Feeding the Hungry

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1

You’ve probably heard stories about college girls who used to sneak their boyfriends into their dorm rooms after curfew? OK, I realize I’m dating myself by even knowing about this, but back in the days before the sexual revolution, we sometimes needed to be a little creative.

Not long after I graduated from college, I was dating a nun. I’m not putting you on – if you’ll forgive my using a “sixties term.”

As you know, very few nuns lived in college dorms. That’s right! They lived in convents.

Theresa was in the Sisters of Charity. They were pretty strict, but had a great collective sense of humor. Here’s a brief sample:

Three nuns had taken a vow of silence. After ten years, Sister Mary was allowed to utter one sentence. When her turn came, Sister Mary said, “My porridge is lumpy.”

Ten years later, Sister Bethany reported that, “My porridge is thin.”

After still another ten years passed, Sister Patience, who happened to be the cook, finally had her turn: “I’m going to quit cooking if this bickering doesn’t stop!”

If any of the sisters had an inkling of my intrusions, no one reported me. Maybe they were sound sleepers. But one night, when I showed up at the back door, Theresa was standing there, just shaking her head.

What?” I asked, knowing the jig was up.

“Harry, you are a complete schmuck!

I almost burst out laughing. Theresa had grown up in Brooklyn, just a few blocks from me. So, I knew how she’d picked up some of the lingo. Still, she was a nun.

“Did somebody see me?”

No! Much worse than that!”

“So tell me already!”

“Mother Superior received multiple complaints. Someone had been leaving the toilet seat up.”

 

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Theresa and I knew each other when we were kids. Then she went to some out-of-town fancy Catholic College. I later heard that she had become a nun.

“What a waste!” I said to myself. Since we were thirteen or fourteen, I’d had a crush on her – not that I ever got up the nerve to ask her out.

We ran into each other when we were in our early twenties. I was friendly with her brother Frank, who had invited me to a family barbeque. As soon as I saw her, I was in love all over again.

She wasn’t wearing a habit or anything, although she still did have that angelic smile. We got into a conversation, and she told me the terrible news.

Shit! What a fuckin’ waste!

She saw my expression and smiled. And I was lost.

What I didn’t know at the time was that she had begun having doubts about her vocation. We agreed to keep in touch.

Then, once a month, we would meet for lunch. Lunch was safe, right? It wasn’t a date.

Well, as you easily surmised, one thing led to another, and pretty soon I was making out with a nun in apartment house hallways, Central Park, and even once under the Boardwalk in Coney Island.         

The next step was for her to sneak me into the convent. I knew that we were bound to get caught: in fact, that might have made the sex even more exciting.

But our relationship was probably doomed from the start. Theresa was an idealist, someone who was charitable to her core. And me?

Well, besides just being a regular guy wanting to have a good time, I suppose I hoped to live the Great American Dream – a pretty wife, a big home in the suburbs, and three or four very bright and happy children.

I mean, was there anything wrong with that dream? Theresa teased me for being so middle class. After she dropped out of the order and became a regular civilian, she still scorned material goods, while devoting her life to helping the poor.

So even if I hadn’t forgotten to lower the toilet seat, it would have become very clear that Theresa and I were just not meant to be. But I hoped to always stay in touch, even though our lives grew further and further apart.

 

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Front of the Bowery Mission building in New York.

author
A recovering economics professor, Steve Slavin earns a living writing math and economics books. This subsidizes his addiction to writing short stories. You can find dozens of them by googling "Steve Slavin" "short story." The three volumes of "To the City, with Love" are listed on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
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