I’m not crazy about making this public but I have a pretty serious addiction to Wendy’s chili. I eat it two, sometimes three times (cringe!) a week. A large cup with TEN hot sauces.
Yes, it is high in protein and low in fat, but it is brim-full of sodium and a processed food and therefore its content is somewhat of a mystery and I would really rather know what I am putting into my body. I otherwise put so much thought and effort into my diet and exercise regime and then I go and nullify my efforts with this very unglamourous and toxic affair.
What does this have to do with the banned book « The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk? »
Patience, my love.
So there I was, sitting at Wendy’s. The drive-thru lady, Arti, knows me by name, and, clearly, I by hers. She once said to me: « For a white girl, you sure like it spicy! » But I only come and sit inside the restaurant once in a blue moon. About a month ago, such a blue moon came to be, and there I was with my chili and my book, which at the time was Shake Hands With The Devil.
« So you love books, too, huh? » The question came from a tiny but feisty little Indian woman who looked to be in her late sixties, a colleague of Arti’s. « Yes! I do! » I set my book aside, happy to engage in a conversation about reading and books. I love reading. I LOVE BOOKS! And evidently so did this woman. Her name is Juliet. She had seen me there several times before, always absorbed in some book or other. « What are you reading now? » She asked. « It’s called Shake Hands With The Devil. » I replied. « Ah…Dallaire. Yes, well-written. An important book. » This woman knew her stuff. We discussed different books and topics and my respect and admiration grew rapidly as I learned how knowledgeable and well-read she was. Then she mentioned a banned book she had a copy of about something something something. When I left that day I didn’t even remember what she had said the book was about. She had me at « banned. » My eyes grew wide, I leaned forward, and asked: « Can I borrow that book from you? » It was only our first conversation and she had no reason to trust me, of course.
When I came in the following week to pick it up, I asked: « Do you want to take my name and number or something? » She paused but a moment and looked me in the eye and matter-of-factly said the best thing I’d heard in a while: « What are you going to do…steal my book? »
I laughed. This woman was…fantastic.
Oh. I suppose I should say a few words about the book!
Read it. It’s chilling. It’s banned in Canada but you can find it free and in full online. The title is pretty much descriptive and enticing enough. It is the true account of one nun, Maria Monk, of the horrific goings-on inside a Montréal convent around 1836. After spending two years as a novice, Maria then takes the veil. Very quickly, and throughout her five years as a nun, she is introduced to, ironically, unspeakable evil. She literally could only allude to some of the horrifying practices and incidents because she felt guilty in exposing the reader to such ugly truths and she herself felt ashamed and embarrassed to repeat such depraved immorality. Compulsory sex with priests. The murder of the resultant babies. The suffocation and hangings of disobedient nuns. The pit in the basement into which all these inconvenient corpses were thrown. The forced drinking of the water the Superior had washed her feet in by nuns as penance. And on. And on. Perhaps the worst part was the grossly perverse justifications that the Superior gave for it all, framing it all as pleasing to God. The religious aspect of it all makes it even more salacious and gripping.
I went in today to return the book. There was Juliet, five foot nothing, fiery and friendly as always. I gave her the book and thanked her. She recommended some other books and we had a short conversation. Oh and guess what? She is actually seventy-three! Must be all that reading keeping her so sharp and spunky.
She will find that I tucked a card in the book filled with words of gratitude for her beautiful trust and admiration for her smart, wonderful self. As I was leaving, I swear I heard her say « I love you » in a dear, grandmotherly kind of way. All this at my local Wendy’s.
Isn’t life beautiful sometimes?