For The Falcon, a novel.
Here follows a quick sketch of the character of Ian, a Catholic priest, one of the central characters of The Falcon, a novel I’m working on. A precis of it is coming soon!
Unedited, largely stream-of-consciousness, written as part of 25 min daily writing practice.
He’s the kind of man you might ignore, not out of spite, you see, but because he wants to be ignored. If he could, he’d be invisible for the rest of his life. Perhaps, he thinks sometimes, that’s why the priesthood suits him: he’s a conduit for something greater than himself, something he is under no obligation to understand. And yet, they all think he does understand it — all the God stuff, that is, the ineffable mysteries of the universe — and they are angry with him when he cannot explain them, because he does not know. He tells them that that’s the beauty of it — the mystery — but they live in a world that cannot accept such things. They live in a world where things makes sense. Capitalist sense. We do x because of y. Everything has an order.
When he thinks about this, he realises that he loves order, too, and when he doesn’t have it, panic rises noxiously in his chest. His love of order comes out in a monkish fastidiousness, a need to scrub things clean, down to the raw wood, as though any act of cleaning is an act of penance. This makes all-black clerical dress problematic — he cannot find a way to stop the cotton-polyester blend attracting all manner of lint and squiggly hairs; they insult him from his trouserlegs; they mock him as he removes his jumpers from the washing machine.
He has priest’s hands. He was not aware that this was a phenomenon, but he has been told it enough times — usually by pious old ladies — that he has. Priest’s hands, he is given to understand, are pure and white, with slim fingers, not unlike those one might find on the statues of saints or the Virgin. He dislikes their pallor, a dislike that extends to his overall pallor. His colouring is Celtic, by way of his Irish mother. His father is darker, but that passed to Bernadette, and he felt shortchanged in his milky whiteness, blaming it for his avoidance of the outside, and by the transit of property his scrawniness: the underdeveloped pigeon-chest, the sticklike wrists (he is rather obsessed with wrists, seeing them as the number one determiner of masculine strength and therefore of raw masculinity of itself; his watch on the tightest setting reminds him of his failings in this regard; the logic going that, if you have a well-developed wrist, you must be developed in other areas). He refuses to entertain the idea that this is a logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc, because he cannot countenance the perception of himself as a lazy man. In fact, he is known amongst the parishioners of St Dymphna’s Catholic Church, which sits in what might as well be any one of the smaller east Northamptonshire towns as a hard-working priest, who is told often of the rings around his eyes, the yawns his stifles, and his near-constant availability to his parishioners, which, though some take full advantage, they are always quick to tell him that he shouldn’t be letting them. Such is, of course, he thinks, the nature of the human beast.
All of this, one might argue, is a way to avoid thinking about what really matters. He has a daughter. While he attended seminary, he had sexual thoughts that troubled him greatly. He didn’t remember a time in which he didn’t have them, but it was as though the impending permanence of a vow of celibacy had precipitated an extinction burst, and the thoughts are relentless. He is — though he would never use the term to describe himself, not even within the privacy of his own thoughts — homosexual. He sleeps with a woman to prove to himself — somehow, though later he cannot quite follow his past-self’s logic — that he does not need to believe what he knows to be true about himself.
When this liaison produces a daughter, he cannot stop himself thinking of her as a punishment. Now he has a new thought to hide away.