Sister Marion taught everyone in first grade about our Guardian Angels. Mine was not on my shoulder that Sunday afternoon when the big red-haired boy I didn’t know took me away from the other kids who were skating on our neighborhood pond. He pulled me toward the tall grasses, pulled me down to the ice, and rubbed my own private vagina with his hand. I got away from him, so my angel must have come back and she was definitely there that other day when the same big boy took a little kid’s sled. I pushed him in the chest and shouted at him to go away. And he did.
Three of the eighth grade girls started teasing their hair into fabulous bouffants. Sister Mary Francis told us they would get bugs in there. I was in awe of tough Jeannette anyway.
When I was fourteen I had my first glass of champagne on Christmas Eve. Bobby and Cormac went to Mass drunk that night and did not get in trouble. It was all so hilarious.
On my first Sunday alone in NYC, I didn’t go to Mass. I took a long walk in Central Park then went to Juilliard for a dance rehearsal. That not-going-to-Mass day was a bigger deal for me than the night I lost my virginity, so blurred by Singapore Slings.
When I was nineteen I spent my first Easter Sunday in NYC instead of with my family at a big dinner with the relatives. Mary Margaret, her guy Wayne and I went to a Be In on Sheep’s Meadow and later ate hamburgers in a diner on 72nd St. I didn’t have a long flowery skirt, just ordinary bell bottoms and, even though I had a boyfriend who was off in Europe, I’d hoped to meet a guitar player or a revolutionary, have some free love.
In Florence, I walked in on a Mass by mistake and scurried out, ashamed that I was scurrying. Later, when I lived in England and traveled around Europe, I could visit churches, imperviously.
I joined a group in Albuquerque who studied the spiritual teachings of Gurdjieff. I faked it for a year. I only went to be with my ex-lover. I’d try to charm him back to me during the long drives across the city, or when we stopped for coffee and a Dunkin donut before the Meetings. The drives home depressed me.
In 2006, my dying mother never did let the priest come. Whenever any of the hospice people or the doctor asked her, she’d whisper “not yet.”
Nonnie Augustine’s first collection of poems, “One Day Tells its Tale to Another” was chosen by Kirkus Review as one of the “Best of Indie 2013.” She won the 16th Glass Woman prize in 2014 for her prose poem “All is Ready.” She graduated from Juilliard with a B.F.A. in dance.