What Now (Oct 7)
I am now aware that I was becoming short of breath. I am not sure why, but the breath of a healthy young girl should not be quick and interrupted, making it difficult to concentrate. Then suddenly realizing I was in danger as the air in my nostrils picked up an indescribable smell. It was apparent this, this pungent smell was exuding from somewhere, somewhere, everywhere within these walls and corridors, the never ending corridor of nuns. Was this the reason I was feeling quite lightheaded and uneasy on my feet all at once. I couldn’t think. I wasn’t making sense to, myself. Lack of oxygen, not sure. Brain needing to escape from this area. Brain not computing or thinking right. Brain making things up. It was a definite smell, an incense of some kind, mixed with a new smell. Pungent. Strong and yet no smoke was there to be seen. What was that smell. Where did it come from. It was supposed to be just a simple letter and mail delivery, just take it to the nunnery and then back back to class when you have finished. And, dont be late for school again. That was all I was here for.
Why couldn’t anyone see that I was behaving sluggishly and looking unwell. Just look , just look as my eyes blur and water over. Then it all seemed to become even harder, darker, cant-explain, cant think, cant talk. I think all the nuns were looking, I think they knew what was going on, coz I sure as hell didn’t know…….Yes, I think I had finally got their attention with all my swaying and then my abrupt stopping. As I stumbled forward I could see Sister turn, glare and quizzically look at me, yet show no emotion. Her face became contorted and through my squinted, blurry eyes her furrow of wrinkles showed an old woman who had etched god into her every existence. Why was she and others not racing forward to help me find a spot to sit and get my breath. I staggered slowly towards the wall leaning and slumping abruptly, using all of my last energy to stare aimlessly at the small crowd gathering around me. I could barely see, a cluster of white, mumbling, swaying, inaudible low tones of whispering to each other-yet no advancement of help. Why? With the last bankable thought I had, I noticed that I was near the rather large and grand picture of the some eccentrically papal dressed male looking down from his glaringly awful portrait, moving ,swaying to reveal a small black gap around the edge of the frame. What was that gap? A secret door, a secret inner sanctum secret, that I had stumbled upon. Oh Good, What now. Do they all know? Is it all too late? Drifting, drifting not slowly, but absolutely with no control…… one arm forward as a last gesture of ‘help me’ – the lean and stance was too much for me and my legs gave way as I gave into”sleep” I guess, I guess it was sleep, but who’s sleep…. and all that goes with sleep…..Darkness.
In the Inner Sacred Sanctum (Oct 3)
As the air circulated around me I seemed to blink and then step forward and then blink again. In the second blink it was in that instance I realised I was in the Inner Sanctum, as the door had slowly closed behind me, tall, strong and quiet. Sister had summoned me to follow her. She was a strange sight from behind, white head to toe habit, waddling side to side as she made her way down the corridor. Sister had taken her white breadboard veil off and was showing off a grey short indignant haircut, that looked like one of the other sisters had cut it – and not done a good job either. It was all jagged and uneven and was very boyish as to not be anyway feminine or to look feminine. I always wondered how the Nuns hair was under their veil and how it was cut-and there you have it.
Their air was warm, clean, not fresh-but different. Very hard to explain, I know, but as I travelled the long corridors with Sister it made me feel quite heady and relaxed all at once. This must be how it is to be at one with the world……calm cool and God just watching over you in the Inner Sanctum. ‘Okay I’m here now. It is time for me to be observant so I can recall all things great and small when I leave. To be the one year nine girl to recount what it is like to be inside the concrete walls of the secret life of the Nuns.
I breathe as I walk, purposefully in and out to – just to take in some of that filtered fresh air floating around. In, out, in, in breathe again. Aaarh lovely! I noticed one of the Sisters coming towards me, just not sure exactly who it was as they look so different now with their veils off showing their unencumbered hair and face. Then there were two sisters side by side both heads down, cupped hands in front of their habits, holding their rosary beads, walking past, not even noticing me, as if in a trance of prayer together. They did that you know, prayed, alot! Another Sister smiled as she swooshed past me. her face was a blur. I thought she was coming to take the mail from me, however she continued on her journey down the corridor in the opposite direction. Almost on a mission to get somewhere in a hurry. I continued on.
