As I was ensnared in seminary

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As I was ensnared in seminary

Seminary life.

 

As I was ensnared in Seminary

 

When I was twelve, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go in a summer camp run by friars. "Why not?" So we went. First evening my friend started crying "I want my mom, I want my mom" kept saying. I wasn't surprise the same thing happened the year before when we enrolled in Boy Scouts, His parents got to fetch him, and I was alone amid strangers. Can't remeber well what we used to do, probably we used to go to the beach every day, and some collective game in the evening.

Every day before having breakfast we had to go to mass, in the internal little chapel, I didn't find strange, the camp was running by friars, but what struck me, was the fact that in the pews were stored books, but we were not allowed to take them, because they belonged to the seminarists. Seminarist? Who were them? Where were they now? Of course to ask didn't cross not even the anteroom of my brain. I've never been much talkative, and I was ashamed to ask, because I thought I would have had  understandon my own, not even one of my camp mates asked about them and I presumed they knew.

The last day one of the friars told me, "we also run a school , if you like you can come and be one of our seminarist" One of their seminarist, I thought, I let went by half a second and said "sure why not" I informed my parents about my intentions , they agreed.
Even if later they took me to a psychologist.

Here I was , at last, at the seminar, what seminar meant I didn't know, why did the friars used to call us seminarist , I didn't know. What was the purpouse of a seminar, I didn't know..

The friars took us to have look around , the building was four storeys high and was shaped like a horse-shoe. When you were in front of it , on your right you could see a huge terrace coming out of the first storey, so under it there was a big portico from there you could get inside the gym-room. They showed us the kitchen, the refectory, the little chapel, the laboratory, the dormitory and outside the basket field and the football little field, I said little because the field was meant to be played by two teams with seven players each team.
I still didn't understand why they kept calling the school, seminar, for me it was an ordinary boarding school.
Good news, friars encouraged us to read. I was an avid reader, I don't know how many times I had red, Little Men and the follower, White Fang, Ivanhoe, The Paul Street Boys, and many others. In those days I was reading a novel titled “Blue Knight” it was an adventurous novel about a Crusade, So when time arrived to go to bed, before they turned off the lights I was already under my blanket reading. A friar passed by and sawing the cover, of the book, he asked me “sorry Massimo, but what are you reading?” I replied and him “hum… I don't think it is an appropriate reading ” “why not it is supposed to be written for kids besides You have encouraged us to read” “Yes , but we meant something relate to religion, like a life of a Saint” “Ok” I answered but at least let me finish this one” I begged, “ok, since it is relate to a crusade , I suppose I can bend the rule, this time, but remember in the future Life of a Saint”.
In seminar , that still I don't know why it was called Seminar, and what seminarist were supposed to do, time was strictly scheduled. Get up at six and a half in the morning, mass in the chapel, afterward breakfast, milk and coffee and two biscuits, they were called bread-biscuits, from eight trough one p.m school, lunch. In the afternoon you from two trough four you've got to study, but you had got half hour to train on your chosen instrument, I chose the guitar but a friar told me “show me your hands” bizarre request, but complied with his request, then he said “no with such long and beautiful fingers you must play the piano, besides , when you 'll be able to play the piano you can play every instruments you like” The fact was my hands are just ordinary hands, but it was the friar who was very keen on the piano, and he used to say the same things to all the kids. But nevertheless even if I was a deaf tuned, I took pleasure in playing the piano; so in the spell from two through four , since the vigilance wasn't so strict, I used to jump from piano to piano, there were fourteen pianos in the building, and since my seminarist mates weren't eager to train on the piano I was always able to find one piano not occupied, we followed a exercise book, and when my mates were at exercise 20 I was at 90, but there wasn't any knack in my hands, only stubborn repetition.
We had one hour of recess , and from five trough seven , study time in the common room. Dinner at half past seven, then we could enjoy ourselves or from time to time or do some collective games.
I tried to find a “suitable” book to read before going to bed or to the Chapel, first I chose The life of Saint Mary who lived somewhere in Spain, it was a thick book, but all the Saint did, was to pray, this not hooked my interest, I tried to read the life of San Giovanni Bosco, it was a little more lively, since Bosco was an Italian priest who founded quite a number of schools where poor boys could attend, so there wasn't only his life but there was described also daily life of these poor boys attending these schools .
I wasn't a talkative boy not even a social one, but of course if you live elbow to elbow twenty four hour each day, you befriend someone. The building was five storeys high and from time to time I and a few other used to go onto the roof where there was a cement cornice quite large but the ledge was thinner, I used to walk on the ledge, at my right I had the roof but I had quite a leap on my left. I was the only one who used to dare to do such a thing. Sometimes I used to go to the roof alone, watching the stars and walking on the ledge.

