1. After dinner, your parents drop you off in front of trailer C. It loops off the side of the church alongside A and B like some kind of tail. Find Ronnie crouched on the stairs. He’ll probably be clawing at an engorged mosquito bite on his calf.
2. Don’t look startled as the trailer door swings open. It’s just Mike, your teacher, followed by the rest of your Confraternity of Christian Doctrine class. Note Mike’s stained polo, his junky car parked sideways in the grass. He’ll comment on your lateness. Ronnie will ask, What are you gonna do about it, send us to Sister? Mike will reply, Don’t be such a smart-ass.
3. Follow Mike into the main building with the others. Clomp down the hallway edged with with framed pictures of the Virgin Mary and line up for confession in the belly of the church. Press your back flat against the manila-colored wall that slides open on Sunday to make room for everyone.
4. Take inventory of your surroundings and your place in them: The other girls wear spaghetti straps—exposed shoulders freckled like pears—and rings from Clare’s that leave turquoise circles around their fingers. The boys have shaggy bowl-cuts that lay just below the tops of their ears. Ronnie doesn’t have a bowl cut; he has a wide nose that looks like it has been broken before. You wear your hair in a ponytail and your eyebrows too close together.
5. When it’s your turn to confess, slink inside the room. Try not to puke.
6. This church is nestled behind a Walmart and an Albertsons grocery store. Note that the priest doesn’t sit inside a screened, wooden cubbyhole; he sits behind a giant desk. When you spill your sins here, it feels and looks like a job interview.
7. Confess. Be sure to think up your confession ahead of time—that part is important—and give it at least three parts. Say the first two quickly, but stumble with he last one so it looks like you’re really doing it on the spot. Something like, Bless me father, for I have sinned. I said a bad word. I lied to my mom. And I ... I was mean to the cat. I am sorry for these and all of my sins.
8. Before the priest can finish assigning your penance, scurry out of the room and into the darkened nook full of those red, glass candles that remind you of the plastic cups at Pizza Hut. Say a Hail Mary or two, for good measure.
9. Note the life-size crucifix hanging over your head; Jesus’ puppy-dog eyes, the vibrant lines of blood that slither from the nail's puncturing his palms and feet. Stare into his ribs pulling beneath the plastic flesh like fishbones.
10. Forget Jesus; think about Ronnie instead. How in a few minutes, he’ll kneel down beside you and you’ll get to smell his drugstore cologne.
Kristen Rouisse holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of South Florida. Her work has appeared in Thin Air Magazine, Hobart, Watershed Review, and elsewhere. She’s a former poetry and nonfiction editor for Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art and currently lives in Florida with her husband and two cats.