2003-02-14 05:44:30 (UTC)

just a seminarist

PAOLO arrived that night with sadness in his eyes.

"Ate, I must talk to you," he whispered urgently, grabbing
my arm.

I almost dropped the newly-washed plate that I held in my
hands. "Easy Paolo," I exclaimed. "Can't you see that
Enrique and I are doing the dishes?"

Paolo looked restless. "I...I'm sorry Ate," he said. "I
just..." he sighed.

"Why don't you sit down, my son," Father said from the
table. He was smoking again. He pulled out the chair beside
him and motioned for Paolo to sit there. "Come," he
said. "What's wrong? You look so uneasy."

Paolo reluctantly sat down and clasped his hands on the
table. "I might as well tell everybody," he
sighed. "I...I'm going to leave the seminary."

My eyebrows rose and Enrique's gaze shifted from the sink
to me.

Mother, sitting on one of the chairs, patching a worn out
dress of hers, dropped her needle and thread and
asked, "Why son?" She looked shocked.

"Is this about Leah?" I inquired, although I knew Father
and Mother were not meant to know.

Paolo looked at me with a mixture of shock and anger. But,
realizing there was nothing he could do, he recovered and
shook his head.

"This is not about Leah," he said, his hands still tightly
clasped on the table. "Not really anyway."

"Why are you going to leave then?" Father asked.

Enrique and I were done with dishes. After placing the last
plate inside a small cupboard, we decided to join them at
the table.

"I..." Paolo began. "It...it's not about Leah. It's just
that..." his eyes kept moving from left to right and back.
He was greatly distressed.

He decided to start over. "There is...this bishop," he
said. "His name is Bishop Castillo and he came to the
seminary some days or weeks ago." Paolo looked at his hands
and the creases in his forehead increased. "Uhm...he, well,
he basically did his duty. He made rounds, checked on the
seminaristaas if they were studying and performing well.
And...he was there just to check on us and make sure that
the seminary was running properly."

The cicadas began to sing while we sat silently, listening
closely to what Paolo had to say.

"I was teaching my small Philosophy class when he came," he
continued. "He looked around, looked at me, nodded and
left. I did not think much of it and went on with my
duties. I was... You can imagine my surprise when Padre
Gonzales talked to me the next day and told me that I was
going to be assigned to another class. Bishop Castillo was
taking over my Philosophy class.

"I was saddened of course. I love my students. But what
could I do? I am just a seminarista. I did not see Leah
that much after that. But I do miss her. God knows how much
I miss her. But there is nothing...htere was nothing that I
could do.

"Then one afternoon...this afternoon...Padre Gonzales asked
me to give a message to Bishop Castillo. He handed me a
piece of paper that was folded neatly. He told me to give
the message to the bishop as soon as possible. It was
extremely urgent.

"So I went looking for him. I was told that he was most
probably in his quarters. I walked quickly to a building
and up to his room. I found his door ajar. I suppose the
urgency was weighing down on me so I did not bother to
knock. When I pushed the door open, I found..." Paolo
paused, pain written all over his face. "I found Leah. On
the bed. Naked. She was tied to the bed. Gagged. She was

"Shit," Enrique breathed.

Paolo swallowed. "Bishop Castillo was about to climb on top
of her when I opened the door. He froze. I...I dropped the
paper, turned on my heel and ran away. I don't know what
happened to Leah. I...don't wanna think about it. I went to
the room that I shared with five other people. I sat on my
bed and felt...guilt. Anger...and sadness. Perhaps even
helplessness. I didn't know what to do. I don't know what's
going to happen. And...I guess, I've decided not to back to
that place. I...I have to leave the seminary."

"Oh God," I whispered. "Paolo...I'm so sorry."

Mother was at a loss for words. Her hands covered her mouth
in horror and she could not speak.

"I can't go back tonight," Paolo said, distressed. "Let me
sleep here. I can sleep on the floor out here. It doesn't

"Paolo, take your room. I'll sleep out here," Enrique said.

Paolo shook his head. "No," he said. "I am used to sleeping
on the floor and you are not. Stay in my room, Enrique.
Sleep on my cot."

I stood up and walked to where Paolo was sitting. I wrapped
an arm around my brother's neck from behind and placed my
face close to his. I sighed.

"I guess God has finally answered my question, Ate," he
said quietly. "I am not meant to become a priest."