A some boys were given assignments you had to write a letter about what you wanted to do. I was twelve, but already in love with books, so I wrote a letter pleading to put me in charge of the library, I wrote how clean I would have kept it, the library was a mess, so I add how come I would have look after it, I would have kept the books in alphabetical order, and other things. I wrote down all these things but of no avail. Great disappointment I had to be the janitor of my class room, my duties , clean the boards , always keep chalk at hand, but there was a little shelf in the class, so I filled it with books.
In my class we were eight, so you were always under pression, half of the teachers were professionals , the other half were friars, not very professional, you can teach history or geography even if you are not a teacher, but with math things were different, our friar math teacher was called Marcellino, he didn’t know a single thing about math. All he used to do, was to enter the class, sit down at his desk, then he would open the book and started to read out loud what there was written inside, if you missed something or didn’t understand something, he reread the same line from the book. Ok, on math we were on our own.
Little Olympics were organized, I’ve never understood why if you are not much talkative you are also deemed clumsy. For the Little Olympics four team were made, each captain had to choose his mates, I was the last chosen before the last, my captain told me “I chose you instead of the other guy , because they told me you run really fast”
I didn’t reply, I enrolled in fourteen competitions , twelve times I was the first, in one I was the second and in another one I was the third. Take a look about what an introvert boy can do.
Walking on the ledge was thrilling but I need something else, also because I didn't used to hang around with other seminarists that much. So I had to hatch something to do, all of sudden an idea come to me, in Italy there is a French comic strip called “Diabolik”, he was a thief, so I fought I could emulate his feats. First I got a red exercise book, because I wanted to record my deeds.
My first theft was in the Chapel, I stole the consecrated host, but I didn't keep my loot, because I ate them all.
For a while I was short of ideas, because when you start from the top, the consecrated hosts, what else could I steal? Then an idea came to me. There was a rule in the seminar, whatever your parents or relatives or friends brought to you, candies, cakes, whatever, you were not allowed to keep such goods for yourself, you had to hand them to the friars, then sometimes they used to partake these goods with everybody, namely you had to share them with everybody.  Of course no one complied with this rule, whatever was brought to you, first thing everybody did was to hide them, then you could enjoy the gift, all alone or with your ring of close friends. So here I was, I had found my theft-trove, I carefully studied my strategy, I wanted dare and fun at the same time. First, I had to find a place where to store my loot. There was a little closet in the football changing room, it was perfect. I had to decide the time. I thought the best time to steal was from 2 p.m. through 4 p.m. , because they were hours when you was supposed to study, but there wasn't a strict surveillance , there were the hours when you were supposed to train on your instrument, very few did it, so there were a lot of kids wandering about, and the stealing and the storage of the loot was more dangerous, what's life without a bit of thrill? I also, sometimes I stole in the night, I thought to be a daring thief.
After a while rumours started to spread, “I was sure I had a few candies left”, at first my seminarist-mates thought they couldn't remember well, they thought to have something instead they hadn't. After a few days rumours turned in suspicions, it wasn't possible almost everybody couldn't remember well. I had to stole myself something , in order to fend off suspects from me. “Hey come here “ I said keeping my cupboard open “I had candies and biscuits till the  day before yesterday, and now everything's gone” And I slammed the door, “should we report this eerie facts to the friars?” “What? Are you insane? So they would come to know we don't follow the, so called , sharing things rule? No we have to work out this matter on our own”
“What we know. First the thief only steals candies and biscuits. Almost everyboby has had something stolen. That means , the thief can be some one who simulated of having been stolen” “ We have to ferreted him out” “Good, how?” “Haven't the faintest idea”
While they were talking, I was paying little attention about what they were talking of, because something dawned on me, the friars didn't know anything about it. That's why they hadn't interfere so far. It was time to get them involved.