Jeepers Creepers (Oct 1)
When trying to avoid any type of unusual discipline, like picking up rubbish at lunch time and being seen by your friends, or emptying the trash cans in the toilets of at least a dozen toilets which indeed takes up all of your morning break – you are inclined to take the immediate punishment for being late to school. You can just run several errands for Sister Wiloma, including taking the mail to the nunnery. OMG. That is a big “Ohhh, Myyy God”, excuse the pun, taking mail into the nunnery was almost a massive outing, and no one really understands, but not too many people got to visit the tall building with the well placed olden day facade jutting outwardly and awkwardly to the skies above. Is is walked by and past everyday and gawked at a thousand times. People sit on the edge of the patio surrounding the nunnery eating their lunch and a hot topic of conversation was to wonder what was going on behind those closed doors. Not even the other teachers ‘as we would call them’, non robed – those who did not wear the black and white long hot looking nylon dresses called ‘habits’ were even allowed to go in their without a valid reason. Only what was commonly known to us all, as the same- same people, could go into the dark thick wooded doors, those religious ones endowed with habits and robes. Yet today, as my punishment for missing the train and being late to school, I unexpectedly became chief letter distributor and was allowed into the building for free, with a blessing and with a leave pass. The excitement was palpable. Almost skipping with glee for the first time in a while I made my way past the grotto, a well used area by staff, girls at the school and others, up the crooked cobbled path down at the side fence where there was a large rusting metal fence with some random weeds making their way through the slabs near the bottom. It was all I thought it would be to walk up to, tall, super imposing glaring down at me and proudly displaying a small and dented sign attached…do ‘Not Enter -without permission’letting you know the friendliness of all those with in. As almost as daring as that sign was to keep onlookers out, I felt tall with confidence that – I had the power to go on in. A thousand thoughts rushed through my head at once. This was not just a mean feat, this was one time that could get you boasting rights at lunchtime with your girlfriends and to know exactly what you saw when you were on the inside. The great walled nunnery, the mystery of years of guessing was about to be uncovered for all. And it was to be me to know. Holding the mail tightly under my arm in a bundle I opened the gate. The noise of the recoil of it closing abruptly behind me almost made me jump. Almost. The sound of my old brown school shoes tap, tap, tapping up the thick grey concrete stairs to this amazing featured wood door, larger than life. As if to expect a huge door knocker of some proportion, I was surprised to see a small white button saying ‘push’. I pushed the button. I waited and waited. I pushed the white button again.I waited until I could hear faint footsteps getting closer and closer until the large door opened. A gush of cool air surrounded me…….
East Train (Sept 30)
Hurry up Kaitlin, I yelled as I ran up the steps to the next available train leaving in 1 minute, listening as the recorded messages droned. (All Stations to Witmore leaving in 1 minute) We will be late you know, and you know what that means dont you. I dont care Kaitlin yelled back. I cant run anymore. We hadn’t really ran that far at all. You would think Kaitlan was an old woman. We had been over to the Station shops to get the days supply of mixed lollies in our usual waxed bag (50 cents mind you) bulging in our uniform pocket but well disguised. It was our treat for the long train ride, the following bus ride and the rigmarole attached to being a teenager and attending an all girls school. As I got closer to the train it slowly pulled away from the station , old carriages groaning, clunking, orange with black diesel stains running down the sides and that horrid smell leaving us behind standing, staring at each other. You’re in trouble, we said together. At the same time. Thats what besties do you know. Know exactly what each other is going to say either before they say it or at the same time. Snap. Well we were. In trouble that is. When we caught the next train that arrived at Witmore it would have made us 15 minutes too late for school and us once again we would be being chastised, so we decided that we would just jump off two stations short of Witmore and leg it to school through the rail yards. Maybe that will fix our problem, because one more time down at Sister Ainsly’s office and we would have our parents bought in, for as Sister would say….’a chat’. That includes grounding from our parents, and that ruins our well planned out weekend. No can do. So there we were sitting on the train, mouth full of wine gums and cobblers chewing and chatting and laughing and staring and fidgeting and playing with our hair and being teenagers…….