Traduction en anglais, par Élise de Warren, du petit récit publié en français sous le titre de Séquestrée ?
A NIGHT AT THE RECTORY
by Alina Reyes
translated by Élise de Warren
Before climbing up the stairs, I had seen a half-empty wine bottle. I wondered if sometimes he drank at night, on his own. I remember the scent of this sad life, of this house. It was so embarrassing. I pitied him. I did not know him. I only slept here, a prisoner in his home.
I climbed up the stairs and locked the door behind me, hoping he would hear the key turning in the lock and that he would understand.
I was hoping he could hear and at the same time that he could not. It was so humiliating, even more so for him than for me. It was humiliating for the neighbors, for the parishioners and for the whole town. In fact, the rectory was just a house like any other in the middle of a residential area. I had never been here before.
At night, it seemed to me I could hear the sound of the sea. It couldn’t be far. If I opened the window, I only saw houses that all looked alike, houses built just a few decades ago. They were narrow, one-story high houses built in order to occupy as little space as possible, just like the people who lived in it.
Maybe the sea was just at the end of the street. Or – granted that I somehow would have managed to leave the house without him noticing – maybe I would have walked endlessly in the maze of the neighborhood, never to find it.
I slept in his bed next to the large-screen television. It was a large comfortable bed with thick pillows and a warm blanket. You would never have imagined this bed belonged to a priest. I know I would not have. Did he like the idea of making me sleep in his bed? In any case, I have to say right away that he did not come up.
We had met six months earlier in Paris. He had come to interview me for a Christian radio station. Indeed, some priests are into journalism as well. He liked to say that he was also a journalist and not only a priest, as if being a journalist was better. But it seemed to me that there was nothing more beautiful in the world than being a priest.
This reminded me of the first priest I had ever met. In spite of my lack of trust in the Church, and because I was in the process of converting, I eventually went to the priest in my parish. Or maybe I should say I asked to see him.
I went to the church, amazed at how bold I was. Nobody was there except for a woman at the reception desk. She made me write my name and contacts on a sheet of paper and told me she would pass on my request.
The week after, because I still had no news, I looked up the parish website on the Internet and sent an e-mail. I went back to the church a few days later. In short, a few weeks had passed before I could get an appointment. I walked around the church and found a second entrance to his office in an adjacent street. He was a big man, with a soft voice and evasive eyes. He told me the reason I waited for so long before meeting him was because it was a period of exams. He proudly explained to me that he was a professor in a Catholic institution of higher studies, of which I can not remember the name. His lectures and his students took a great part of his time.
The priest whose bed I was using was not from the same breed. I mean that he was not an intellectual hailing from the nice districts of Paris. He was just a poor guy who took care of his bonsais in the living-room of his very ordinary rectory. He had heatedly showed me these small horribly tortured trees. I did not say a word, but I could not help but to think they were like an image of the castration he had inflicted on himself.
Still, was it not his fault if I entertained such thoughts? Upon our first encounter in Paris, he looked very dignified dressed in black and serious as could be. He asked me to come and talk to his parishioners about my conversion – this was the reason I was here now. Why did he have to come and pick me up at the station with a borrowed convertible and looking like a play-boy with a blue striped half-opened shirt and sunglasses? And above all, why did he not mention I would be staying at his place? Of course I was a free woman, but that was exactly why this situation did not seem appropriate to me.
When I came down the next morning, he had already left. Soon after a woman rang the door. He had locked it and I had some difficulty opening it. “Were you held hostage?,” she asked to me with a smile when I finally got to breathe some fresh air. She was a very kind old lady and she took me in her car. We joined the parishioners and then left for a short pilgrimage that was planned that day. Then the priest took me to the church where I was to speak. He had gone back to his normal and enjoyable self and I felt he was like a little brother I should look after.