Pretty girls saunter across the market place with their boyfriends, a gentle breeze coming off the bay pushing cotton blouses hard against little breasts.
I sit on the terrace café in front of the Hotel City Garden, looking at the long shadows thrown by the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and listen to the tinkle of chatter and young laughter.
I am dressed in a white cassock. I am alone. I have no wish to talk any more with the young local priest, who treats me with too much deference, too ready to impress me with his scholarship.
Earlier today he introduced the old priest and me to three girls who are soon to be married. The mothers are with them. The 18-year-olds, all slender and pretty, wear their long black hair at shoulder length, and are wanting to meet us, and are said to be sexually experienced, although this is not acknowledged. Virginity is an essential prerequisite for a girl seeking a husband.
We met Mary Joy at her home. She is tall, serene and confident, and, when she smiles, her eyes flash. She is the daughter of a former barrios captain who had been killed some years before. Her mother, a devout member of our flock, sells bananas and oranges from a market stall.
Angelica was more demure, and I detected a certain sharp intelligence in her. As we talked the mother fussed around, and this visibly irritated the daughter. I was told the mother is a nurse and a part-time barmaid, who never had time for her daughter. Nothing is known about the father.
The third girl, Nicole, giggled incessantly and found it difficult to give straight answers to my questions. The young priest snapped at her, unfairly I thought, and she fell silent. Her father is a small-time hood who left the mother years ago. Nobody is sure how the mother exists.
I sit here on the terrace, thinking about the girls, my mouth is dry, I feel the familiar excitement. The first-born belongs to the church. The young priest tells me the mothers have been instructed. The girls are to wear long choral dresses. Underneath they must be naked.
The old priest joins me at the table. He has been coming down here for 40 years. His hair is white and straggly, eyes sink into his lined face, but they are alert. His hands are more bent than last year. He suffers from arthritis. He takes medicines but believes the best treatment is the sleek slipperiness of a young woman’s wet vagina.
We chat for a while, then it is time to go.
We drive in my old Volkswagen Beetle to the edge of town, and stop at a small church set back off the road in a grove of trees. We don’t talk much. We know the routine. I park behind the church. We pick up our bags, get out and walk to an ugly, block-like room built on to the church.
The old priest unlocks the door. We walk inside, into the half light of the dying day filtering through dirty windows. The pews where I sat some 25 years ago as a schoolboy are still there, now dilapidated, dusty and grey. There is a musty smell. The place where a priest once stood is occupied by a bed, its whiteness shining in the dull light. The bed rests against the first row of pews. A shower recess has been built next to the pews.
The old priest and I put down our bags. We remove our cassocks, take off our underclothing and enter the shower together. His belly is large and sagging. His penis is buried in a forest of white hair. I turn on the water and we soap ourselves.
The anticipation takes hold. We both grow erections.
I turn off the water and we dry ourselves. We’ve brought clean cassocks, which we pull over our naked selves. We fasten just one button, at the crotch. We wait.
Outside, a car moves slowly over the gravel. It stops. Car doors shut. Footsteps sound. The door opens and Mary Joy enters followed by the town priest. She wears a long white choir dress that clings to her breasts and buttocks. Her eyes shine.
The young priest places his hands around her waist, but the old priest waves him away, takes both Mary Joy’s hands and leads her to the bed. He sits at one end. She stands in front of him, looking down into his eyes. The young priest and I take our places in the front row of the pews, close enough to touch both of them.
The old priest looks up at Mary Joy, lowers his voice and whispers to her. I can barely discern the words, but I know what is saying. He takes one of her hands, pulls it to his groin, and gets her to release the one button holding the cassock together. He lets fall behind him onto the bed. His cock is erect. He places one hand behind Mary Joy’s back. With the other, he goes beneath the long tresses and, inside the dress, reaches for her thighs. His head rests against Mary Joy’s breasts and he rocks back and forward. She gives a tiny shiver. His fingers have reached her vagina.
He is professional. Underneath the cotton his gnarled fingers move slowly, surely, rotating and pushing, as if he is playing some musical instrument.
Mary Joy leans backwards on his left arm. If he pulled it away she would fall to the floor. She spreads her legs and moves her hips in time with his hand. The old priest lifts off her dress.
The young priest drives Mary Joy back to town and returns with Angelica. I tell him to leave me alone with Angelica and to run the old priest back to town.
It is dark outside. A weak naked bulb lights the room. I sit at the end of the bed, just as the old priest had done. I hold Angelica close with both hands. My head is level with her breasts. My cassock is undone except for that one button. Angelica is warm. I stroke her back and her bottom through the dress. She leans in to me and nuzzles my neck. This is not the action of a girl who is ready to be married. There is something on her mind, something she wants to say but maybe cannot. I reassure her. We talk—about her home, about the boy she was to marry. She talks hesitantly. She is not saying what she wants to say. But I know.
