coming. Fuck.