How could I get them involved? I thought I have to steal something that has nothing  to do with the sharing-rule. Clothes! If I steal  clothes, surely my mates would go to report the facts to the friars, and a true enquiry would start. To make things even stranger I started stealing shoes, but not a pair of shoes, only one of a pair, after a few days I put back the shoes, but not in the right cabinet, I chose a cabinet by chance. I didn't have to wait long, after a few days the Prior just after lunch called for our attention, he stood up from his chair and started glancing at us carefully. “I was told strange things are happening in our seminar, things that should never happen, especially in a seminar. It is our intention to find the thief, not to punish him, but to talk to him. No one will even know who he is, and it is sure we will come to know his identity, we've got a powerful mean to find out who he is” At this point, I was a little worried, about the powerful mean, I feared they already knew something about me, that was for sure, if not, why was the prior was so sure? The prior continued to speak. “Our powerful mean is... the sacred Confession!” Go to hell I cried inside me, really reassured, confession, from me, who do you think I am. I was safe, at least for the moment. Days went by and nothing was happening, no enquire was set up, I started losing interest in the robbery stuff. I fought maybe there's one thing I can do, my last feat that would have put me in the legend like Diabolik and Arsenio Lupin, enter the convent and steal a Bible from the friar lodge, then I had another idea, not to steal a Bible, but change a Bible belonging to a friar with another one belonging to another friar. Daring thing, because it was my intention to do it in the night when the friars were asleep. From time to time we used to enter the convent for a reason or another one, so I knew the setting, what I didn't know was who slept in the cells, in my mind I fought it would be safer enter cells occupied by old friars, because usually old man have a deeper sleep, I tried to do some investigations but of no avail, besides I feared to ask a lot of questions because all those questions could have put friars suspicions in my direction. Ok stop thinking and act. In the chosen night I stood awake until one past midnight, I get up and stayed still for a few seconds, maybe minutes, there was a strange noise, something was hitting something, it looked like the sound of a drum, it wasn't a drum, was my heart pounding. No that's too much I thought go back to sleep. Yes, but what Diabolik and Arsenio Lupin would have thought. Probably nothing, they were not real. I slide down the stairs, two storeys, with bare feet, on the landing at my right there was the convent door, quite an ordinarily wooden door, but for me it was road to perdition. I knew it was never locked, what did they have to fear? Slowly slowly I approached the door, my heart had stop beating, because it was in my throat and there wasn't enough room for beating. I got hold of the door handle and push it down, I opened the door I heard only a scratch sound, I was inside. I didn't close the door behind me because there was neither lights on the landing nor in the convent corridor, there only light seep through the shutters. I was a beautiful night cloudless and a huge moon, I wish I were onto the roof balancing on the ledge. I squatted for a while. I was thinking, thinking hard, why are you doing such a thing? I kept wondering. No one will know what you have done so far and what you are going to do. So why do you want so badly to do this feat? I thought Tom Sawyer and Huckblery Finn would know why. My answer was,  because I am a character of a novel. Now doesn't make any sense this justification, but back then it seemed to me quite sensible.
There were several doors, I tried to see if I could hear something coming out some cells, nothing. I had to act, I opened the first door on my left, a friar cell is as one can imagines it, rather bare, a bed , a desk one chair and one kneeling-stool, Crucifix on the wall of course , a couple of shelves filled with books, I thought they were not about crusades or Camelot Knights. I was breathless, I observed the shape under the cover, I had imagined I would have found someone snoring, instead he was not, shiver running down my back, the shape, I couldn't make out who he was, he was utterly still, I couldn't hear any breath, maybe he's awake and is waiting the right moment to grab me, I thought. But then I saw the shape moving, and the cover went up and down slowly, and I managed to hear his breath. I saw the Bible it was on the bed table, of course what could I expect? I didn't think I had to go so close to the sleeping friar to steal the book. I couldn't move, fearing that even the slightest air movement would wake him. What to do? Turn round and go back to my bed? What would have done Nemezchsky? A character from the “Paul Street Boys” He hadn't had fear when he had to get the flag back that the Red Shirt  had  stolen from the Paul Street Boys play-field.