I fondle her breasts. I hold her to me with my left arm. With my right hand, I reach down to the hem of her long dress. There is something highly erotic about this very movement, entering a secret forbidden world. I slide my hand up under the dress, feeling her smooth thighs. I reach her vagina.
Angelica raises her arms. I lift off her dress. I release the last cassock button and expose myself. I kiss her breasts and neck and whisper in her ear. Now she is on the bed. She spreads her legs wide. She is wet.
I pull back. She looks at me, questioningly. I go to my bag and find what I need. I return to the bed. She is leaning on one elbow. I roll a condom on to my cock. She stares with disbelief. She wants to say something but does not.
Then she smíles. She understands.
She reaches for me and I slide my cock into her and I whisper sweet nothings. I tell her I love her. We hold on to each other. Tightly. I cum, a Niagara of sperm shoots into the rubber.
We shower together. I wash her down, soaping her titties, ass and legs. Angelica and I don’t wait for the young priest to return with Nicole but drive back in my car. Angelica snuggles in to me as I drive. Such post-coital intimacy is an unusual experience for a priest like me. Most girls shrink back in doubt, confused. They are confused about the church, confused about right and wrong, confused about believing what they are told, confused about priests, confused about sex, about everything. Angelica suddenly asks: “Please stop the car. I want to tell you something.”
I turn off the road and stop the car facing the seafront. Across the bay, lights dance. We sit in silence for a time, then she says: “I don’t want to marry him.”
I say I’d guessed as much. She talks now, freely. Of the social pressures, of being afraid of her future husband, of retribution if she pulls out of the marriage, of her hate for her mother. The list goes on. Fear of this, fear of that. There are many things I can say, but there is only one practical answer. Don’t marry him. If necessary, run away. Easy to say, hard to do. Run away to what? There are hundreds of thousands of Angelicas, girls without an education trapped by economic and social limits. Many go to the capital and end up in a bar, or a brothel, marry a thug, catch diseases, become chronically ill. Die early. I am supposed to be a help in these circumstances. What should I say to a girl I have just fucked because the church tells atrocious lies? Angelica is frightened to get married, but just as frightened of not getting married.
I start the car. We drive on in a horrible silence that weighs on both of us like a damp blanket. I drop her at her home. As she gets out, she gives me a long look before turning away. That look haunts me.
The market place is alive with the buzz of business and pleasure. It seethes with food vendors and souvenir sellers. Lights play on the Church of the Immaculate Conception, pimps work the corners.
The old priest and I sit at a table on the terrace in front of the hotel. We are in our white cassocks, parading our piety. We don’t talk about what we did today. It happens all the time. The old priest recruited me when I was a teenager, who was being forced to take extra lessons in that ugly room built behind the little church. I joined the priesthood for the girls it made available, although that was not spoken about. I have often thought of leaving—but what else could I do? I have income, security of tenure, I travel, and I make love to young women almost every week.
The next morning I say goodbye to the old priest and drive off. We will see each other again in a month. On the back seat of my car is a travel bag containing women’s clothing. I drive for two hours and book into a motel.
I spend the night alone. The next morning I pack the bags in the car, check out and drive to a nearby town where a festival is taking place. I am dressed in jeans and t-shirt, just another male in early middle age. I park the car around the corner out of sight of a bus stop.
An old bus pulls in and the passengers coming for the festival tumble out. Angelica is last off. She is dressed in short jeans pants, white blouse and cardigan and carries a large woven handbag. She looks in my direction, sees me but shows no recognition. She waits until the other passengers have dispersed. Then she walks towards me, I open the car door, and she climbs in. We don’t waste words. I drive off.
She is happy but very nervous. She wants to get as far away as possible as quickly as possible. I drive for an hour until we reach another town and another motel. I park at the back and we are given a unit. Nobody here knows Angelica.
We bring in the bags from the car, and then we kiss.
I watch her as she steps into the shower. Her little bottom is round and smooth. She turns and soaps herself, showing the tiny tuft of fur between her legs. She looks at me, and gives a tiny smile. What am I thinking? I don’t know. I have only known her for three days but it seems like weeks. Infatuation is a funny word. I’ve been infatuated many times over the years, but never for long. Emotions are often difficult to isolate: sympathy, lust, empathy. Where does love start? I am forty, Angelica is 18.
She emerges from the shower, drapes a towel round her shoulders and comes to me. I kiss her on the lips, the breasts and her belly.
We drive off at daybreak. I don’t know what I will do. Angelica cuddled close to me all night, warm and wanting. Needing me. Needing something. She does not know where she is going. I do not know what I can offer or what I can do for her. My mind is cloudy. I guess I’ll think of something.