I kept my breath, moved two steps forward and I took the Bible, always without breathing I started walking backward with my right hand groping to feel the cell door, I reached it and slowly I started to open it. Then I had a doubt, should I have to leave the door open, ajar or did I have to close it, decided to close it lest a draught could close it making noise and awaken the unknown friar. I didn't waste any time and went to the door in front of me, opened it and soon I heard snoring, what a sweet sound, it meant he was deeply asleep, this time I recognised the man, he was huge and he was also our history and geography teacher. Hearing him snoring so loudly made me  feel more confident, I approached the bed table and grab the book, but immediately I saw it was not the Bible, but the Psalm book, damn it. The cell were all the same, I glanced on the desk nothing, I slided toward the book shelves, but it was difficult to read the title without light, I went to the kneeling-stool, luckily the Bible was there, I picked it up and changed it with the other one. Then I left the cell, I had to enter in the other one, I acted faster, I put the book on the bed table and out I was. Few meters to come out the convent and I was in the seminar territory, again. The chances to bump into someone were very dim, but nevertheless I didn't run. I reached my bed and made myself comfortable under the covers, I felt asleep thinking of Tom Sawyer in the cave with the Indian. It was always something I wanted to do, playing White Fang, or Tom, or The Paul Street Boys or some other characters out of a novel, but I was alone, in those years , in Busalla or in the seminar I was the only one who used to read books, and it was difficult for me to explain to my friends, what I wanted to do , who had never heard of Arsenio Lupin, or Boka, or David Crocket. This time I played alone and I had a lot of fun.
Days in and days out. Study, a little and certainly not hard, football, piano.
An afternoon our spiritual Father told me “Massimo please follow me, we need to talk” I followed him, he entered in the bathroom premises, then opened a booth and got inside , he waved me to follow him, I have to say I was a bit perplexed, I wasn't thinking at sexual abuse , I was twelve and I never heard of it. Anyway I went inside the booth, the Father closed the door carefully and said “First thing we have to pray, let's recite an Ave Maria” so we did. “Before we start talking I have to warn you, maybe, sooner or later you will feel itch, don't you scratch, but go immediately in front of a Virgin Mary statue and pray” I was really startled, even if I have an itch what he was referring at, but I have never felt a “itch” Then he took a notepad with a pencil and drew a flower saying “do you know what it is?” “Sure it's a flower” “ Yes, it is a daisy, now we add two petals here and other two here, and then we draw two feet and two hands and we make a circle at the top, well, what do we have” a monster I thought, but it didn't seem the right answer, so I say nothing. “A baby, we have a baby” Father said, and continued, “It doesn't matter how many petals the daisy has, if you add legs, feet, hands and head, you always have a baby at the end” I was twelve, but not so stupid, now I knew what he was talking about, sex. I knew a little about sex, because my three year older brother, once gave me a general idea about it. He forgot to named flowers and bees, and probably his word were a little grosser compared to the one used by the Father. Meanwhile he was saying that daisies don't turn in babies on their own, but they need bees bringing them pollen. Then things became serious, because he was about to tell me how things worked with humans. He drew a female figure on the edge of the paper, then on the other edge he drew a male figure, so he drew the mean through which the semen reached the egg inside the woman. But he had drew the two figures so distant to each other that he had to draw a kind of hose rather than a penis to link the two figures. I had some suspects, probably men and women having sex in order to have babies, didn't have to stay so far away to each other.
Summer came and went, and the next year I was in the seminar again. In the first days we had to clean up the building. I was assigned to the refectory, with me there were three or four kids one year younger than me, and there was a kid as old as I was, but for him it was the first year in the seminar. I felt to be , and I was the eldest, and started giving orders, but the guy my same age didn't obey, “why don't you obey” I asked, “Why should I?” he replied, “ because I am on my second year in the seminar, and you are on your first one” “Couldn't care less” answered in a mocking way, I knew I was about to do something unpleasant. “Do what I tell you to do” he started laughing and dancing, I barked something then I hit him, he fell on the ground still laughing, I kicked him in the belly, he didn't stop laughing. “Ok go to hell” He stood up on his feet, I broke my broom on his back, and left the room. I went directly to a phone, which was in an office, where we were not allowed to use it, but who cared. I called my mother and said to her, “mom please come here to pick me up” “Why?” “Because” I packed my belongings and stayed at the window awaiting my mother to come. When I saw her car, I went downstairs. As soon as I was outside the building I heard a friar telling my mother, “Oh mrs Garaventa, what are you doing here” She, surprised “I came to fetch my son” the friar saw me and said “but Massimo, why do you want to leave? You didn't say anything about it” “Because I'm sick and tired of the whole thing” I got into the car, my mother started the engine and off I was.

still play with my daydreaming, and still have a lot of fun

 

 


Submitted: October 12, 2021

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